Purdue's Robert Marve is back as a starter. Are you surprised? The guy is resilient and determined and unshaken by the potential consequences of playing football on a damaged knee.
Adversity can break or sharpen. Coach Danny Hope has no hesitation on which direction Marve has gone.
“I see Robert Marve who for the bulk of his career here, I wouldn't say scrutinized, but maybe criticized often,” Hope said. “I see him playing the quarterback position with a huge target on him and no ACL at all. I think that's an unbelievable sign of toughness.”
So now the sixth-year senior gets a shot against Penn State on Saturday and how long he physically holds up is anybody's guess. Anterior cruciate ligaments, after all, do serve a function, especially at a position that sometimes demands running and cutting.
No matter. Marve plays as he always has, with mobility and agility and athleticism. It's as if the injury never happened.
Last Saturday at Minnesota, Marve thrived when starter Caleb TerBush could not. Granted, TerBush wasn't helped by dropped passes, but Marve still went 11-for-19 for 97 yards and two touchdowns.
“I don't think he had any true incompletions,” Hope said. “He had some drops, a batted ball, but great quarterback stats. He was very accurate.”
That was enough to convince Hope it was time for a change. Marve would start. TerBush and Rob Henry would be the backups.
“It was based on Robert's performance in the game and the fact we now believe he can play with his leg like it is,” Hope said. “A month ago we were told that he probably wouldn't play football again. So even though he was saying all the right things and we were hoping he could, the medical experts were telling us it was very doubtful. It could happen, but most of the time it doesn't.”
Hope said Marve was playing the best of his career when he got hurt against Notre Dame. In some ways, it's like he still is.
“He worked hard, overcame a lot of things, hung in there and became our starter again.”
Hope said the quarterback situation has been hard on the coaches as well as the quarterbacks.
“It's a very tough management situation. You can't imagine what we've been through as a staff trying to manage the rash of injuries and hardships at the quarterback position the last couple of years.
“Then you mix in the mendacity (untruthfulness) that sometimes comes with the media. That's really stirred the pot and made it a tough management situation.”
As for the previous quarterback rotation, Hope said that's likely on hold.
“We'll see how the game goes. We'll do what we have to do to try to win a game.”
Penn State (5-3 overall, 3-1 in the conference) brings the Big Ten's top passer in Matt McGloin, who is thriving under new coach Bill O'Brien's pro-style system. He leads the conference in passing yards (2,115) and touchdowns (16) while throwing just three interceptions.
Receiver Allen Robinson leads the Big Ten in receptions (52) and touchdowns (8), and is second in yards (631).
Kicking has been a problem since the summer when veteran Anthony Fera left for Texas in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Sam Ficken took over and struggled. He missed four field goals at Penn State lost to Virginia by a point.
Overall he is 5-for-12 on field goals, plus two missed extra points. He has, however, made three of his last four field goals.
The Nittany Lions rank fourth in scoring defense (18.1 points) and total defense (329.5 yards) in the Big Ten, and second in passing offense (265.9 yards).
“They've very talented,” Hope said. “They have a very big, physical, good offensive line. Their quarterback is playing excellent. They employ four tight ends who do a variety of things with their tight end packages.
“Defensively, they're very strong seven. It might be as good as any front seven we've played all season, and we've played some great ones. It will be a heck of a challenge.”
Purdue (3-5 and 0-4) needs to win three of its final four games to become bowl eligible.