Big Ten: Eastern Kentucky Colonels

Early Week 1 preview: Purdue

July, 9, 2012
7/09/12
10:45
AM ET
We're less than 60 days from the start of the 2012 football season, and to get you prepared, we're looking at each Week 1 matchup in the Big Ten. Purdue could be a popular sleeper pick in the wide-open Leaders division this fall, and fourth-year coach Danny Hope thinks he has his best team in place. What do the Boilers face in Week 1?

For more Week 1 matchups, click here.

Week 1 opponent: Eastern Kentucky

Coach: Dean Hood (fifth season, 26-20)

2011 record: 7-5 (6-2 Ohio Valley)

Returning starters: 19 (10 offense, 7 defense, 2 specialists)

About the Colonels: Eastern Kentucky returns the core pieces from a squad that shared the Ohio Valley Conference championship in 2011 and earned an at-large spot in the FCS playoffs. Leading the way is senior running back Matt Denham, a Kentucky transfer who led the Ohio Valley and ranked second nationally in rushing yards with 1,570 in 2011. Denham eclipsed 200 rush yards in each of his final three games and will run behind a line that brings back four starters, including three first-team All-Conference performers. The Colonels also return quarterback T.J. Pryor and all of their receivers and tight ends. The defense loses a few more pieces than the offense, but first-team All-OVC linebacker Ichiro Vance is back in the fold. Vance recorded 86 tackles (10.5 for loss) and two forced fumbles last season. Eastern Kentucky returns eight first-team All-OVC performers from a squad that nearly stunned Kansas State in its 2011 opener before eventually falling, 10-7.

Random factoid: Purdue's Hope returned to West Lafayette after spending five years as head coach at Eastern Kentucky, his alma mater. Hope, a former Colonels guard, went 35-22 as EKU's head coach and guided the team to an Ohio Valley Conference championship and a FCS playoff spot in 2007.

Series with Purdue: First meeting

Totally unscientific percentage chance Purdue wins: 66 percent. Eastern Kentucky is a very good FCS team that should only get better with so many starters back in 2012. After their near stunner at Kansas State in last year's opener, the Colonels will be looking to make a splash at Ross-Ade Stadium against their former coach. Purdue needs its defense to show up in a big way, and fortunately for the Boilers, one of their strengths should be the defensive line. All-Big Ten defensive tackle Kawann Short and his crew must limit Denham and force Eastern Kentucky to win the game through the air, where it's a bit shaky. The Colonels were plus-15 in turnover margin last year, so Purdue must limit mistakes, hang onto the ball and capitalize on its size and speed edges.

Indiana's defense prevents disaster

September, 4, 2009
9/04/09
11:00
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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


As stated in this space numerous times throughout the offseason, Indiana's season this fall ultimately hinges on a defense that has the pieces to be pretty decent.

Thursday night's opener against Eastern Kentucky showed why.

If not for several key defensive plays, Indiana would have suffered a demoralizing loss to the FCS Colonels. The Hoosiers needed their veteran defenders to step up and save the team in an unsightly 19-13 victory. Linebackers Matt Mayberry (2 tackles for loss, sack, pass breakup) and Will Patterson (sack for a safety) came up big, along with cornerback Ray Fisher, a converted wide receiver who forced a crucial fumble near Indiana's goal line early in the fourth quarter.

Fisher, by the way, had to sit out the first half because of an unspecified violation, one of several disciplinary issues among veteran IU players. But he and his fellow defenders made just enough plays to win.

Here's the hard truth: If Indiana doesn't markedly improve in several areas, it won't win another game. The Hoosiers lost the turnover battle 3-1, didn't generate a consistent rushing attack, struggled in the secondary and committed eight penalties. Ben Chappell (326 pass yards) did some nice things, but he needs help from the running backs.

As Herald-Times columnist Chris Korman wrote: "A veteran team appeared unprepared for a good, not great, FCS squad."

That doesn't bode well for head coach Bill Lynch, who is very much on the hot seat. Indiana won't beat Western Michigan next week without a much better effort.

But survival is the key, and thanks to several veterans on defense, Indiana stands at 1-0.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Big Ten football is here!

If you could see me right now, I'd be doing my happy dance. On second thought, it's probably better you don't see me.

Anyway, after this Sahara of an offseason, I'm excited to start blogging about actual games again.

Here's a quick rundown of what's on tap for the opening weekend in the Big Ten:

THURSDAY

Eastern Kentucky at Indiana, 8 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network

Indiana debuts the pistol offense against FCS Eastern Kentucky, a team that enjoyed good success under current Purdue head coach Danny Hope from 2003-07. Keep an eye on the Hoosiers' running back race, as three or four backs, including dynamic redshirt freshman Darius Willis, are expected to get carries. Coming off a 3-9 season, Indiana needs a strong start from its defense, who will face Colonels quarterback Cody Watts, a converted wide receiver who led the team in touchdown receptions (5) last season.

SATURDAY

Towson at Northwestern, noon ET, Big Ten Network

The Wildcats shouldn't have much trouble with Towson, a team that went 3-9 last season and still hasn't decided on its starting quarterback. But this will be a chance for Northwestern senior quarterback Mike Kafka and a new crop of starting skill players to get comfortable and gain confidence. Star defensive end Corey Wootton returns to the field after recovering from a torn ACL, and true freshman running back Arby Fields likely will see a lot of work.

Montana State at Michigan State, noon ET, Big Ten Network

All eyes will be on the Spartans' offensive backfield, where position battles at both quarterback and running back have intensified. Quarterbacks Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol both are expected to play a lot, but who creates separation will be key. Michigan State coaches told ESPN.com last week that running backs Caulton Ray, Larry Caper and Edwin Baker likely will enter the season as the top ball carriers. Montana State also remains unsettled at quarterback with Mark Iddins and Cody Kempt competing for the top spot.

Navy at No. 6 Ohio State, noon ET, ESPN

Before a much anticipated rematch with USC, Ohio State must get past Navy, which always provides a challenge but doesn't appear to be as strong as it is in most years. Terrelle Pryor's progress from Year 1 to Year 2 will be interesting to watch, and I'm also very curious about the left tackle position. Will Andrew Miller or J.B. Shugarts emerge as the answer to protect Pryor's blind side?

Akron at No. 9 Penn State, noon ET, Big Ten Network

Whether it's fair or not, everyone expects a blowout here, and Penn State needs to deliver. The Lions' schedule forces the team not only to win, but win in very impressive fashion. Penn State can build confidence at wide receiver and offensive line against Akron, which ranked 90th nationally in total defense last fall. Akron quarterback Chris Jacquemain is pretty solid and will provide a good test for a new-look Penn State secondary.

Minnesota at Syracuse, noon ET, ESPN2

What is it about Minnesota and dome stadiums? The Golden Gophers thought they had rid themselves of domes for good by moving out of the Metrodome last fall, but they head indoors again to face Syracuse. Emotions will be high in the Carrier Dome as the Doug Marrone era begins and former Duke basketball player Greg Paulus starts at quarterback. Minnesota is the better team here, and as long as the Gophers keep their composure and don't struggle too much with their new pro-style offense, they should be fine.

Toledo at Purdue, noon ET, Big Ten Network

The Danny Hope era begins in West Lafayette as Purdue takes on Toledo, which also welcomes in a new coach (Tim Beckman). It will be interesting to watch how much the Boilers offense has changed under coordinator Gary Nord. Running back is arguably Purdue's deepest position, and backs like Jaycen Taylor, Ralph Bolden and Frank Halliburton all should get work. Boilers quarterback Joey Elliott needs to be aware of Toledo star safety Barry Church, a Nagurski Award candidate.

Northern Iowa at No. 22 Iowa, noon ET, Big Ten Network

This isn't your run-of-the-mill FBS vs. FCS beatdown. It could turn out that way, but Northern Iowa is pretty good and Iowa has some issues at running back. Former walk-on Paki O'Meara likely will get the start at running back for the Hawkeyes. Former Wisconsin linebacker Elijah Hodge, whose brother Abdul starred for Iowa, is making his debut with Northern Iowa at Kinnick Stadium. Iowa has won the last 14 meetings in the series stretching back to 1898.

Western Michigan at Michigan, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

There's plenty of intrigue here, and I'll be on hand to watch it. Michigan tries to win its first opener since 2006 and close the book on a disastrous 2008 season. The Wolverines could use three quarterbacks (Nick Sheridan, Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson) in the game, and they must try to contain a really good signal-caller (Tim Hiller) on the other side. Perhaps the biggest question is how Michigan will come out after the allegations from players about NCAA rule violations within the program. Can Michigan keep it together for a critical opener?

Illinois vs. Missouri (at St. Louis), 3:40 p.m. ET, ESPN

Easily the best matchup of a pretty bland opening weekend, Illinois and Missouri meet in what is usually an extremely entertaining game. Illinois returns more experience on offense and really needs a win to start a tough opening stretch. A key matchup pairs Illini quarterback Juice Williams and Missouri star linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who recently Tweeted he'd "squeeze the pulp out of Juice." Williams set the total offense record at Edward Jones Dome in his last appearance against Missouri and needs a repeat performance.

Northern Illinois at Wisconsin, 7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network

Week 1 wraps up with a night game at Camp Randall Stadium, where Wisconsin's surprise starting backfield of Scott Tolzien and Zach Brown takes on Northern Illinois. The Badgers likely will play both Tolzien and redshirt freshman Curt Phillips at quarterback, but Tolzien will have the first chance to create some separation. Versatile NIU quarterback Chandler Harnish provides a good challenge for a Wisconsin defense replacing five starters in the front seven.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The Big Ten's only new head coach isn't new at Purdue. Danny Hope was there for Purdue's rebirth in the late 1990s and returned last year as head coach-in waiting and offensive line coach. Those tags have since been removed, and Hope is going through his first practices as the man in charge. Purdue comes off a 4-8 season and missed a bowl for just the second time since Joe Tiller's arrival in 1997. Hope brought in five new coaches during the offseason, including offensive coordinator Gary Nord and defensive coordinator Donn Landholm.

 
  Sandra Dukes/Icon SMI
  Joey Elliott is a candidate to start at QB for Purdue in 2009.

The Boilers have competition at quarterback, running back and wide receiver as they try to turn things around in Hope's first year. I caught up with Hope earlier this week.

A few practices in, is the team where you thought it would be? Ahead of schedule? Behind schedule?

Danny Hope: We're ahead in some ways. Obviously, when you have a guy like Curtis Painter, who was accomplished as he was at the quarterback spot, you've got a lot of work to do. We are eight receivers short from the roster of 2008. So I didn't really know what to expect when we went out the first day in shorts last Wednesday, but I was very pleased with what we've got done so far. We are able to go out there and execute the offense to some degree, which is a good sign for us this early in spring. The good thing about our quarterback spot, even though we don't have a bona fide returning starter, is our top two quarterbacks played in 2008.

How does the quarterback competition shape up right now?

DH: Joey Elliott was a very good No. 2 quarterback for us, was actually putting pressure on Painter and starting to get in some games, and then he got injured. You're not getting a rookie. He's a football junkie. He loves it. He had shoulder surgery and his health status is much better than I thought it would be at the start of spring. He's throwing the ball better, got a little more zip on it. He's a guy who knows more about the offense than anyone else we have on that side of the ball right now. So him being healthy enough to go out there and throw was a huge shot in the arm for us. And obviously, Justin Siller, even though he wasn't that well prepared because he had not been in the lineup before and was working as a running back, we beat Michigan with Justin Siller and he's a great athlete. He has some game experience. So we don't have two varsity rookies out there. That's a good sign. And I really like what I'm seeing out of our freshman, Caleb TerBush, who was on the scout team all of last year, he's out there getting some great reps. We're further along at the quarterback spot than I thought we were going to be, but when you're comparing it to the likes of Drew Brees, Kyle Orton and Curtis Painter, we're nowhere near that.

Do you have a timetable on when you'd like to make a decision on a starter? Will it go well into preseason camp?

DH: Everybody asks that, and the most important thing to me is the development at the quarterback position, not just one particular quarterback. Last year is a classic example of what I'm talking about, where Painter went down and Joey Elliott got hurt and we had to take Justin Siller from running back and move him to quarterback, and he wasn't prepared to do so. I think the development of all of our quarterbacks is key this spring, and certainly the No. 1. We'll play as many players as we can, so I'm not really concerned about saying there has to be a certain deadline or due date as long as each and every one of our quarterbacks are improving and can get themselves in position to help us win. That's more important than naming a guy.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The Big Ten has largely stiff-armed the national trend of scheduling midweek football games, but the league will open the 2009 season on a Thursday night.

(Amen.)

Indiana has released its 2009 schedule, which begins with a Thursday night clash against Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 3. It marks the first Thursday home game in Memorial Stadium history and Indiana's first Thursday appearance since opening the 2001 season at N.C. State. The Hoosiers also will be unveiling the new renovations to Memorial Stadium that night. 

"I think it will be a special treat for our fans to open our season and our renovated stadium on the Thursday night before Labor Day weekend," Indiana athletic director Fred Glass said in a statement. "Hopefully, it will not only help our attendance versus a game in the middle of the holiday weekend, but it will be a great kickoff for a new football tradition in our new stadium." 

Indiana's non-league schedule also features a home game against Western Michigan and trips to Akron and Virginia. Both Ohio State and Michigan return to the Hoosiers' Big Ten schedule, while Michigan State and Minnesota are off the slate. 

Here's the complete 2009 schedule:

Sept. 3 Eastern Kentucky, 8 p.m. ET

Sept. 12 Western Michigan

Sept. 19 at Akron

Sept. 26 at Michigan

Oct. 3 Ohio State

Oct. 10 at Virginia

Oct. 17 Illinois

Oct. 24 at Northwestern

Oct. 31 at Iowa

Nov. 7 Wisconsin

Nov. 14 at Penn State

Nov. 21 Purdue

Early schedule snapshot: Indiana

February, 9, 2009
2/09/09
11:26
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

After a look at Illinois' near-complete schedule, it's time to examine Indiana, the only other Big Ten team without a finalized 2009 slate. 

Here's what we know at this point about the Hoosiers:

NONCONFERENCE SCHEDULE

Sept. 5 Eastern Kentucky
Sept. 12 Western Michigan
Sept. 19 at Akron
Oct. 10 ??? 

My take: Indiana's nonleague slate lost some flavor after South Florida rescheduled a 2009 trip to Bloomington for 2015 so it could face Florida State in Tallahassee this fall. Then again, the Hoosiers lost to two MAC teams (Ball State and Central Michigan) in 2008 and will have their hands full with Western Michigan and a trip to Akron. Last year's soft slate was set up for Indiana to return to a bowl game, but an easy opening stretch seemed to leave the team poorly prepared for Ball State in Week 3. Eastern Kentucky is a solid FCS program that produced new Purdue head coach Danny Hope and was knocked out of the playoffs last season by eventual national champion Richmond. It would be nice to see Indiana fill its final spot with a BCS program, but it could be tough at this late date. 

BIG TEN SCHEDULE

Sept. 26 at Michigan
Oct. 3 Ohio State
Oct. 17 Illinois
Oct. 24 at Northwestern
Oct. 31 at Iowa
Nov. 7 Wisconsin
Nov. 14 at Penn State
Nov. 21 Purdue 

Byes: Michigan State, Minnesota

My take: The road schedule is simply brutal, and Indiana has dropped eight consecutive games away from Memorial Stadium (7 road, 1 bowl), stretching back to Sept. 29, 2007. Indiana does catch Michigan fairly early on, and if the Wolverines are still finding their way, the Hoosiers could hang around in the Big House. The Hoosiers travel to Happy Valley for the second straight year, and they also visit an improved Iowa team and a Northwestern squad that won't take them lightly after last year's upset in Bloomington. The key is to survive September and October with something to play for and then take advantage of the November home games. 

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Purdue head coach Danny Hope returned to his Eastern Kentucky roots and named Donn Landholm as his new defensive coordinator today. 

Landholm replaces longtime Purdue assistant Brock Spack, who left last month to become head coach at Illinois State. The 52-year-old Landholm spent the last 12 seasons at FCS Eastern Kentucky, serving on Hope's staff from 2003-07.

Landholm has coached Eastern Kentucky's linebackers since 1997 before adding the coordinator title in 2005 and becoming the team's recruiting coordinator last year. 

"Donn is a tremendous football coach and an excellent recruiter, and he will be a difference-maker on our staff," Hope said in a statement. "He knows what it takes to win a championship. When he worked for me at Eastern Kentucky, his guys consistently overachieved. Donn is as good a teacher as I have been around. He is extremely organized and pays tremendous attention to detail."

Hope also announced that Mark Hagen will coach Purdue's linebackers while Terrell Williams will work with the defensive line. Hagen and Williams had shared the line responsibilities in 2008. Lou Anarumo will remain as the Boilers' defensive backs coach.

Landholm has a history with Hope and extensive experience coaching and recruiting at the FCS level. In 2007, Eastern Kentucky had 35 takeaways and led the nation in turnover margin (plus-18).

The concern with this hire, as it was with Hope, is whether Landholm can succeed in the Big Ten. He hasn't coached in the FBS since 1991, his final season as a volunteer assistant linebackers coach at Arizona State. 

Landholm won't serve as Purdue's recruiting coordinator but should strengthen the team's ties to Florida and the southeast. Purdue currently has 12 commitments from Florida and two from Georgia for its 2009 class. 

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The Danny Hope era is under way at Purdue, and the new Boilermakers coach has started to form his staff for 2009.

Today, Hope hired Gary Nord as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach and Shawn Clark as offensive line coach. He also promoted graduate assistant J.B. Gibboney to special teams coordinator. 

The hirings mean that Ed Zaunbrecher will not be retained as offensive coordinator. Purdue ranked last in the Big Ten in scoring before exploding for 62 points in the season finale against Indiana. Clark actually replaces Hope, who coached Purdue's offensive linemen this season.

Tight ends coach John McDonnell also won't be retained, and defensive tackles coach Mark Hagen no longer will oversee special teams. Purdue ranked last in the Big Ten in both punting and kickoff coverage this season. 

Nord comes to Purdue from Florida Atlantic, where he has served as offensive coordinator since 2005. He also served as offensive coordinator at UTEP and Oklahoma and worked with Hope at Louisville from 1985-1995. Like Hope, he has ties to Florida that will help change the recruiting landscape at Purdue. 

"Gary has one of the top offensive minds in the nation," Hope said in a statement. "He also is an outstanding recruiter. We are fortunate to get someone with his background and experience. He's a real catch for us."

Clark served on Hope's staff at Eastern Kentucky from 2003-07 and remained with the Colonels this season. He first met Hope in 2002 as a graduate assistant at Louisville. 

"I have known Shawn virtually his entire career, and he coaches the O-line the way I want it to be coached," Hope said. "He's a bright young coach with a tremendous work ethic, and he's a former lineman himself, so the players know they are learning from someone who has been there, done that."  

It will be interesting to see what Hope does with the rest of Joe Tiller's staff. I'm particularly interested to see if Brock Spack is retained as defensive coordinator. Hope and Spack go way back, to Hope's first stint on the Purdue staff.

The Boilermakers defense performed well for much of the season, and Spack might have earned the right to remain in West Lafayette.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

 
 Purdue University Sports Information
 Danny Hope will take over the Boilermaker program in 2009.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Here's the second half of my interview with Purdue offensive line coach Danny Hope, who will succeed Joe Tiller as Boilermakers head coach in 2009.

What aspect of the whole process has surprised you the most, whether it was harder or easier, bigger or smaller?

Danny Hope: I'm really surprised at the urgency to fill up as quick as you can in the recruiting process, and surprised at what some of the other competitors will settle for early. It's really, really surprising. I look at a lot of the commitments that our competitors have, and a lot of those guys, we wouldn't take now. I'm not saying they're not good enough to play at Purdue, but we're trying to find guys who can make an impact in the next couple years. I'm surprised at what some of our competitors will settle for this early in the recruiting process. In my mind, you should be able to come back and get some of those guys, go out and try to compete for the very top guys first and then move on.

Is it just a panic among coaches who want early numbers? 

DH: Not for me, it's not. But absolutely. There's no question in my mind about that. There were a number of guys who came to our camp that we had an opportunity to evaluate personally and on film, and we put 'em on a list as guys that were solid recruits, I was shocked at some of the people that came in and offered 'em. Hopefully, I'm not looking through rose-colored glasses, but that just really surprised me. I know talking to some of the so-called national recruiting experts, they seem to feel a lot of [coaches] will settle for a guy that's just good enough, rather than holding off and trying to get one that's special. Also, there's some value to allowing a guy grow and develop and play his senior year [of high school]. When you take everyone based on their junior film, you miss out on some real jewels.

You have some ties in Florida. I know you've already gotten a couple of commitments from the state. How important are those ties for the future?

DH: It will be a factor that'll impact the program and make a difference in the future of Purdue football. No question in my mind. When I was at Eastern Kentucky as a head coach, we had 18 guys on our football team [who grew up] within an hour and a half away from Orlando International Airport, and we only had 63 scholarships. There's a lot of guys that are good enough to play. But we're trying to find people that can come in and make a difference. We'll start off with that. 

There are people here who were here last time you coached at Purdue. How has it been so far with the alumni, people in town, people at the school?

DH: I haven't had time to really socialize with anyone, other than the people involved with the football program. A lot of people have been very nice in passing, they've said the right things and they've e-mailed me. But to be honest, I haven't had any social life at all since I came here. I've been involved and engrossed with recruiting and coaching and academics.

So if there's a time for your wife to be away, this was probably it, right?

DH: Yeah, but eight months is a long time and she's still not here yet. I'm not quite sure when she will [move]. We're dealing with a house back in Kentucky. She will [move] eventually, just don't know when. It's all good, though. It might be a blessing in disguise in some ways. It might make her miss me more and gives me time to focus on football.

You'll be coaching the offensive line this fall. How does that group shape up?

DH: We're getting better. They're responding and that's huge, to the coaching style and the techniques. We've got a lot of work to do, but we're creating some momentum. That was one of our goals coming in. No question about it. Very pleased with their effort.

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