WEST LAFAYETTE -– Landon Feichter reminds no one of, say, Rod Woodson or Bernard Pollard, Fort Wayne guys who thrived as Purdue defensive backs.
But this Boiler redshirt freshman safety got his college spotlight moment, and if it came in a backup role when starting strong safety Logan Link got hurt against Middle Tennessee State, don't overlook the significance.
Coach Danny Hope didn't.
“He runs fast and hits hard,” Hope said. “I don't know where he'd rank among the biggest players on our team, but he has a lot of wallop. He's fearless as a hitter. He caught our eyes many times.”
The 6-foot, 178-pound Feichter, a former All-SAC player for Bishop Dwenger, recorded three tackles against Middle Tennessee State, his first ever college game. He walked on last year and spent all his time on the scout team. He impressed coaches then, and again in the spring before really making his move in preseason camp.
Feichter is likely to play again this Saturday when Purdue (1-0) travels to Houston to play Rice (0-1).
“A year ago on the scout team he made a ton of plays,” Hope said. “He was one of the better players on our scout team, and he certainly has surfaced as one of the better players on our team. He's worked hard and done very well.”
Having an early road game will help prepare Purdue for upcoming trips to Michigan and Wisconsin. Those are two of the nation's toughest places to play.
“There are some really key road games against some very strong competition,” Hope said, “and for us to be successful we have to become road warriors. This is a great test for our team. We'll have to play very well to be successful.
“We have to play well on the road throughout the season. We might as well get started with that now.”
Hope figures Saturday will be hot, which is why he's glad the Boilers played in hot, humid conditions last Saturday.
“It was great training and conditioning for this game,” Hope said. “The heat was a benefit.”
Is Rice (0-1) a potential bowl team?
The Owls, who return 17 starters from a 4-8 team, hope so.
“We are a mature team,” coach David Bailiff said. “We are a talented team. We have to put it all together.”
Rice pushed Texas for three quarters last Saturday and trailed just 13-9 before the Longhorns scored three late touchdowns in a 34-9 win. The Owls generated just 224 total yards while allowing 506.
Tailback Tyler Smith led Rice with 67 rushing yards. Sam McGuffie, a former Michigan Wolverine, led the team in rushing (883 yards) and receiving (384 yards) last season, but rushed for just one yard against Texas. Quarterback Taylor McHargue was just 14-for-29 for 79 yards.
“We have to get more productive in the passing game,” Bailiff said. “Our completions were too short. We need to turn some of those into big plays.”
All-America candidate Kyle Martens averaged 48.6 yards on five punts.
Rice also plays Northwestern and Baylor, which upset TCU last Saturday, plus a Conference USA schedule
“We have to play well and eliminate mistakes to have a chance,” Bailiff said. “We have to do a better job and it starts with me. We have to come out of this with a win because we have a challenging schedule ahead, but right now our total focus in on Purdue.”
There is no Purdue quarterback controversy. Caleb TerBusch is the starter (he solidified that by throwing for 219 yards and two touchdowns against Middle Tennessee State, including the game winner of 35 yards to Antavian Edison), with Sean Robinson and Robert Marve vying for No. 2 and playing time. Marve has struggled to get healthy after having two major knee surgeries within a year. He's had limited practice time so far, but Hope expects that to change this week.
“I think Marve felt good enough to play (against Middle Tennessee State), but he had not had that many reps in practice. The reps he did have, he's done very well.
“Putting him in the game on the spur of the moment was not in his best interests. I believe he'll be a contributor come Saturday.”
Hope said he plans on playing two quarterbacks against Rice.
Purdue isn't playing at Rice by accident. The Boilermakers have had a strong presence in the state of Texas for years. Former coach Joe Tiller hit the state hard (quarterback Drew Brees is from Texas) and Hope has continued that emphasis. There are nine Texas players on the roster this season, including kicker Carson Wiggs and tailbacks Akeem Shavers and Reggie Pegram.
“We went back to Texas this past spring and rallied up a lot of Purdue football advocates who live in the state,” Hope said. “We had one rally in Dallas and a couple of hundred people showed up. We had about a hundred in Houston.
“There's great football down there. I think we strengthened our commitment to recruiting the state of Texas. We're glad to be playing in the state. It was part of the plan.”
Rice's athletic director is Rick Greenspan, the former Indiana athletic director who resigned in the wake of Kelvin Sampson's NCAA infraction-filled basketball coaching era.