Boilers hit the meat of their Big Ten schedule
Caleb Terbush is coming off his best game. The defense finally generated some pressure.
And Purdue is two wins away from bowl eligibility, but now faces the toughest part of its schedule.
Starting with its Oct. 29 matchup at No. 17 Michigan, the Boilermakers begin a string of four straight games against quality competition. Purdue also travels to Wisconsin (Nov. 5) and hosts Ohio State (Nov. 12) and Iowa (Nov. 19).
In order for Purdue to survive this stretch, it needs TerBush to continue his solid play. The junior quarterback was 12 of 16 for 145 yards and two touchdowns in the first half against Illinois, hitting eight different receivers,
"When a guy is playing like that it's hard to take him out of the game," coach Danny Hope said. "We thought he managed the offense very well. They were a team that ran so many different coverages it's unbelievable. How they presented their defense was a lot and Caleb is a guy that has the most experience. Having the most experienced quarterback in there was to our advantage."
Meanwhile, Purdue's defense will need to contain Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson. In last year's meeting, the Boilermakers' defensive ends forced Robinson into four turnovers. They'll need a similar performance from fifth-year senior defensive end Gerald Gooden, who is coming off his best game of the season.
The fifth-year senior had only two tackles, including a sack, but brought pressure from the beginning. He didn't always register a sack but forced quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase to sometimes deliver his passes quicker than he wanted.
"He's coming off a sports hernia last year and got an elbow injury a month ago," Hope said. "It's tough when you're hurt at the top and bottom. I thought he was very productive. He started off slow and his production was minimal. He's gotten healthier the last couple of weeks and is playing with more confidence. We need him to step up and hope he continues that trend."
--The red zone has been a successful place for Purdue this season. During the last five games, each time the Boilermakers have advanced inside their opponents' 20-yard line they've scored. Purdue looks to maintain its streak Oct. 29 at No. 17 Michigan.
"We know we have to get points on the board," quarterback Caleb TerBush said. "Once you get the ball in the red zone, it's a crucial spot. Usually you have momentum going in there and it's good to top it off and put points on the board and take some pressure off the defense."
Purdue has 17 touchdowns and four field goals inside the red zone, starting with the blowout victory over Southeast Missouri. The Boilermakers were 2-for-2 -- both touchdowns -- in last week's win over Illinois.
"I think the emergence of a strong running game is a big part of it, and also the fact that our quarterback does a pretty good job in the decision-making parts," coach Danny Hope said. "He doesn't make a whole lot of bad decisions, and he doesn't make a whole lot of the same mistakes twice."
The last time the Boilermakers didn't score inside the red zone was at Rice. The Owls blocked the potential game-winning field goal by Carson Wiggs after Purdue had moved to the Rice 14.
Overall, the Boilermakers are 26 of 29 (89.7 percent) inside the red zone to rank 22nd nationally.
--In six of their first seven games, the Boilermakers have put together at least one scoring drive of 80 yards or more. In fact, Purdue has driven more than 90 yards three times for touchdowns. The latest came against Illinois when TerBush engineered a 91-yard, 13-play drive that gave the Boilermakers a 7-0 lead.
"Quarterback play," receiver Justin Siller said. "A lot of our offense is geared toward speeding up the tempo. With that, the quarterback has a lot of control. A lot of that has to do with the play of our quarterbacks and how they control the game."
Hope said offensive coordinator Gary Nord's play-calling, spreading the ball around and TerBush are factors in sustaining long drives.
"I think Caleb's knack for being on task and being able to avoid making bad plays is a part of it," Hope said. "The fact that we have two good fast-running halfbacks and strong fullbacks that can play ... I think it's a combination of a lot of things that we're doing well. You can sum it up where we're executing a lot better on offense."
Purdue has generated 58 percent of its points off scoring drives of 60 yards or more.
--Defensive end has become a three-player rotation after Robert Maci underwent foot surgery Friday. He's out for the season. Gerald Gooden, Ryan Russell and Jalani Phillips will be expected to carry the load.
SERIES HISTORY: Michigan leads 42-14. The Wolverines have won 23 of 28 meetings in Ann Arbor.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Purdue generated only 75 yards in the second half after holding a 21-0 lead against Illinois. Conservative play-calling and the Boilermakers' defense playing well were factors. They'll need a complete performance against the Wolverines, who have improved defensively under first-year coach Brady Hoke.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: This unit continues to improve, evident in last week's victory. The Boilermakers are tackling better and playing with more energy and intensity. Purdue hasn't allowed a Big Ten team to score more than 23 points in three games but faces a daunting challenging in playing Michigan and quarterback Denard Robinson.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Our confidence is increasing. We've played better and we've improved as a football team," Purdue coach Danny Hope said.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Purdue at Michigan, Oct. 29 -- The Boilermakers will try to win in Ann Arbor for the second consecutive time after posting a 38-36 victory in 2009. It was Purdue's first victory at Michigan since 1966.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Pressure Michigan QB Denard Robinson and limit big plays. Robinson is playing in a different system under first-year coach Brady Hoke. But Robinson remains a game-changer, and if the Boilermakers allow the speedster to roam free it will be a long afternoon.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Caleb TerBush -- The junior is coming off his best performance of the season and will need another top-level outing to knock off the Wolverines. Purdue's best asset right now is its running game and look for TerBush to lean on Ralph Bolden and Akeem Shavers.
DT Kawann Short -- Led a spirited effort by the defensive line last week against Illinois. Another high-level performance will be required against a potent Michigan offense. Short had 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks, setting the tone early.
DB Ricardo Allen -- Had a 94-yard interception for a touchdown last season and will need a big play for the Boilermakers to pull off the win. Delivered his sixth interception in just his 19th game last week.
--RT Justin Kitchens (shoulder) is probable.
--DE Robert Maci (foot) out for the season.
The TSX Files: Purdue Midweek
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