Like most Big Ten teams, Purdue is relieved nonconference play is over.
Rakeem Cato and Marshall's high-powered passing attack gave the Boilers' defense all it could handle Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium, challenging a unit that had looked good through the first four games. Fortunately for Purdue, it had a bit more offense of its own and held off Marshall 51-41 to improve to 3-1.
Quarterback Caleb TerBush, who has received some criticism from Boiler fans early this season, bounced back from a so-so performance last week to tear apart a woeful Marshall defense. TerBush was nearly flawless in the first half (11-for-16 passing, 181 yards, 3 TDs) and finished with 290 pass yards, four touchdowns and an interception. Purdue really needed its pass game Saturday as it surprisingly struggled to rush the ball against the nation's 112th-rated rush defense.
After the the teams combined for four touchdowns in the first 16 minutes, Purdue took control thanks to its defense, as cornerbacks Ricardo "pick-six" Allen and Josh Johnson both had interception returns for touchdowns against the Herd's Rakeem Cato. Allen's scoring return marked the fourth of his career and set a new team record. What's really scary: he's only a junior.
Purdue, which led 42-14 at halftime, won't see a pass offense like Marshall's the rest of the season, so Saturday provided a very tough test for Allen, Johnson, Evan Feichter and the rest of the Boilers' secondary. Marshall sophomore receiver Tommy Shuler (team-record 17 catches, 197 yards) is pretty special, and the Boilers will have plenty to work on when they review the game film. Cato passed for 445 yards and five touchdowns, and Marshall piled up 546 yards against the Boilers.
Offensively, Purdue has to feel good entering Big Ten play. The Boilers have scored 105 points the past two weeks. TerBush is playing with confidence, wide receiver Antavian Edison (6 catches, 99 yards, 1 TD) has been terrific and Gary Bush (7 catches, 82 yards, 3 TDs) is emerging as another nice target in the pass game.
How good is Purdue? We'll find out in the next three weeks, as Danny Hope's squad hosts Michigan and Wisconsin before traveling to Ohio State. A 2-1 mark or better puts the Boilers in very good shape for the Leaders division. Next week's game against Michigan is huge for both squads. Should be a fun one.