Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Midseason report: Purdue
By Adam Rittenberg
Record: 3-3 (0-2 Big Ten)
Danny Hope told anyone who'd listen in the offseason that he would have his best team at Purdue in 2012.
Through the first four games, the Boilers looked the part, averaging 51 points per game at home and nearly upsetting Notre Dame in South Bend. But Purdue's defining stretch -- and perhaps the defining stretch of the Hope era -- always looked like the opening three games of Big Ten play. Purdue hosted Michigan and Wisconsin in the most anticipated games at Ross-Ade Stadium since perhaps the 2004 season. And the Boilers fell flat both times.
Purdue's future and perhaps Hope's future lurks murky after the team dropped the two games by a combined score of 82-27. Although much of the attention -- and criticism -- is centered on Hope's management of his quarterbacks, Purdue's defensive collapse has been stunning. A unit featuring several bona fide NFL prospects (tackle Kawann Short, cornerback Ricardo Allen) has surrendered 123 points the past three weeks and 771 rush yards in the losses to Michigan and Wisconsin. The Boilers' defensive line is supposed to be the team's strength, but it hasn't been the case lately.
Unless Purdue beats Ohio State in Columbus for the first time since 1988 -- and records its first road win against an AP Top 10 team since 1974 -- it will drop to 0-3 in the league and virtually out of the race to represent the Leaders Division in Indianapolis. Hope remains loyal to quarterback Caleb TerBush, a decision that will loom large in the second half. Purdue has the pieces to still have a decent season, but the turnaround needs to happen in a hurry.
Offensive MVP: WR Antavian Edison. No obvious choice here, but Edison has done his part as a playmaker from the slot receiver spot. He had 24 receptions for 285 yards and five touchdowns in the first four games, and though his production has slowed a bit lately, he boasts at least three catches in every Boilers contest. Edison is tied for third in the Big Ten in touchdown catches and has added 24 rush yards. Fellow receiver O.J. Ross also has been solid for Purdue.
Defensive MVP: DT Kawann Short. This is a harder sell after the past two weeks, but Short still has turned in a good first half as he aims to boost his NFL draft stock. The senior is tied for the Big Ten lead in tackles for loss (9), ranking 26th nationally, while leading Purdue and tying for fourth in the Big Ten in sacks (4). Short also continues to be a standout on special teams, leading the Big Ten with four blocked kicks. He also has a forced fumble and two pass breakups. Linebacker Will Lucas, safety Landon Feichter and cornerback Josh Johnson also merit mentions.