WEST LAFAYETTE – The numbers suggest Purdue is a struggling football team entering Saturday's game against Ball State.
The Boilers (1-1) average 21.5 points on offense, allow 22.0 points on defense. Those numbers rank near the bottom of the Big Ten.
Is coach Danny Hope worried?
“I'm not concerned with the statistics right now,” Hope said. “We have great promise as a team, but we've got to make it happen. We're a work in progress, but we've got something to work with.”
Purdue is without two of its top running backs with Ralph Bolden and Keith Carlos, out with injuries. All-Big Ten receiver Keith Smith is out for the season with a knee injury. Youth is everywhere Hope looks, including a new secondary, at center with Peters Drey and at right tackle with Nick Mondek, a converted defensive lineman.
“Things are happening that need to be happening,” Hope said. “The light still has to come on in certain areas. There are some things our defensive ends need to do better, our quarterback needs to do better for us to be a great team. They're earmarked and we're going to work on them.”
Ball State (1-1) is coming off a 27-23 loss to Liberty. Purdue is 7-0 against the Cardinals and has outscored them 266-94.
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Defensive end Ryan Kerrigan is on pace to break the Big Ten record for most forced fumbles. He's forced 11 in his career, two this season. Former Illinois standout Simeon Rice has the record with 13.
Kerrigan, who led the Big Ten in sacks last season, has been on a rampage since training camp. Quarterback Robert Marve said Kerrigan was so dominant in camp, Hope told him to back off.
“It got to the point where Coach had to tell him, ‘Take three steps and chill out, just slide away,' ” Marve said. “He's a monster, man. He's one of those guys who can bull- rush the offensive tackle or just run around him. I feel like a little kid once he gets ahold of me.”
Kerrigan had a career-high 12 tackles, plus a sack and a forced fumble in the victory over Western Illinois. He's an ex-Muncie Central standout who grew up five minutes from the Ball State campus and was recruited by the Cardinals.
In two games this season Kerrigan has 19 tackles, including 6.5 for loss and 2.0 sacks. He leads the Big Ten in tackles for loss and ranks third nationally.
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Marve isn't shy about taking hits. Western Illinois, for instance, pounded him hard. Yes, that worries Hope.
“He manufactures some hits on his own, which is not a good thing if you're in control of it,” Hope said. “I think he saw the film and realized there are some times he's got to duck and dodge and slide and get out of bounds rather than prove a point that he's the most manly guy on the field and finish every run like it's the last play of the game.”