By CLIFF BRUNT
Robert Marve’s career day against Eastern Kentucky wasn’t enough to make him Purdue’s starting quarterback over Caleb TerBush.
Coach Danny Hope said Tuesday that TerBush will start Saturday at Notre Dame.
That says an awful lot about TerBush. After he was suspended for the opener and Marve passed for 295 yards and three touchdowns in his absence, many, myself included, thought Marve would take over this week.
Turns out, TerBush had more of a lock on the starting job than Hope had previously stated. Hope said TerBush improved significantly in the past year to hold off challenges from a healthy Marve and an almost healthy Rob Henry, so much so that he still was the right choice after the suspension and Marve’s dominance in Purdue’s 48-6 win over Eastern Kentucky.
“He (TerBush) did a great job in camp and won the job hands down, and all three quarterbacks did very well,” Hope said. “But he separated himself from the others. It would be to our best advantage, I believe, to start Caleb this weekend because I feel like a smooth start in the beginning of the game at South Bend could be very important to our football team.”
So, clearly, TerBush’s ability to manage the game played a role in the decision. Marve is still a bit of a ‘wild stallion,’ as Hope has often called him, and he might be worried that a Marve mistake could turn Saturday’s game. The interception Marve threw early against Eastern Kentucky might have planted a seed in Hope’s head.
While Marve is known as a risk taker, TerBush has been given the dreaded ‘game manager’ tag, one that to some implies that he plays to avoid mistakes rather than to be aggressive and make plays. Hope disagrees.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with being conservative,” he said. “I think it has a lot to do with being a good decision-maker, doing a great job of getting the signal from the sidelines, getting that information transferred to the other players on the offensive field. He makes very smart decisions with the football.”
I think this decision also says something about Hope’s confidence in his defense. He might feel the defense, led by tackle Kawann Short and cornerback Ricardo Allen, is so stout that taking risks will be unnecessary against the Irish.
Hope said though Marve is healthy, the time he has missed has been costly. He was the starter in 2010 before going down with a torn ACL, and he was slow to heal in 2011.
“It was really unfortunate last year that his knee did not recover and stay recovered like we’d have liked it to and really slowed him down,” he said. “That’s a position where reps are so important. He has missed a ton of reps throughout his collegiate career.”
But Hope is glad to have Marve around. He said the Florida product has phenomenal arm strength and is potentially an exceptional player.
“Thank goodness he got a sixth year because he’s a great talent,” Hope said. “He’s a warrior on the field. I love watching him play. He’s fearless. He gives you all he has. He certainly is wide open. He has really grown and developed, and his game day management, the management of the offense, he’s way ahead of where he was two years ago. Or at any point in time last year.”
That Marve is better than he was in 2010 and still isn’t the starter is significant, and a credit to TerBush.
The door is not closed on Marve possibly being a starter down the road. And remember, TerBush started last year against Ohio State, but Marve scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime.
“Robert Marve gets a lot of consideration as a starter, and each game is going to be different. Each week is going to be different,” Hope said. “Each week, their performances are going to be different. There’s nothing ever etched in stone obviously, but it may be to our best advantage this weekend to start Caleb TerBush.”
TerBush is the guy for now, but the competition is fierce. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a switch at some point. But for now, Purdue fans, be thankful that TerBush is good enough to remain the starter, given all the reasons it made sense to bench him.