EMU-Purdue preview: Q&A with Hammer and Rails

Coming off an embarrassing performance against Illinois State, Ron English is shaking things up on the EMU offensive line, replacing two starters as they prepare to travel to Purdue, an opponent the Eagles have faced just once before. Ultimately, a lot of EMU's success or failure will hinge on how well that offensive line and Alex Gillett can handle the pressure the Boilermaker defense is going to bring.

At their one previous meeting, on September 7, 1991, things did not go well for the Hurons. EMU quickly fell behind 21-0 before Jim Langeloh kicked a 43-yard field goal, eventually finishing with just 206 offensive yards (126 yards passing and 80 yards rushing) and five turnovers, while Purdue gained 367 yards — 289 rushing — with no turnovers, en route to a 49-3 route. EMU is 0-29 all-time against B1G opponents, while Purdue is 39-9-1 against the MAC with one loss to Northern Illinois (0-1), two losses to Bowling Green (0-2), and three losses each to Toledo (3-3) and Miami (9-3-1), and in possible good news for EMU fans, in recent years they've lost to Northern Illinois (2009), Toledo (2010), and Rice (2011).

But enough about the past; let's take a look at Purdue's current team...

Who makes tackles?

Top defenders include cornerback Josh Johnson (10 solo tackles, four passes broken up, one fumble forced and recovered), defensive tackle Kawann Short (three sacks for 22 yards, two blocked kicks), and weak-side linebacker Will Lucas (13 total tackles, a forced fumble, and an interception). The other starting cornerback, Ricardo Allen, has also garnered some national attention, but he suffered an ankle injury against Notre Dame on Saturday and might not play this weekend.

How do they score?

Well, that’s an interesting question. Sixth-year senior Robert Marve was their quarterback against Eastern Kentucky, but last week the Boilermakers alternated between Marve and fellow senior Caleb TerBush. But Marve was injured in that game — possibly an ACL tear, so it seems that it’s TerBush that the Eagles will face. From what I can tell, TerBush seems to be not bad, not to be a great passer either, though he is known to carry the ball about 6 to 8 times a game. The top receivers are Antavian Edison, O.J. Ross, and then Gary Bush. Akeem Shavers leads the running backs with 23 carries for 111 net yards (4.8 yards per carry) and a touchdown.

Interrogation!

In the spirit of having someone else do the work for you, I recently traded Q&As with Travis Miller, the "Author/Editor/Founder/Dictator for Life at SB Nation's Purdue blog, Hammer and Rails.

1. Talk about the Boilermakers injuries, which I understand include starting quarterback Robert Marve (ACL) and starting cornerback Ricardo Allen (ankle)? Are there any others? Are they likely to play, or if not, how steep is the talent drop to the next guy?

Ricardo Allen is likely to play. It seems like his injury is rather minor, though he did tweet that he is in a boot this week. As for Marve, he is definitely out. He has stated he is going to come back this season since it is his last chance, but I question how effective he’ll be. The MRI did not reveal a definite tear, but it did reveal damage. At minimum I would say he is out until the Big Ten season.

As far as the talent drop off from him to Caleb TerBush: That has been the debate all summer and one of the biggest frustrations we have had as Purdue fans. Danny Hope has insisted upon a quarterback rotation between him and TerBush. TerBush was suspended for the opener and Marve played the best game of his career. Then, TerBush started vs. Notre Dame. Hope insisted that TerBushw as the No. 1 guy in camp, but our eyes all saw that Marve moved the offense better.

The overriding opinion is that TerBush is a solid "game-manager" QB. He’s not going to make a ton of big plays, but he’s not going to make a ton of mistakes. Marve is the big play guy, but has always been prone to the bigger mistakes. Most of us feel that Marve gives us the best shot at a better season.

2. With three seasons down and the fourth underway, what are your thoughts on Danny Hope?

Mostly it is "PICK A DAMN QUARTERBACK!" Even with Marve out it seems likely the rotation will continue with Rob Henry getting some reps this week. Henry at least can be used as a change of pace quarterback on the occasional snap because of his rushing ability. Hope wants to give him sustained drives, however.

There is no question that recruiting has greatly improved under Hope. He’s also a very nice guy and a great player’s coach. Unfortuantely, many of his game-time decisions drive us made. For example: Marve was running the offense very smoothly and took us into the locker room at halftime with a touchdown drive. Even the NBC crew said Marve should start the second half. Instead, here came TerBush, and he goes 3 and out, interception, 3 and out, and we throw away the 3rd quarter entirely. Marve comes back in and immediately we drive for a field goal.

It is stuff like that that drives us mad.

3. Did I miss any key points or key players? What should EMU fans know that I haven't covered?

What you saw in the last meeting was a rarity: A win under Jim Colletto. That game was the only time Colletto had a winning record at Purdue.

I would add that Kawann Short is more than a leading tackler. He is a potential All-American that is likely going to be a top 15 selection in April’s NFL draft. So far he has been a rampaging beast with three sacks and even to blocked kicks to give him six on his career. He is basically a one-man wrecking crew on the interior of the line.

Another player to watch out for is Raheem Mostert. He was the nation’s leading kickoff return man last season and even last week he returned Notre Dame’s squib kick to midfield and was about a step from breaking it for a miracle TD. He lines up in the backfield on occasion and is officially listed as a receiver. He’s a threat to score every time he touches the ball.

4. Any tips for EMU fans making the trip, either breakfast or tailgating before the game, or sportsbars and nightlife for late Saturday?

Breakfast club is a Purdue tradition that essentially combines Halloween costumes with early morning drinking along State Street. The bars open as early as 7:30 to serve people in ridiculous outfits.

As far as bars, Harry’s Chocolate Shop is the No. 1 Purdue bar. Located on State Street, it is your typical Prohibition Speakeasy that has been open since 1919. I have never had a bad time there.

5. Forget a straight-up prediction, tell me what you think about the spread, which has Purdue favored by about three touchdowns. Do they have the offense -- and the willingness -- to cover?

I think we do. Purdue looked very good against Eastern Kentucky. Even with five turnovers Purdue scored 48 points without breaking a sweat. Our interior run defense has been the best I have ever seen at Purdue and I have been watching intently for 25 years now. The front seven on defense is playing extremely well right now and the offense, if Danny Hope lets it, can be deadly.
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