SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Purdue coach Danny Hope got any suspense out of the way early in the week. Caleb TerBush, suspended for the Boilermakers’ season opener, would return as a starter Saturday against Notre Dame.
Call it intuition, a gut feeling or going with the guy who was the best in camp, Hope likes what TerBush brings to the field — size, maturity, decision-making and communication skills.
But wait a minute. Just because TerBush — who sat out last week for violating team rules — starts out against the No. 22 Irish at Notre Dame Stadium doesn’t mean he’s the only quarterback who’ll get to play.
“We’d have played all three last weekend if we’d have had all three available,” Hope said of a 48-6 rout of Eastern Kentucky that saw Robert Marve throw three TDS and backup Rob Henry also be effective.
“Certainly plan on it, and that’s part of the master plan, if you will,” Hope said.
So maybe it’s a bit fuzzy, but Notre Dame could be seeing three quarterbacks Saturday. It’s a possibility, even if it is a slight one.
“If they play all three quarterbacks it doesn’t really have too much of an impact,” Notre Dame cornerback Bennett Jackson said. Jackson’s explanation was simple: it’s his job as a starter to find the ball and stick with the man he’s defending — no matter who might be throwing the passes.
“They will run the quarterback more with TerBush than Marve. They will move the pocket more,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said, comparing the two.
If they do switch quarterbacks, Hope says the Boilermakers don’t need to make any internal adjustments.
“I don’t think the 10 guys in the huddle need any more special training to get aptitude of which quarterback may step in the huddle and call the play,” he said.
“Doesn’t matter which way we start. We have a plan to utilize these guys in different roles. …”
Notre Dame’s defense was stellar on the other side of the Atlantic last week, coming up with three fumble recoveries — one returned 77 yards for a TD by defensive end Stephon Tuitt — in a 50-10 dismantling of Navy.
Notre Dame also used two quarterbacks, but starter Everett Golson saw most of the action and played well in his college debut.
“I think I did a great job of managing the offense. That’s one thing I wanted to make sure I did,” said Golson, who completed 12 of 18 passes on a day when Notre Dame unleashed a potent running attack behind Theo Riddick and George Atkinson III.
Golson was sacked once and tossed an interception before turning it over to Andrew Hendrix, but he didn’t really get his uniform dirty.
“I’m good. I didn’t get hit too much in the Navy game, due to the offensive line,” he said.
Purdue’s defense will present a much more difficult challenge for Golson. Cornerbacks Josh Johnson and Ricardo Allen are starting together for a third straight season. And the Boilermakers have a star on the defensive front in Kawann Short, whose sack last week gave him 13 1-2 for his career.
The 6-foot-3, 315-pound Short also blocked two more kicks — one a PAT, the other a field goal — and now has snuffed six during his career. Hope said Short was a good basketball player in high school and that’s evident in all the blocked kicks.
“He has very quick feet and very quick hands and outstanding hand-eye coordination,” Hope said.
“That’s a big part of him not only getting some push against the opponent’s PAT and field goal teams, but also be able to time it up and get his big paw up at the right time and bat the ball down out of the air.”
Hope is trying to make the Boilers a major force again winning at Notre Dame would be a huge step. The Irish have won the last four in the series and routed the Boilermakers 38-10 in West Lafayette a year ago.
In that game, TerBush threw an interception on the first scrimmage play, Notre Dame scored quickly and the Irish took control. The Irish ended up rushing for 287 yards, including 191 by Cierre Wood, who won’t play Saturday as he serves the final game of a two-game suspension.
Purdue is seeking its first win in South Bend since 2004 and a 2-0 start for the first time since 2007. It could be a program-turner.
“It would certainly show we were strong willed and strong minded,” Hope said of winning at Notre Dame Stadium, “It would be a confidence builder for our football team and a confidence builder for our fan base. There’s a lot to be gained.”
For Notre Dame, as well. The Irish haven’t started 2-0 since 2008 and there’s a challenging schedule ahead with games against Michigan State and Michigan back-to-back followed by a date in Chicago with Miami, Fla. Then comes Stanford, BYU and Oklahoma.
But first they must deal with their home opener and all the hoopla, especially Golson, who will be doing it for the first time as a starter.
“There will be a little pressure on him in the home stadium. He knows, like all of us, that you just approach it like another game,” Irish tight end Tyler Eifert said. “You can’t let all the other stuff going on around you affect you.”