LISTEN: Danny Hope on TuesdayClick Here to view this Link.
When Purdue takes the field Saturday against Michigan, it'll have been nearly one month since Robert Marve re-injured his left anterior cruciate ligament.
That could be all the time Marve needed.
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Coach Danny Hope said during his weekly press conference on Tuesday that he anticipates Marve being back in uniform with a chance to play against the Wolverines in the Boilermakers' Big Ten opener.
Caleb TerBush, coming off a career-best game against Marshall, still will start.
"There's still some unknowns as far as how Robert would perform coming back into alive game with a torn ACL, but we think he can get the job done, and he's going to get a lot more reps in practice this week and I believe he'll be available to play in the game on Saturday," Hope said. "We may not go into the game with a predetermined rotation or plan just based on the fact he hasn't played a live game and this is a big game against a very physical football team. … If we're struggling some at the quarterback position, he could certainly come in and make a difference.
"Robert Marve is a fantastic talent. If for some reason Caleb isn't hitting on all cylinders or something happens that we need Robert to play in the game, we won't hesitate."
Marve injured the knee in the fourth quarter against Notre Dame on Sept. 8 when he was sandwiched between two defensive players on a sack. His left knee seemed to get hyper-extended and his right ankle also was injured on the play. Marve was wearing a boot on his right foot before Saturday's game against Marshall and has said that injury felt worse than his knee.
Before the injury, Hope said he was impressed with Marve's ability to release the ball quickly, which served to negate some of the defense's rush.
In the first two games, Marve completed 73 percent of his passes for 414 yards, four touchdowns and only one interception.
"The best way to tell if he's ready is going to be based on how he performs in the game because we're not going to go live on him out in practice with three ACLs," Hope said. "I think if he looks like he's ready in practice that will make us feel better about his potential to make a difference in the ball game, but I don't think we're really going to know exactly where he's at until we put him out there in a real, live game."
TerBush has completed 64 percent of his passes for 531 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions. He's coming off career highs in completions (27), yards (294) and touchdowns (four) last week against Marshall.
Rob Henry only got two snaps last week. He rushed once for three yards and handed off. Hope said Henry could play a bigger role this week against Michigan, too.
"Last Saturday was good that we had Caleb in the game and he was playing well and he was getting better and right now he is the best quarterback for our football team going into the game this Saturday," Hope said.
"But don't count the others out."
Big game for supportPurdue has yet to reach 50,000 fans inside Ross-Ade Stadium this season, but Hope thinks a victory against the Wolverines could spark a resurgence of fan support.
In the first three games at home in 2012, the Boilermakers have averaged 42,090 fans. Their season high came last week against Marshall with an announced attendance of 45,481.
Last season, Purdue reached 50,000-plus fans only once in its 62,500-capacity stadium: Against Notre Dame at night (61,555).
The game Saturday, though, will be over fall break, meaning students may not be out in full force. Still, Hope sees the game as an opportunity.
"I think the stadium is alive again and there's energy and the football team is playing well and I think the fans that are there are having a great time. But there's still some empty seats," Hope said. "This weekend is huge from a fan-base standpoint. We've won, I believe, eight of our last 10 ballgames in Ross-Ade and we're undefeated 3-0 in Ross-Ade Stadium so this is a big weekend for us.
"A win this weekend will put us in a great position as a football team and I think it will really re-energize our fan base and give a lot of our fans (a chance) to get on board and be with our football team as we proceed to not only just a great season but potentially a championship year."
Purdue's won three of its first four games for the first time since the 2007 season, a winning record that has the Boilermakers thinking of bigger things in the Big Ten.
That starts Saturday, when Purdue hosts Michigan. The game is the first of three against teams expected to finish in the upper half of the conference, with Wisconsin and Ohio State to follow.
"It's a fantastic opportunity for our football team and program," Hope said of the game vs. the Wolverines, "and all of Boilermaker Nation. It's not necessarily a do-or-die situation - there's a lot of good football left to be played - and obviously there seems to be a lot of parity in the league.
"It would be an excellent step in the right direction in our pursuit to returning the football program national prominence. Michigan won 11 games last year and is a great football team."
One could argue that Saturday's game is the biggest for Purdue in years. The Boilermakers have reached the edge of national relevance - they are receiving votes in the coaches poll and have been talked about as a Leaders Division contender - and face an annual power in the Wolverines.
But Kawann Short says it's where he expected Purdue to be, even if others didn't.
"We had been thinking about this from the beginning of the season, so it's not a surprise to us," Short said. "We feel like we've got the right guys to beat a lot of teams in our division. We feel like we're capable of doing what we need to do."
Hope says this could be the week that Ralph Bolden returns to the field, but that projection came with qualifiers.
Where Bolden fits into Purdue's rotation at running back, a position that the Boilers seemingly have now established depth, is a strong consideration.
"He's an outstanding player, but he's coming off his third ACL," Hope said of the fifth-year senior. "So is he going to be more effective in the games right now than the other running backs? I'm not exactly sure, even though I think he's getting much closer to being ready to play, and in his mind he thinks (he is), which is a good thing.
"It's his call when he allows us to put him in the game at our discretion."
Purdue might want to consider making a decision on Bolden's future soon. Having suffered three previous ACL injuries - he lost the 2010 season due to the second - Bolden could sit this year, then would likely have an excellent shot to be granted a sixth year of eligibility.
If Bolden didn't play this season, Hope says he'd encourage the former All-Big Ten back to return for '13.
"I'd get on my knees and beg him," Hope said. "He's a really good football player. I like Ralph; I like coaching Ralph. He's a tough guy, old school in some ways and can do it all on the field. I have an awful lot of respect for Ralph Bolden.
"If it worked out that he didn't play this year - and I believe that he will play this year; odds are he will - then I'd love to have him back for another year."
How about the tight ends
Purdue came into the season feeling as though its tight ends would be integral to the offense.
But after four weeks, the group of Gabe Holmes, Crosby Wright and Justin Sinz has only 15 catches, just four more than at this point a year ago.
"We'd like to be able to hit the tight end more in the passing game," he said. "And I think we can do that more as we get better with our protections and get better at the drop-back passing part of our attack."
Wright's been a little banged up, nursing a shoulder injury over the last couple weeks. But it hasn't kept the senior off the field.
"He hasn't hardly practiced in a couple weeks," Hope said. "He's a very good player, understands his position and is a low-rep guy."
Coming off the bye
Michigan is coming off a bye week following its turnover-ravaged loss at Notre Dame.
A year ago, the Wolverines' bye also came the week before they played the Boilers. The extra prep might have assisted in Michigan's 38-14 victory.
"Last year when we played them, I thought they did a really good job of spreading the wealth around," Hope said. "We were really geared to stop them in what they had run their first however many games, and they did some things that were different and new, so we're going to have to be smart with our alignments and assignments with our base defense until we get a handle on what they're trying to hang their hat on."
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