By CLIFF BRUNT
It’s finally time to find out if all the hype around the Purdue football program is justified.
The Boilermakers play at Notre Dame on Saturday, a perfect opportunity for the Boilermakers to announce their resurgence.
This has been billed by many as the year Purdue becomes relevant again. Even coach Danny Hope says the program can return to national prominence. A win at Notre Dame certainly would bring that, especially with the Fighting Irish back in the national rankings at No. 22 in both the USA Today and Associated Press polls.
We’d be 2-0 with a lot of momentum, and I think it would certainly be — could potentially be a confidence builder for our football team, Hope said. That’s a tough venue to play at at times, so it would certainly show we were strong willed and strong minded. It would be a confidence builder for our football team and a confidence builder for our fan base. There’s a lot to be gained from a big win at South Bend this weekend.
Notre Dame has won the past four meetings and Purdue hasn’t won in South Bend since 2004, but Hope feels good about what he’s taking up the road.
They’re a great program and a great football team, but this is the best team we’ve had here at Purdue in the past three or four years from a talent standpoint. So our odds of winning have increased this year, and that’s exciting for our football team.
The Boilermakers have Notre Dame’s attention.
As it relates to our opponent, we respect Purdue, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. We know them as somebody that’s going to play great football against us.
Caleb TerBush will start at quarterback for Purdue. He was suspended for the opener, but Hope quickly re-installed him as the starter, even though ultra-talented backup Robert Marve threw for 295 yards and three touchdowns in his place in the 48-6 win over Eastern Kentucky.
Hope calls TerBush an efficient player who manages the game well.
We’re very glad to get Caleb TerBush back, Hope said. He was the No. 1 quarterback going into camp and the No. 1 quarterback going out of camp. He has, I believe, taken his game to another level.
Marve, more of a gunslinger, likely will be called upon if Purdue falls behind by a significant margin early.
We’re geared, from an offensive and a defensive and special teams standpoint, to be able to catch up if we get behind, but that certainly isn’t our first choice on how to start the game, Hope said, so my gut feeling is that we go in and start Caleb TerBush, and I think that’s in the best interests of our football team.
Rob Henry, the No. 3 quarterback, will also play. He is the most athletic of the three, and it’s more likely this week that he will show up some as a running back or receiver.
Purdue also will find out if its defensive line, led by Kawann Short, Bruce Gaston and Ryan Russell, is as good as it believes. Short had a sack and blocked both a field goal and an extra point in the win over Eastern Kentucky.
Notre Dame also will need to be aware of cornerback Ricardo Allen, who was named to the Jim Thorpe Award, Chuck Bednarik Award and Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch lists over the summer.
Joe Gilliam has moved into the Mike linebacker spot vacated by Dwayne Beckford, the team’s top returning tackler, who has been suspended from the program.
Notre Dame’s 50-10 win over Navy last Saturday in Dublin was impressive, especially since the Irish were without starting running back Cierre Wood. The Irish ran for 293 yards against the Midshipmen. Theo Riddick ran for 108 yards and two touchdowns and George Atkinson III added 99 yards and two scores.
Notre Dame will start Everett Golson at quarterback. Last year’s starter, Tommy Rees, was suspended for the opener and will return this week in a backup role.
Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert is considered one of the nation’s best. He scored a touchdown in the opener.
Notre Dame’s defense, led by linebacker Manti Te’o, held Navy to 149 yards rushing and 341 yards total.
So it’s clear that there is talent at Notre Dame. And it is Notre Dame. For all the talk that the Fighting Irish aren’t as relevant as they once were, Notre Dame still has a very good football team and provides an ideal litmus test for Purdue. The season won’t be over with a loss, but the Boilermakers are aware of the opportunity that exists.
It’s never a one-game season, Hope said. Obviously, if you make it too big, sometimes you can create some tenseness for your football team, and that’s a tough venue to play at. We have to keep it in perspective. We know what a big game it is.