Most football coaches would rather have an open week in midseason, and certainly not in September.Purdue was off last weekend and coach Danny Hope found the timing could not have been better. Hope and his Boilermakers had some extra preparation time for their bout Saturday against Marshall.Kickoff is at 3:15 p.m. at Ross-Ade Stadium, where stat crew members had better eat their Wheaties.As Hope and Co. learned while watching video of the Thundering Herd's games this month, you don't blink too much between snaps. Or you don't substitute too much. Or don't get too fancy realigning your defense.Playing Eastern Kentucky, Notre Dame and Eastern Michigan, the Boilermakers didn't face anything close to the tempo the Marshall offense will present.Defending 92 plays, the Herd's average, can be a shock to the system."We're fortunate we had the open week," Hope said. "So it gave us some opportunities a week ago, as a staff, to spend some time breaking down the film we had on Marshall, and coming up with a game plan we feel good about, a chance to go out and practice that game plan early and often."So we're ahead in some ways in regard to our preparation. Or offense can change our tempo. Sometimes we huddle up, sometimes we no-huddle. So we spent a lot of time last week, and we will again this week, with our defense going up against our [first-team] offense. Some of the plays are similar, some of the passing plays are similar, the runs plays are similar, so that gives our defense a great look."And yes, he noticed the Herd rushed for 334 yards last weekend against Rice, a week after grinding out just 59 against Ohio. He noticed three 400-yard passing games, followed by a more conventional 259-yard outing at Rice.That didn't seem to faze him, as he met the media in West Lafayette, Ind.
"It's a dramatic shift in the game plan," Hope said. "But you can look at the film against one team and understand why they threw it so many times for so many yards, and look at the film against Rice and see why they didn't throw it quite as much. . . . The chance to evaluate both of those games gave us some answers to what they're all about as an offense."Still, we're going to have to line up and play fast, play well. They present a lot of challenges for our defense, but we're a very good defense and we're up to the challenge."Marshall (2-2) is the last nonconference opponent for Purdue (2-1), which will open up Big Ten play with Michigan Oct. 6, then Wisconsin and Ohio State. But the Boilermakers, picked third in the Leaders Division in the Big Ten media poll, relish the challenge.They aren't content to be a darkhorse candidate."When we went into the season, I believed we were going to be contenders," Hope said. "I've been around some great defensive linemen in my career . . . I've never had this many good defensive linemen on one team. And then I look at what we have in the secondary - I've been around some mighty fine defensive backs, but not that many on one team as we have.
"And then I look at our punter, one of the tops in the nation, the speed we have on offense, the half-dozen [first-]class sprinters who all have game experience. Three experienced quarterbacks, and even though we don't have continuity yet on the offensive line, it is a very athletic line."Hope said one of those three quarterbacks, injury-cursed sixth-year man Robert Marve, will not play. Marve started the season for the suspended Caleb TerBush, but suffered the third anterior cruciate ligament tear of his college career. Marve is attempting a comeback.Running back Ralph Bolden is still rehabilitating from a torn ACL in the 2011 season finale, and is getting closer. The Boilermakers have augmented a thin running back position with slot receivers such as Raheem Mostert moving back and getting carries.Otherwise, Hope said his team is healthy.Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org.