BSB Opponent Preview: Purdue

Purdue looked like an easy opponent for homecoming a few weeks ago, but the Boilermakers have turned things around heading into Saturday's contest. After a loss to Toledo dropped them to 2-2, the Boilermakers have opened Big Ten play with two wins and have found a new identity. Find out what that is along with depth charts, stats and more.

Saturday, Oct. 23
Noon ET, Big Ten Network
Ohio Stadium; Columbus, Ohio

Purdue is a slow starting team, but it appears Danny Hope has the ability to turn things around for his team midway through the season.

Last year, the Boilermakers were 1-5 through six games before Ohio State came to town as a top-10 team. The Buckeyes ended up leaving bruised with a 26-18 loss that served as the turning point for the Purdue season, and the Boilermakers ended up 5-7 on the year.

This season, Purdue's turnaround came earlier in the season. After going through the nonconference slate at 2-2, the Boilermakers have started off Big Ten play hot with wins against Northwestern and Minnesota to move to 2-0 in the conference.

"I'm very excited about where we stand currently," head coach Danny Hope said. "There are only two or three undefeated teams in the Big Ten and the Purdue Boilermakers are one of them. Last year at this point we were 1-5."

The low point on the schedule was a 31-20 loss to Toledo to close the nonconference season Sept. 25. Quarterback Robert Marve, a highly touted transfer from Miami (Fla.), suffered a torn ACL in that game, putting him on the shelf with the same injury that had sidelined top running back Ralph Bolden and No. 1 wideout Keith Smith.

However, the schedule makers were on the Boilermakers' side after the game. Purdue had its open week Oct. 2, the opening day of Big Ten play, and used the time off to rebound.

Now, with two straight wins under their belt, the Boilermakers will come into Ohio Stadium for the homecoming game Oct. 23 riding a wave of momentum. That's not a surprise to OSU safeties coach Paul Haynes, who worked with Hope at Louisville.

"I know what type of person he is," Haynes said. "When they had adversity, I think it got them closer. I think they got closer as a team because everybody counted them out."

The Boilermakers
Head coach: Danny Hope, 9-9, second season at Purdue
2009 record: 5-7 (4-4, T-6th Big Ten Conference)
Series mark: Ohio State leads 37-13-2
School location: West Lafayette, Ind.
Enrollment: 39,697
Colors: Old Gold and Black
Stadium: Ross-Ade Stadium
Fight song: "Hail Purdue"

Purdue Players To Watch
QB Rob Henry: The redshirt freshman has averaged 5.6 yards per carry while pulling the strings in the team's shotgun option-based attack. Henry led the team in rushing in consecutive weeks vs. Ball State, Toledo and Northwestern, becoming the first quarterback in modern school history to lead the Boilermakers in rushing three times during a year. Henry also had three touchdowns rushing and one passing Oct. 16 vs. Minnesota.

"He's a very, very good runner and a very good passer," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. "I think they're doing the things that conceptually he understands and keep adding a little bit as he goes."

RB Dan Dierking: A two-time Academic All-Big Ten choice, Dierking is a model student-athlete who has become the focus of the team's running game. A determined rusher who was once Illinois' Gatorade Player of the Year in high school, Dierking is averaging 6.2 yards per carry and torched Minnesota for 126 yards on 12 carries.

DE Ryan Kerrigan: Simply put, Kerrigan is one of the best players in the Big Ten and the nation. His 14 tackles for loss (2.33 per game) place him second in the nation in that statistic, and he is accomplishing the difficult feat of leading his team in tackling with 41 despite being a lineman. Kerrigan also dominated against Ohio State last year, making three sacks, forcing two fumbles and recovering one.

"He's just quick," fullback Zach Boren said. "He's fast. He reminds me a lot of J.J. Watt from Wisconsin, except I think a quicker, smaller version. He's real physical, he uses his hands well. He's just a great all-around player."

SS Logan Link: A former walk-on from West Liberty, Ohio, Link has been a playmaker in his first year as a starter. The junior is fourth on the team with 36 tackles – 27 of which have been solo efforts – and has filled up the rest of the stat sheet with a forced fumble, a recovered fumble, an interception and three pass breakups.

Sept. 4, at Notre Dame, L 23-12
Sept. 11, Western Illinois, W 31-21
Sept. 18, Ball State, W 24-13
Sept. 25, Toledo, L 31-20
Oct. 9, at Northwestern, W 20-17
Oct. 16, Minnesota, W 28-17

Projected Starters
QB 15 Rob Henry, 6-2, 200
RB 25 Dan Dierking, 5-10, 195
WR 7 Cortez Smith, 6-2, 180
WR 13 Antavian Edison, 5-11, 175
WR 4 O.J. Ross, 5-10, 175
TE 85 Kyle Adams, 6-4, 251
LT 68 Dennis Kelly, 6-8, 301
LG 72 Justin Pierce, 6-4, 320
C 67 Peters Drey, 6-6, 300
RG 73 Ken Plue, 6-7, 358
RT 62 Nick Mondek, 6-5, 300

DE 2 Gerald Gooden, 6-3, 235
DT 90 Bruce Gaston, 6-2, 300
DT 93 Kawann Short, 6-4, 305
DE 94 Ryan Kerrigan, 6-4, 263
WLB 30 Joe Holland, 6-1, 225
MLB 3 Dwayne Beckford, 6-1, 228
SLB 24 Jason Werner, 6-4, 232
CB 21 Ricardo Allen, 5-9, 175
SS 35 Logan Link, 6-1, 204
FS 34 Max Charlot, 6-0, 190
CB 28 Josh Johnson, 5-11, 191

K 37 Carson Wiggs, 6-0, 197
P 42 Cody Webster, 6-2, 190
PR 28 Josh Johnson, 5-11, 191/3 Waynelle Gravesande, 6-0, 189
KR 4 O.J. Ross, 5-10, 175/5 Al-Terek McBurse, 6-0, 195

Five Fast Facts
1. Ohio State is 2-2 in its last four games with the Boilermakers. In addition to last season's loss, the Buckeyes also lost in West Lafayette in 2004 before wins against Purdue in '07 and '08. Tressel is 5-2 in seven games vs. Purdue, but the average score of those games is 19.3-12.6.

2. Purdue has won three straight Big Ten road games, winning at Northwestern this year and against Michigan and Indiana in 2009. The Boilermakers haven't won in Columbus since 1988.

3. Like Ohio State, Purdue has gone with six team captains: Keith Smith, Adams, Dierking, Gooden, Kerrigan and Werner.

4. Purdue has topped the 200-yard mark rushing for five games in a row, marking the third time since 1960 the Boilermakers have achieved that. The previous two times were 1967 and '73.

5. The Boilermakers have only five pass plays of more than 20 yards on the season.

Offensive Personnel Report
The famed "Cradle of Quarterbacks," Purdue had hoped to throw the football around with Robert Marve, but his injury has left the offense in the hands of redshirt freshman Rob Henry.

A better runner than passer at this early stage in his career, Henry is overseeing an offense that has topped the 200-yard mark on the ground in five straight games. Making heavy use of the zone read and other plays in which Henry has the option to run the ball or give it up, Purdue averages 202.3 yards per game on the ground, 27th in the nation.

After throwing an average of 35.0 passes per game in the four nonconference games, the Boilermakers have thrown 38 combined in the first two Big Ten contests. However, Hope said not much has changed as far as a preparation standpoint.

"We really didn't change anything for hardly anybody on the football team," the second-year head coach said. "We were already running the run plays that we run. We have been running a zone read for a long time. We just added a couple wrinkles to it. It was very, very simple."

Henry has proved to be an effective orchestrator of such an offense. Though the 6-2, 200-pounder has completed only 50.3 percent of his passes – 40 of 79 – for 443 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions, he has run 64 times for 356 yards (a 5.6-yard average) and four touchdowns.

He's also a poised, calming influence despite his relative youth.

"We thought he was something really special, you know, from an athlete and also from an intangible standpoint," Hope said. "The players, they've always believed in him. So I'm not surprised to see him go out there and play well."

The backup is true freshman Sean Robinson (6-3, 208), a three-star prospect according to Scout last year who has seen only limited action and has thrown no passes. The team's backup coming into the year, Caleb TerBush, is out for the year with an academic issue.

Bolden isn't the only Purdue running back to be handicapped by injuries this year. All three backs on the team's depth chart – Dan Dierking (ribs), Keith Carolos (foot) and Al-Terek McBurse (toe) – have fought maladies, though Dierking has been able to play all six games.

Dierking has been carrying the mail of late and had a breakout day against Minnesota, rushing 12 times for 126 yards. He also had the game-winning fourth-quarter touchdown against Northwestern, and on the year Dierking has 57 rushes for 353 yards (a 6.2-yard average) and three touchdowns.

A converted wideout, Carlos (6-1, 200) is a speedster with 21 rushes for 129 yards (6.1 yards). McBurse, who cut his teeth on kickoff returns last year, has been easing back into the lineup after his injury and has 14 rushes for 93 yards (6.6 yards) and a score.

The Boilermakers have also used sophomore wideout Antavian Edison and junior fullback Jared Crank (6-2, 235) as ball carriers. Edison has 28 rushes for 134 yards, while Crank has 16 totes for 71 yards and a score.

In the passing game, the team's per-game average of 159.2 yards is 10th in the Big Ten. With Keith Smith – the Big Ten's leading returning pass catcher from 2009, who had 18 grabs in the first two games of '10 – out, the No. 1 wideout job has fallen to senior Cortez Smith, who has 17 catches for 220 yards and two scores.

The Boilermakers have also had to fight through an injury to Justin Siller, the team's quarterback in 2008 who missed last year with an academic issue before returning. The 6-4, 223-pounder is second among the team's wideouts with 12 catches for 104 yards and a TD, but he's out for the Ohio State game with a foot injury.

True freshman O.J. Ross, a three-star prospect, has moved into the starting lineup and has shown some explosiveness with 10 catches for 146 yards and a score.

With some of the running backs healthy, Edison started back at wideout against the Golden Gophers. On the year, the sophomore has nine catches for 80 yards and a TD. Redshirt freshman Gary Bush (6-0, 175) is fourth among the wideouts with three catches for 26 yards.

Like Wisconsin, Purdue is led in receptions by a tight end. Fifth-year senior Kyle Adams has 20 catches for 122 yards and is a safety valve for Henry. Backup Jeff Lindsay (6-3, 245) is another fifth-year senior who has four catches for 31 yards.

Up front, the Boilermakers start four upperclassmen who have helped pave the way for the effective rushing attack while giving up only eight sacks in six games.

"It's a mind-set now," left tackle Dennis Kelly said. "People expect us to run the ball and they might stack the box and play a different scheme. We've worked hard to develop a way to win. If that calls for us to run for 200 yards, that's what we have to do. The offensive line has made that a benchmark every game."

Kelly has started 18 games in a row at left tackle. To his right is the lone starting senior, left guard Justin Pearce.

Sophomore center Peters Drey moved to his position from tackle during training camp and has impressed. Hope said right tackle Nick Mondek, who moved over from defense during spring, is among the most talented offensive linemen he has coached.

Junior Ken Plue started the first five games at right guard but was spelled by sophomore Rick Schmeig (6-3, 315) against Minnesota because of an academic issue.

Defensive Personnel Report
Purdue has posted solid defensive numbers in 2010, allowing 20.3 points per game and keeping both of its initial Big Ten foes to 17 points. That is partly because of a defensive line that boasts an All-America candidate in Ryan Kerrigan.

The Boilermakers are 11th in the country and first in the Big Ten with 3.0 sacks per game, atop the league with 7.5 tackles for loss per contest and have not yet allowed a 100-yard rusher.

"We have a lot of sacks because we have a lot to sack them with," Hope said. "We have two really good ends who are strong against the run. If we can stop the run and be physical against the run and force people to throw, it can be an advantage for us."

A returning first-team All-Big Ten choice, Kerrigan is set to make his 30th consecutive start vs. Ohio State. Not only are his 2.33 tackles for loss good for second in the nation, Kerrigan leads the team with 41 stops and has 5½ sacks along with three fumbles.

On the other side, Purdue starts junior Gerald Gooden, who has been coming on of late with 16 tackles for the season and a forced fumble.

Backup Robert Maci, a 6-4, 241-pound sophomore, has seven tackles.

The Boilermakers are young in the middle with sophomore Kawann Short and true freshman Bruce Gaston filling starting roles. Short has been effective, though, making 24 tackles, eight TFL, 3½ sacks and breaking up six passes to go with two blocked kicks.

Gaston, a Chicago native, is both quick and strong and has 12 tackles thus far. Redshirt freshman Brandon Taylor started the opening two games before suffering an ankle injury, and the 6-1, 280-pounder has one tackle. Redshirt freshman Justin Kitchens (6-4, 271) also has 1½ sacks.

Linebackers Joe Holland, Dwayne Beckford and Jason Werner are all experienced players who are stepping up, Hope said.

"They've picked up their level of play," he said. "They're reading their keys, playing disciplined and playing fast."

Werner is the elder statesman of the team, a sixth-year senior who has overcome a back injury to become a dependable player. Lining up on the strong side, Werner has 35 tackles, five TFL, an interception and a fumble recovery.

Holland lines up on the weak side, where he has started every game of his Purdue career. The junior has 38 tackles, four of which have come for loss. Beckford is a sophomore but earned extensive playing time last year and has 39 stops this year.

Among reserves, true freshman Will Lucas (5-11, 226) has 10 tackles on the year, while junior Chris Carlino (6-2, 226) has eight.

Purdue has new starters at every defensive back spot after losing second-team All-Big Ten choices David Pender and Brandon King to graduation. The Boilermakers have only four interceptions and are sixth in the league in passing efficiency defense.

The Boilermakers do have a nice find starting at cornerback in true freshman Ricardo Allen. The No. 12 recruit in the state of Florida last year, Allen has 30 tackles, a sack and an interception. On the other side, Purdue has turned to sophomore Josh Johnson, who has 27 tackles, a sack and two forced fumbles to go with a fumble recovery.

The third cornerback is junior Charlton Williams (6-2, 197), who has 19 tackles.

Junior strong safety Logan Link is a former walk-on from West Liberty, Ohio, who was added to scholarship after shining when given a chance during spring. Link is fourth on the team with 36 tackles and has a forced fumble, a recovered fumble and an interception.

Junior Albert Evans had 19 tackles as the free safety through six games, but the 6-0, 206-pounder injured his knee against Minnesota and is not expected to play vs. Ohio State. The Boilermakers are expected to turn to junior Max Charlot, who has six tackles and an interception.

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