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Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Purdue has time to get things right

By Adam Rittenberg

Nothing has come easy to Purdue during Danny Hope's tenure as coach, and the season opener against Middle Tennessee proved to be no exception.

Purdue had its struggles -- 11 penalties, two turnovers, 460 yards allowed, no sacks recorded -- and needed a furious rally in the final nine minutes to outlast Middle Tennessee 27-24. The Boilers took their first and only lead of the second half when Caleb TerBush found Antavian Edison for a 35-yard touchdown pass with only 49 seconds left.

Caleb TerBush
The Boilers rallied Caleb TerBush in the second half to beat Middle Tennessee.
But all that work resulted in a win, which is no small accomplishment. No Big Ten team had endured a longer drought between victories than the Boilers, who dropped their final eight games last season and hadn't tasted victory since Oct. 16 -- a span of 323 days.

"It's huge for our football team," Hope said. "A win is huge for us. We ended the season last year with a losing streak and a lot of injuries and guys trying hard but not being able to pull out victories in some close games."

The manner in which the Boilers won also provided a boost, especially for quarterback Caleb TerBush, who made his first career start and his first appearance since 2009.

"Caleb really came of age in the fourth quarter with the game on the line," Hope said.

Purdue has a long list of things to fix, and performances like Saturday's will get the Boilers beat in Big Ten play. But time appears to be on Purdue's side.

The schedule certainly is.

This week, the Boilers visit Rice before returning home to host Southeast Missouri State. An open week then follows before Notre Dame visits West Lafayette.

Rice is just 6-19 since the start of the 2009 season, including a 34-9 loss to Texas in the opener. Although the game is on the road, Rice Stadium won't top many lists of the nation's most intimidating venues. Southeast Missouri State lost its opener 38-10 to Southern Illinois.

Translation: Purdue isn't facing LSU and Oklahoma the next two weeks. The Boilers then get a week off before Notre Dame, which could have two or three losses by then.

This is a great opportunity for the Boilers to build confidence, get healthy (Quarterback Robert Marve is getting closer to a return and might play at Rice) and clean up the mistakes, especially the pre-snap penalties.

Purdue hasn't caught many breaks the last few years, but the upcoming schedule seems to be one of them.

If the Boilers can capitalize, learn from a win and grow from it -- rather than the other way around -- they should be in good shape when October rolls around.