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The Enemy: Purdue Boilermakers pt 2

Purdue Boilermakers

Record 1-0 (0-0)Last Game: Northern Colorado  W 42-10
Big Ten

West Lafayette
, Indiana

On TV: ABC @ 12:30 p.m. Pacific

Part 2 of 2 – Purdue on Offense

Many call Joe Tiller the Godfather of the spread attack. His Purdue teams have rewritten record books with their “basketball on grass” approach, producing top QBs like Drew Brees and Kyle Orton along the way. This year’s gun slinger is senior Curtis Painter. Already etched in the Big Ten’s top 10 passers list, Painter’s career has included 9049 passing yards and 56 touchdowns. With a strong 2008, Painter could finish as the top passer – for yards at least – in Big Ten history. Purdue is hyping him as a Heisman Trophy candidate.

Just like the 2007 defensive stats don’t lie, neither do the offensive stats. Last year’s Boilermakers led the Big Ten in scoring at 34.3 a game and were ranked second with 307.2 yards passing per game. Still, there is a knock on Purdue’s offense. In ’07 the rushing game averaged just 128.8 yards per game, ninth in the conference. If it’s not one dimensional, Purdue’s offense comes awfully close.

The 2008 Purdue offense returns six starters. This year’s version played mostly uninspired in the team’s opening game last week, a 42-10 win against second-tier Northern Colorado. Maybe Purdue was keeping things simple in game one – so they said – or maybe they were holding much of the playbook back heading into the Oregon game. Whatever the case, Painter threw only 28 times, completing 15 for 286 yards and two TDs. The running game was equally vanilla – 116 yards on 26 carries. In all fairness, however, had the Boilermakers not frequently started drives in Northern Colorado territory, maybe the stats would’ve been more impressive.

Here’s who you can expect to see on the field Saturday:

LT Garret Miller (#51, 6-8, 275 lbs., Sr., TX) Miller was a reserve in 2007 and now has Curtis Painter’s back as a starter at LT. If the 6-8 Miller doesn’t have quick feet – it didn’t look like he did when I watched the N. Colorado game – his match-up against Nick Reed could be pivotal.

LG Eric Hedstrom (#50, 6-6, 292 lbs., Sr., IL) The senior returns from a knee injury in 2007 and will see action in a Purdue game for only the fourth time this Saturday.

C Cory Benton (#78, 6-3, 287 lbs., Sr., IN) A former walk-on, Benton earned a scholarship in 2007 and appeared in 12 games as a reserve center and guard. Benton was Purdue’s offensive “Pit Bull” for showing tenacity and intensity in spring practices.

RG Justin Pierce (#72, 6-4, 314 lbs., Jr., TX) Pierce is the largest on Purdue’s O-line. He played in 11 games last season, including three starts.

RT Zach Jones (#61, 6-5, 300 lbs., Sr., IN) Yet another walk-on, now a starter. Jones has the bulk of the starting experience on Purdue’s line, starting 12 games last season as a non-scholarship player.

TE Kyle Adams (#85, 6-5, 251 lbs., Jr., TX) Adams appeared in 13 games in 2007, with a single start. He did not catch a pass in Purdue’s opening win versus Northern Colorado.

WR Greg Orton (#21, 6-3, 199 lbs., Sr., OH) An experienced wideout with excellent size, Orton has appeared in nearly every Purdue game since his freshman season. His career numbers include 138 receptions for 1,725 yards. Orton hauled in four passes against Northern Colorado for 89 yards and one score.

WR Desmond Tardy (#6, 6-1, 199 lbs., Sr., IN) Tardy is looking for a break-out season. He played in 12 games in 2007, but his stats weren’t overwhelming…10 catches for 93 yards. Tardy showed speed and elusiveness on a 60-yard hook-up from Painter last week, and finished with three catches for 112 yards.

WR Keith Smith (#8, 6-2, 226 lbs., Jr., TX) The newest addition to the Purdue receiving group, Smith switched from safety to WR last season, that after switching from QB to safety in 2006. Now he finds himself a prominent part of the Purdue offense. Smith was a popular target for Painter last week, totaling six catches, 67 yards and a TD.

RB Kory Sheets (#24, 6-0, 206 lbs., Sr., CT) Sheets will carry a heavy load this season following the loss of RB Jaycen Taylor to a season-ending knee injury. The loss was a blow to Purdue’s offense, but Sheets is a capable back. He ranks second in Purdue history with 37 career touchdowns. Sheets had 82 yards in last week’s win, on 16 carries. He found the end zone twice.

QB Curtis Painter (#12, 6-4, 230 lbs., Sr., IN) Painter is the real deal, at least statistically. He’s on pace to break many of Drew Brees’ Purdue records and is quickly climbing the list of top passers in Big Ten history. He has 35 interceptions to go with his 56 touchdowns, but has reduced his INT count each season. What Painter has not achieved is success against ranked teams. Purdue comes into the game against #16 Oregon having lost 14 straight to ranked teams.

Painter for Heisman? He will have to change the trend and win some big games this season to become a legit part of that discussion. Oregon’s hard-hitting secondary presents a huge challenge for Painter, as well as a huge opportunity. The stats are impressive, but the repeated failures to knock off the big boys is glaring. Painter eventually overcame a sloppy Purdue effort against Northern Colorado, though he showed some early season rust, consistently throwing high to open receivers in the red zone when the game was still close.

Sheets is interesting at RB. He hits the hole hard and catches the ball well out of the backfield. Ironic that Purdue is so pass-happy…Sheets is likely the best runner the Ducks D has seen in the early season. In an otherwise ho-hum game against overmatched Northern Colorado, Sheets looked like the one guy on the team who had his game on.

The question mark for Purdue has to be the O-line. Usually a line starting four seniors and a junior would look like a solid squad. In reality these five don’t have a lot of starts between them and two are former walk-ons. Northern Colorado was able to get some pressure on Purdue’s QB. Expect Oregon to do the same. And if the Ducks start sending blitzes from different angles the inexperienced line could struggle with blocking assignments. Purdue runs a lot of short routes, so look for Painter to get the ball out quickly. If he doesn’t, it’s liable to get mighty physical in the pocket.

Oregon DBs will be hungry to get that first interception, or maybe a few. An inexperienced line facing aggression and speed should result in a good QB having to wing a few balls under duress. Expect Curtis Painter to complete at least a couple balls to the guys in white.

Game on!