WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- I picked a good day to make the drive south to Purdue, which held its Steak and Beans spring scrimmage Friday inside the Mollenkopf Center. The defense prevailed, winning the right to dine on steak, while the offense was stuck with the beans.
Some notes and observations:
A lot of big plays on both sides of the ball, so it's fitting that one clinched the scrimmage victory for the defense. After Rob Henry and the first-team offense scored several touchdowns, safety Albert Evans put a huge hit on running back Akeem Shavers, forcing a fumble that linebacker Joe Holland recovered. The sideline went nuts after Evans' hit, and for good reason.
Although Purdue's offense lost a scrimmage for the first time this spring, Henry had a strong day at quarterback. He had a 53-yard touchdown run early in the scrimmage and threw three touchdown passes to Antavian Edison. The sophomore finished the scrimmage 11-for-15 for 129 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.
Henry's performance continued a very strong spring. Coach Danny Hope told me Henry is the team's most improved player and the clear No. 1 quarterback right now. Robert Marve still should be a factor in the race -- Marve, recovering from knee surgery, didn't participate in Friday's scrimmage -- but Henry is creating some distance in the competition right now. He threw the ball well Friday, especially on post routes to Edison, who could be one of the Big Ten's more versatile offensive players. Purdue also can do more on offense with Henry, who runs the zone read and the option well.
Caleb TerBush had some good moments, too, and showed good leadership skills after Gary Bush dropped a perfectly thrown deep pass that should have been a touchdown. TerBush immediately went over to Bush with some encouraging words. On the next series, Bush out-jumped a defender for an underthrown TerBush pass and made the grab. TerBush had a few underthrown passes, one of which should have been intercepted.
Robert Maci and Ryan Russell worked as the first-team defensive ends for most of the scrimmage. Defensive end is a shaky spot for Purdue after Ryan Kerrigan's departure, and the Boilers need Gerald Gooden (sports hernia) to get healthy. The good news: Purdue should be very good at defensive tackle with Kawann Short and Bruce Gaston. Short and Gaston both penetrated the backfield several times Friday, and sophomore Ryan Isaac also had a nice day.
Cornerback Ricardo Allen is a lot of fun to watch. He's fast, aggressive and fearless, a good blend of traits for a young defensive back. He did a nice job snuffing out a reverse to Justin Siller. Allen should be one of the Big Ten's top corners in 2011 along with Nebraska's Alfonzo Dennard, Wisconsin's Antonio Fenelus, Iowa's Shaun Prater and Penn State's D'Anton Lynn.
Purdue's secondary should be a strength this fall as all four starters return. Starting cornerback Josh Johnson intercepted a Henry pass Friday, and reserve Jarrett Dieudonne had a pick-six against TerBush.
Top running back Ralph Bolden didn't participate in the scrimmage, although he could have as he's about a year removed from his torn ACL. Shavers ran hard and should add depth at running back, and Edison also should see time in the backfield. Jared Crank is a formidable fullback at 6-2, 232.
I'll have more on Hope and the Boilers next week, so stay tuned.