Boilermakers: Times they are a Changin'
Orton has completed the impressive task of tossing for 17 touchdowns and no interceptions in the first four games. He also has among the highest passer ratings in the NCAA of 194, completing over 69% of his passes with 137 attempts. It would not be surprising to see Kyle Orton pass for over 4000 yards this season. He is beginning to look like the Jason White of 2003. This offense has averaged over 500 yards of offense per game, and allowed an average of less than 15 points per game. What else has changed in the state of Indiana? The losing streak to Notre Dame was finally snapped after nearly 30 years. Traditional Big 10 powers Michigan and Ohio State have produced paltry performances in comparison. Michigan, in their loss to Notre dame showed their age, or lack thereof. Ohio State has continually relying on stiff defense and the seemingly unstoppable leg of Mike Nugent. It appears that tight escapes and football tradition alone are not enough to capture the Big 10 of 2004. Perhaps it is time for a new king, as Minnesota and Purdue climb towards the top. Why does Purdue have all the tools to accomplish this feat? Besides the arm of Orton and the catching ability of Taylor Stubblefield, Purdue implements a game plan that attacks the weakness of their opponents. Even when one facet of the team falters, as did the defense versus the seemingly anemic Illinois, this team is able to make solid compensations with the other components of the game, as was the case with the shootout in Memorial Stadium. With the Syracuse shutout and the near blanking of Ball State and Notre Dame, the defense has not allowed any significant gains, with the exception of the oversight at Illinois. They learned to correct the defensive errors by stopping a surging Irish team in South Bend. Despite the promising outlook of 2004 for the Boilermakers, potential traps do lay ahead. Penn State has one of the better pass defenses in the country, and the Boilermakers must supplement their acrobatics with a balanced run. The Nittany Lions boast a talented secondary and some athletic linebackers, so Orton must learn to compensate from this enhanced defense. These are not the Lions of a younger JoePa, but they have been improving lately. Additionally, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio State all come to town to play Purdue, so it will be hard for this team not to look to the future. It is far too early to put on those rose colored glasses. No matter what the situation is, these teams will field competitive teams, so Purdue must carefully study them and be creative with the offense. All assumptions are off, as the Buckeyes learned against Northwestern last week. In 2001 Purdue played in the Rose Bowl and lost. This year is the time to shine for this team. This time the Heisman, Big 10 reputation, and the future of Purdue football are on the line. It is there for the taking.
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