LISTEN: Danny Hope's Tuesday press conferenceClick Here to view this Link.
Although it sounds as though he'll be limited in practice this week, cornerback Ricardo Allen might be available for Purdue's game Saturday vs. Eastern Michigan.
The junior injured his ankle on the second-to-last series vs. Notre Dame Saturday, then was on the sideline for the Irish game-winning drive in the final minute. He was in a boot the next day.
"We're going to be careful with him obviously," said Coach Danny Hope, whose team has a bye following the game vs. EMU. "He's had a million reps. A lot of the things he has to do he already knows how to do."
Allen's absence in practice would give some opportunities to others. Redshirt freshman Frankie Williams, who was on the field in Allen's place at the end of the ND game, will likely get starter-like repetitions in practice this week.
"It'd help Frankie," Hope said, "and we're behind significantly right now with the play of Normondo Harris; he was one of our top players last year and certainly can be again this year, but he injured his knee in the summer. It was just a sprain, but it held him back some."
That said, Hope would like to have Allen, an All-Big Ten player, back to play the Eagles.
"I'm optimistic he'll be in position to play," the fourth-year Purdue coach said at his Tuesday teleconference. "But we have some other good players that are knocking on the door and can serve our football team very well this Saturday."
Red zone scorers / Redzone stoppers
Purdue's been good in the red zone this season, both when trying to score and when trying to keep the opponent from scoring.
The Boilermakers have came away with points in all nine of their red zone opportunities, with eight touchdowns and a field goal through two games. Opponents have scored on four of their seven trips inside the 20, although only two have been touchdowns.
Hope explained it simply: Better players equal a better team.
"We're scoring touchdowns in the red zone," he said, "and we're holding our opponents to a couple touchdowns a quarter of the time. We spent a lot of time through the course of camp with our 1 offense vs. our 1 defense, going in the red zone.
"And we have better players. Better players make you better in the red zones."
Senior defensive tackle Kawann Short said Purdue's ability to get a push in the middle of the line could be beneficial when the field gets shorter.
"We want to stop them, even when they get down to the 1-yard line," he said. "We keep fighting."
Fixing the O-line
Though two games, Purdue's offensive line has been up and down, to say the least.
It gave up four sacks against Notre Dame, and allowed other QB pressures. Caleb TerBush threw his third-quarter interception when he was first flushed from the pocket, then pressured immediately upon leaving.
"We need to play better," Hope admitted. "I like where we're at because where we're going looks good.
"You can tell sometimes when you're watching players when the lights come on, and I think that's where we're at as a unit. It's been a revolving door in the last few months, with guys out with injury in the spring and getting guys back in the lineup through the fall. We tried to manufacture some continuity the best we could through the course of camp, and right now I think we're settled in pretty good."
The Boilers feel good about the middle and right side of the line, where Rick Schmeig is at center, Devin Smith at right guard and Trevor Foy at right tackle.
The left, though, has been shuffled and could be more. Justin Kitchens started the ND game at left tackle, and rotated with Kevin Pamphile, the Game 1 starter. But Peters Drey, who is coming back after a back injury last season, is struggling some at left guard.
Tuesday, Hope said Pamphile could start seeing some time at left guard, where he practiced in the spring while Drey was still out.
"I think that could help us some there," Hope said of Pamphile. "He could spell Peters Drey some; he's still struggling with coming off his back injury. He's done fine and has played well in the games, but there's a reps issue. We're worried about wearing him out some.
"It also allows us to keep some of our bigger, athletic guys on the field."
Cody Davis, an interior lineman, could be a factor too, but he played only a series against the Irish. However it shakes out, Hope said the Boilers can play better.
"I see them starting to do some little things in practice and in the games that you've been waiting to see all along," he said. "Now we just need to see more of those things on a much more consistent basis. But I think it's fixing to happen and we will take a big step as an offensive line. I really like the potential of this group."
They might be Giants
Purdue likes the play of its defensive line, and it should considering how disruptive the unit has been through the first two games.
The Boilers had five sacks against the Irish on Saturday and allowed only 1.8 yards per rush. Purdue's doing it by being big and athletic up front, and with depth too. Purdue played four defensive ends - a fifth if you count linebacker Robert Maci - and three tackles (Ryan Isaac also moved inside for a couple snaps).
Hope says Purdue has tried to model itself after the New York Giants, who rotate a deep defensive line that's considered one of the best in the NFL.
"I know the method to their madness, in some ways, is they believe in having more defensive linemen who can play and rotating and keeping them fresh," Hope said. "That's served their program well and we feel it can do the same for ours.
"If we can keep all those big, tough, burly guys fresh and playing hard and kicking butt across the line of scrimmage, we're going to have success as a football team."
Sudden change success
Purdue's offense has turned the ball over six times, but the defense has allowed only three points as a result.
That's a lot of "sudden change" wins for the Boilers.
"Confidence in each other and being sure with what you're doing," Hope said when asked about the reasons for Purdue's success. "Those two things go a long way when your back is up against the wall. Hats off to Coach (Tim) Tibesar and the defensive staff; the players have not only bought in and believe in the system, but they also have bought in and adhere to the standards we have on the defensive side of the football."
Hope says Purdue's front has given the rest of the defense confidence.
"It makes everyone else behind them feel like something good is going to happen," he said. "So I think we can go out there on the defensive side of the football and know that we're going to be successful regardless of the situation."
After Purdue plays EMU, it will tweak its practice schedule headed into the bye week.
The Boilermakers will come in briefly Sunday, likely to get stretched out and watch some film, then will practice Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. They'll have the next three days off, over the weekend, then get back into Marshall game-week prep on Sunday, Sept. 23.
"That way, they'll be fresher headed into the second half of the season," Hope said. "I think that recovery is a big part of our master plan this season."
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