WEST LAFAYETTE -- What do you do if you’re Purdue coach Danny Hope and Boilers are dropping everywhere you look, when a young team keeps getting younger and depth gets tested to its limits?
For starters, you take Saturday’s 24-13 victory over Ball State and hope for better days.
“We have so many injuries at one time,” Hope said. “They’re not serious enough to impact the long term, but we had some real concerns coming into the game. The team stuck together. We told them to have fun. We still believe we can win. We have to heal up for next week and play an improved Toledo team.”
The Oct. 2 bye week can’t come soon enough. Purdue (2-1) already has lost tailback Ralph Bolden and receiver Keith Smith with knee injuries. Smith is done for the season. Bolden probably is.
Running back Keith Carlos hasn’t played all season with a foot injury. Running back Al-Terek McBurse didn’t play because of a foot injury. Running back Dan Dierking played Saturday with sore ribs. Quarterback Robert Marve went out with a left knee injury, the same knee he’d suffered a torn ACL last year. He hurt it in the second quarter and played briefly in the third quarter (long enough to throw an interception) before being replaced by Rob Henry. Marve also played despite apparent food poisoning that prevented him from eating anything before the game.
Purdue’s tailback-by-committee approach included Jared Crank, O.J. Ross, Justin Siller and Antavian Edison. Only Crank is a running back. The others are receivers.
“When you’re playing your fifth and sixth tailbacks, when you use guys who had never played tailback until a couple of days ago, it’s tough,” Hope said. “We won and that’s huge. I don’t care if we win by a hundred or by one.”
Marve threw for 111 yards and two touchdowns. Henry threw for 89 yards and a touchdown. He also led the Boilers with 65 rushing yards on 10 carries. Cortez Smith was the main target with five catches for 117 yards and two touchdowns.
Kicking woes cost Ball State (1-2). It missed two field goals and an extra point.
Purdue’s no-huddle attack had instant success. Marve ended the first drive with a 36-yard touchdown pass to Ross. He hit Smith with a 9-yard TD pass just before the end of the first quarter to make it 14-0.
Ball State came out throwing behind freshman quarterback Keith Wenning making his first collegiate start. He completed his first two passes, was pressured into an incompletion on his third. He was intercepted by Purdue cornerback Ricardo Allen in the end zone just before halftime.
Purdue did nothing in the second quarter, totaling just 18 yards. Ball State missed two field goals, plus had the end zone interception.
Marve’s interception early in the third quarter set up Ball State tailback MiQuale Lewis’ 2-yard run. The extra point was blocked to make it 14-6.
Purdue went ahead 21-6 early in the fourth quarter on Henry’s 72-yard touchdown pass to Cortez Smith. The pass was tipped by Ball State defensive back Jeffery Garrett.
The Boilers added a 23-yard Carson Wiggs’ field goal that was set up by linebacker Jason Werner’s first career interception and 26-yard return. Defensive end Ryan Kerrigan forced the interception with a big hit on Wenning just as he released the ball.
Kelly Page replaced Wenning and hit Conner Ryan with a 10-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter.
Lewis, a former Snider standout, finished with 27 yards and a touchdown. Wenning was 11-for-21 for 89 yards and two interceptions. He was sacked three times. Page was 2-for-2 for 17 yards and a touchdown.
“We killed ourselves today,” Lewis said. “It’s the second week in a row we didn’t capitalize in the red zone and we have to do a better job.”