Big Ten Football Previews: Purdue

BY TORK MASON | AUGUST 23, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Boilermakers had a mission in 2011: make it to a bowl game. They accomplished that in winning the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl last year — the program’s first bowl game since 2007.

They said it’s the little things that can move the program even further ahead.

Head coach Danny Hope said attention to detail will be key for his team this season. Ball control and on-field discipline were among the issues he said he wants cleaned up; the Boilermakers drew more flags than any other Big Ten team in 2011, earning 96 penalties on the season. That’s more than seven per game.

“[Avoiding penalties] was a huge emphasis this past spring,” Hope said. “And we have to stay together as a team, and leadership from coaches all the way down to the players will be an important factor in the outcome of the season.”

Senior quarterback Caleb TerBush will be play a key role in Purdue’s fate this season. He took control of the Boilermaker offense after Rob Henry went down with an ACL tear last year. The then-junior started all 13 games, throwing for 1,905 yards and 13 touchdowns.

But the Metamora, Ill., native said he needs to improve in several areas for the team to be successful. He specifically noted the importance of his pre-snap reads and calling audibles to get a better play against the defense he sees. He also talked about adjusting the blocking schemes.

“Sometimes I took some shots when it was my fault,” he said. “They want to say it’s the line’s fault, that’s what some of the commentators are going to say, but they don’t really know that we’ve got to switch the protection, slide over to that side. Just taking the shots off me and putting us in a better position to be successful.”

TerBush said the Boilermakers had their best off-season in his time there, and appear poised to take the next step. It’s an opportunity they say they embrace.

“It’s going to be an interesting year,” defensive tackle Kawann Short said at Big Ten Media Day on July 27. “All the teams we haven’t beat since we’ve been here, we’re dying to play right now. We’re trying to get that win and turn this program around. We’re just trying to make a statement.”

Purdue’s path to that goal might appear a little easier this year in the Leaders Division. Ohio State and Penn State both under NCAA sanctions, so only four Legends teams are eligible for the division crown and a berth in the conference championship game.

But Hope seemed to shrug off that notion at Big Ten media day on July 26.

“It’s still going to boil down to who wins the most, who plays the best,” he said. “So rather than complicate it and assume that it may be an easier road, I think that we certainly have to grasp the idea that you have to win. So I don’t think it changes the big picture all that much.”

TerBush said he felt the bowl win last December gave the team confidence and has everybody “raring to go,” and Short agreed.

“None of us had ever been to a bowl game [prior to last season], so we were going to do whatever it took to get to that bowl game,” he said. “And now, since we got that bowl game, we just feel like a hungrier team right now, to go to a better bowl game.”

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