I realize that JDMill handles these things on a weekly basis and he does an outstanding job, but he is dealing with more important matters this week and I drew the lucky straw to get to do the Q&A with Travis from Hammer and Rails.
1 - After preseason hopes of representing the Leaders in the Big Ten Title game, how are you and the fan base reacting to the 0-3 (3-4) start? Is there time to rebound and still make this a successful season?
I think so because the schedule is much easier from here on out. Iowa doesn’t scare me as they have in the past and it would be nice to get at least one decent win at home against a good opponent in Penn State. I suppose there is still the tiny hope of winning the division, but Wisconsin would have to lose three more times now and I do not see it happening. Twice maybe had we held on vs. OSU, but three is asking an awful lot.
We’re likely headed to a better bowl than last year by default since two teams are already ineligible and both Indiana and Illinois won’t go bowling barring a miracle, but will it be deserved? Is a 7-5 finish and a win in a better bowl game really considered improvement? On paper, it is, but we all feel like the last three weeks were missed opportunities. People are really pissed at the virtual no-shows against Michigan and Wisconsin when we had a real chance to take a step forward.
2 - The Boilermaker defense has produced a lot of turnovers but have been giving up a ton of yards and points. Were you expecting more from the defense this year? What has been going well and what needs immediate improvement?
Saturday at Ohio State they finally played to the level I expected. They were tough against the run, contained Miller, and completely frustrated an Ohio State offense that was on a roll. If anything, Guiton was a better option because he did not panic in the pocket and take off at the first opportunity like Miller. That allowed him to find guys for key plays on that tying drive.
I wasn’t too alarmed about the Marshall game because any team will rack up yards if they throw it 68 times like Marshall did. The Wisconsin and Michigan games were just horrible though.
3 - If Minnesota manages to win this game is Purdue in danger of not getting to bowl eligibility. The rest of their schedule is much easier than facing Michigan/Wisconsin/Ohio State in consecutive weeks but with Penn State and Iowa playing better can they find three more wins (again, assuming Minnesota finds a way to win)?
I like to think we have at least two more wins because Illinois looks awful and we should always beat Indiana at home, but the Hoosiers are sneaky good on offense and if they ever figure out how to finish they’ll bite someone. Three losses of theirs (Ball State, Michigan State, and Navy) came because they cannot finish games defensively. As for Iowa and Penn State, It will be hard to see us beating them if we drop this game.
4 - Tell me about the quarterback situation. I know Caleb TerBush is the starter and that he has thrown at least one interception in every game. That is about the extent of my knowledge.
TerBush is the starter and his best game was probably against Ohio State. He was solid on the drive that gave us the lead on a pass to Gary Bush after Ohio State took the lead. He also led an impressive 19-play drive that took 10 minutes off the clock, but ended with no points because of a pick in the end zone on third down. He’s not supremely talented, but when he can manage the game well he is effective.
Rob Henry is being used as more of a wildcat QB, but I would guess he is the starter next year. As for Robert Marve, he is the best option (in my opinion) but the decision to not keep him as the starter probably cost us the Notre Dame game. Also, he is playing on a damaged right knee. He’s played sparingly the last two weeks and not at all against OSU. He did instigate a scoring drive after TerBush did nothing against Michigan for most of the game, but that knee is always going to be a question.
5 - Tell me what makes you confident going into the Minnesota game. Any particular matchups you think heavily favor Purdue?
It is hard to say. I love how our defensive line played last week and early in the season, but got manhandled by Wisconsin and Michigan. If it can play to a very high level it greatly helps us. It needs to get after the quarterback while being effective against the run.
6 - Tell me what makes you nervous about the Gopher game.
Kick protection. We’ve had seven kicks (a field goal, four extra points, and two punts) blocked this year. An extra point and a field goal were blocked last week. If that doesn’t happen we win. Plain and simple. Our special teams are such feast or famine. Raheem Mostert and Akeem Hunt have each returned a kickoff for a touchdown, but we’ve now missed a total of five extra points, two field goals, and the punt blocking has been terrible. Pretty much anything can happen there.
This is an interesting match-up with a lot riding on this game for both teams.