WEST LAFAYETTE -- Of course there are quarterback questions. There always are these days at Purdue. It's the story that never ends, a consequence of a three-quarterback rotation, a quarterback suspension, a quarterback success and Saturday's huge game at Notre Dame.
That's why, after a barrage of quarterback questions during Tuesday's news conference, coach Danny Hope had to joke when a reporter promised this would be the last one.
“No way,” he said.
Hope was right. There were more quarterback questions. So here's the bottom-line answer -- Hope went with his gut. That's what it came down to when picking Caleb TerBush over Robert Marve to start against Notre Dame.
“It would be to our best advantage to start Caleb because I feel a smooth start in the beginning could be very important,” Hope said. “We're geared to be able to catch up if we get behind, but that isn't my first choice on how to start the game.”
Last year Purdue fell behind the Irish 21-0 and lost 38-10. Hope doesn't want a repeat. He thinks TerBush is the best quarterback to ensure that doesn't happen.
“My gut feeling is we start Caleb.”
TerBush's suspension for the Eastern Kentucky game and the still-undisclosed reasons behind it are as relevant as Michigan's national title hopes. It's about beating the Irish, making a national statement and taking a big step toward what the Boilers hope is a championship season.
And it starts, Hope said, with TerBush.
“I think that's in the best interests of the team,” he said.
TerBush is a senior who plays it smart, if not safe. He didn't throw an interception in his last 4 ½ games. He was, by far, Hope said, the best and most efficient Purdue quarterback in camp.
“He was the No. 1 quarterback going into camp and the No. 1 quarterback going out of camp,” Hope said. “He won the job hands down. He has taken his game to another level. He makes very good decisions with the football.”
Hope said TerBush “manages” the game well, which doesn't mean he's so conservative he doesn't make plays. But while Marve is known to take chances and while Rob Henry is relearning what it's like to get hit (quarterbacks weren't hit in preseason camp), TerBush takes what the defense gives him.
“I don't think it has anything to do with being conservative,” Hope said. “It has a lot to do with being a good decision maker, doing a great job of getting the (play call) from the sidelines, getting that information transferred to the other players.
“He makes very smart decisions. He has great composure. I think he manages the game and has better composure than most of the quarterbacks I've been around. He's a heck of a prospect from a size, strength and foot-speed standpoint.”
For the record, Marve and Henry will play on Saturday. The only way they can supplant TerBush as the starter is by game performance. Practices will remain a no-hit-the-quarterback zone given Marve has had two knee surgeries and Henry has had one.
“We're not going live on those quarterbacks,” Hope said. “Two of them are coming off knee surgery. We only have one that's never had knee surgery, and we don't want to try to manufacture one for him, too. That's not part of being in the quarterback club.
“So we don't go live, and that makes it tough (to pass TerBush on the depth chart). That's why how they play in the games will make a difference.”
The Boilers need to make a difference on Saturday given they haven't beaten the Irish since 2007. They haven't won at Notre Dame Stadium since 2004.
“This team has a different mindset than in any of the four years I've been here,” senior defensive tackle Kawann Short said. “The talent is different. The focus is better. Everybody is ready to beat Notre Dame. The seniors are trying to get a win against them before we leave.
“We feel we have a better team (than ever before). There's no excuse. Just do what we need to do.”
If they do and win, Hope said, “It could be a confidence builder for our team. That's a tough venue to play at. It would show we were strong-willed and strong-minded. There's a lot to be gained from a big win at South Bend.”
It starts with TerBush.