Despite throwing for a career-high 295 yards and tying a career-best with three touchdown passes in Purdue’s season-opening 48-6 victory over Eastern Kentucky last Saturday, Purdue quarterback Robert Marve will return to his role as a reserve when the Boilermakers travel to No. 22 Notre Dame on Sept. 8.
Purdue head coach Danny Hope addressed the media as the Boilermakers prepare for a road game at Notre Dame Saturday
Purdue coach Danny Hope said Tuesday that Caleb TerBush, who was declared the starter at the end of fall camp but was suspended for the opener due to a violation of team rules, will reclaim that role against the Fighting Irish.
Marve was 30 of 38 passing and three touchdowns in his best effort since playing for Miami in 2008. Nevertheless, Hope praised TerBush for his game management ability, which sets him apart from Marve (senior) and junior Rob Henry.
“We're in great shape,” Hope said. “We're very fortunate to have three good, experienced, for the most part healthy quarterbacks — guys that all three of them are a big part of our game plan each week. We went into the game last week without Caleb TerBush, and I thought Robert Marve did a heck of a job. We were fortunate to get Rob Henry in the game early, and he had to knock a little bit of the rust off, if you will.
“But [TerBush] separated himself from the others. It would be to our best advantage, I believe, to start Caleb this weekend because I feel like a smooth start in the beginning of the game at South Bend could be very important to our football team.
We're geared, from an offensive and a defensive and special teams standpoint, to be able to catch up if we get behind, but that certainly isn't our first choice on how to start the game. So my gut feeling is that we go in and start Caleb TerBush, and I think that's in the best interests of our football team.”
Less than a week ago Hope booted linebacker Dwayne Beckford off the team after the senior was arrested for the fourth time in 14 months. He had 91 tackles last season and was Purdue's second-leading tackler.
Antwon Higgs (senior), Joe Gilliam (sophomore) and converted quarterback Sean Robinson (junior) are battling to replace Beckford permanently in the lineup when Purdue plays Eastern Kentucky on Saturday. Gilliam got the nod against Eastern Kentucky and registered four tackles.
“I was really pleased with the performance of Joe Gilliam,” Hope said. “He's an aggressive player. “He's a smart guy. He had a very good camp. He was a guy we thought had performed well enough in camp to certainly be in the mix with the varsity play with the game on the line. Regardless where we were at with Beckford returning as the leading tackler on our football team, we were still very excited about Joe Gilliam.
“I thought that Antwon Higgs did very well. He's an experienced player. He's played some snaps around here the last four years, really likes football. He's a big body. He's a little over 6'2" and about 250 pounds. He brings some physical presence at the linebacker position.”
When Hope had a chance to dissect film from Notre Dame’s 50-10 romp over Navy in Dublin, Ireland, he pointed out some obvious Fighting Irish strengths: the offensive and defensive lines, and senior tight end Tyler Eifert.
“They're awfully good from the line of scrimmage,” Hope said. “They have a heck of an offensive line — big and strong and experienced veteran offensive line. And I think their front seven on defense is outstanding. They have, obviously, a lot of great players on their football team. Tyler Eifert is certainly one of the top players at his position on a national level. Great skill players, particularly in the backfield. What really sticks out in my mind is their strength off the line of scrimmage with their offensive line and the strength of their defensive front seven.”
Eifert’s father, Greg, played basketball at Purdue in the early 1980s, and the family spent a lot of time on campus in West Lafayette.
“He's big and fast,” Hope said. “He's a heck of an athlete. I remember we recruited him hard here at Purdue when he was a senior in high school. We thought he would be an excellent tight end prospect. He was a developmental player. He needed to get bigger and stronger, and he certainly has, and they do a great job of featuring him in their offense.”
Eifert only had four receptions for 22 yards and a touchdown against Navy on an afternoon when first-time starting quarterback Everett Golson (sophomore) didn’t have to rely on his arm. Golson completed 12 of 18 passes for 144 yards and the scoring strike to Eifert, and the rookie also tossed one interception. The Notre Dame running game carried the offense, rushing for 293 yards and five touchdowns, led by senior Theo Riddick (107 yards and two scores) and sophomore George Atkinson III (99 yards and two TDs), who played in his first college game.
“I thought he did a great job for a first time quarterback in a game,” Hope said. “[He] did a heck of a job managing their offense. He looks like he's a good decision‑maker. He did a good job of taking care of the football. They didn't feature him much as a runner and didn't have to. They handed the ball off and pounded away. They were able to do what they wanted and needed to do against Navy. But he is a good passer with a good composure. He makes good decisions for a young quarterback, and he is also a mobile quarterback. So he is a threat as a runner as well.”