FORT WAYNE – Theres no easing into conference play for the Purdue football team.
The Boilermakers (3-1) begin the Big Ten season Saturday against Michigan (2-2) and its electric quarterback, Denard Robinson.
Theyre a lot to defend, and Denard is a big piece of that equation, Purdue coach Danny Hope said during his weekly teleconference Tuesday. Hes a great athlete, great player, great competitor, but hes surrounded by a ton of good players and a fantastic scheme.
Robinson leads the Big Ten in total offense, averaging 319.5 yards per game. He is third in the league in rushing (110.2 yards per game) and fourth in passing (209.2 yards per game).
Obviously you have to do some things, you have to be smart with your rush lanes. If you get out of your rush lanes and he sees a big opening, he sees the seas to part, then hes going to take off with the ball and then hes really hard to catch, Hope said. He adds a whole new dimension to the ballgame. You have to do some things to make sure that you can try to minimize his production some, but if everything is geared just to stop him, then you disregard their other great players on their offensive football team, and that can really get you in trouble.
The Boilermakers found that out last season. Robinson had 170 passing yards and 63 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown in Michigans 36-14 victory. But running back Fitzgerald Toussaint really hurt Purdue, rushing for 170 yards and two touchdowns.
We were worried about Denard and he handed the ball off and (Toussaint) did cutbacks and would get 15-plus yards, Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short said. We tried to adjust to it, but by that time the momentum was already shifted.
Now I feel like we shouldnt focus on just one person. All those guys are good. We need to try to stop them.
Robinson struggled in Michigans most recent game, a 13-6 loss at Notre Dame on Sept. 22, throwing four interceptions. He has eight interceptions this season.
Purdue has made the most of opponents mistakes, scoring 56 points on 11 takeaways.
I think we have a very good defensive football team, one that over a period of time could be on the brink of becoming a great defensive football team, Hope said. That was one of our goals for the season.
Note: Quarterback Robert Marve and running back Ralph Bolden continue to make progress as they recover from knee injuries.
I believe that Robert Marve possibly could be ready physically. Again, we would have to make a decision on what we would assume or anticipate his role would be going into the ballgame, Hope said.
Theres a chance (Bolden) could play this Saturday, but again, situations will determine that and also the performance of some of the other running backs, thats going to determine some of it.