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Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Midseason report: Purdue

By Brian Bennet

Purdue Boilermakers

Record: 3-2 (1-0 Big Ten)

Change a blocked field goal attempt into three points, and Purdue's season could look a whole lot different. In both directions. The Boilers began the year by blocking a field goal at the end of the game to slip past Middle Tennessee, followed by a loss at Rice in which their own late three-point try was turned away. Those two games spoke of potential mediocrity for this team, one that it hasn't yet rebuffed. Purdue got geeked up for a showdown with Notre Dame at home in prime time, only to get pounded 38-10. It rebounded to blow out Minnesota 45-17 in the Big Ten opener, but the Gophers are going to make a lot of teams look good. At least Danny Hope's crew finally has avoided a rash of injuries, except for loss of starting quarterback Rob Henry in preseason camp. The Boilers have a strong rushing attack led by Ralph Bolden and Akeem Shavers, averaging over 215 yards per game on the ground. But a lot of those stats were compiled against less-than-stellar opposition. Penalties have been a major problem, and the defense hasn't shown that it can shut down a decent offense. The schedule gets much tougher in the second half, and Purdue still must prove that it's more than mediocre.

Offensive MVP: Quarterback Caleb TerBush. He's not the second coming of Drew Brees by any means, but TerBush solidified the quarterback situation in what could have been a difficult time. Henry went down in August with a season-ending knee injury, and Robert Marve's own surgically repaired knee kept him sidelined. So Purdue had to turn to the inexperienced TerBush as its starter, a job he's held onto even as Marve has returned to play the occasional series. TerBush is completing 64 percent of his passes with a 5-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio, and he's a credible runner. It's not superstar material, but he's giving his team a chance to compete.

Defensive MVP: Defensive tackle Kawann Short. The 310-pound junior is playing at a high level as a monster in the middle of the defense. He leads the team with six tackles for loss and is commanding double teams by opposing offenses. With star Ryan Kerrigan gone, Short has taken over as the leader of the defensive front.