Purdue opens up against Middle TennesseePublished 5:06pm Friday, September 2, 2011
Coming off back-to-back bowl game appearances, Middle Tennessee faces a tall order in its season open today at Purdue.
While the Blue Raiders are looking to build on last season’s 6-7 final record, the Boilermakers are trying to rebuild the program back into a Big Ten Conference contender.
Purdue finished the 2010 campaign at 5-7 overall and just 4-4 in the Big Ten.
This will be the first meeting between the two schools.
Middle Tennessee has had some success in season openers, going 57-37-2. The Blue Raiders are just 1-4 in first games under current coach Rick Stockstill.
Today’s game against Purdue is just the fourth time Middle Tennessee has competed against a team from the Big Ten. The Blue Raiders are 0-3 all-time, including two losses against Illinois. The other loss was at the hands of Purdue.
After averaging just over 124 yards per game on the ground in Stockstill’s first three seasons, the Blue Raiders have made running the football a premium. The last two seasons, Middle Tennessee has been among the top rushing teams in the country. The Blue Raiders averaged 180.8 yards per game last season.
Leading the charge is junior Benny Cunningham, who averaged 4.6 yards per carry last season. Logan Kilgore will run the offense after being named the starting quarterback just the second week into fall camp. Kilgore started three games in 2010 and threw for 301 yards against Austin Peay.
Defensively, Middle Tennessee will be inexperienced up front. None of the Blue Raiders defensive line have started a game.
“I think this is a tremendous opportunity for our football team to go play what I consider a much-improved Purdue team over last season,” Stockstill said. “They had a lot of injuries last year, but they have some key guys back. I personally expect Purdue to come out and try to establish the running game, especially early. They have a good running back returning, plus a junior college runner that was there for spring practice.”
Purdue is 72-45-6 in season openers. Notre Dame snapped a six-game winning streak in openers last season. Purdue has won five consecutive home openers dating back to 2003.
Leading the ground game will be Ralph Bolden, who rushed for 935 yards and nine touchdowns for the Boilermakers in 2010. Junior Caleb TerBush will get the start at quarterback for the Boilermakers. He joins quite an impressive list of first-time starters for Purdue, including Len Dawson, Bob Greise, Mike Phipps, Gary Danielson, Drew Brees and Kyle Orton.
Those quarterbacks were 3-4 in their first starts. Only Dawson, Greise and Phipps were winners in their debut.
“They’ve been to bowl games three of the last five years,” Purdue coach Danny Hope said. “What kind of problems do they present? They’re a good football team. Obviously they’ve won the last couple years. They’ve had some post-season play. They’re a fast football team.
“On the defensive side of the ball they’re real big in regards to bringing pressure, a lots of blitzes. They’ll hang their hat on trying to disrupt your offensive front. They do a great job of making sure they always have you outnumbered in the box, so they’re strong against the run game. They have good speed, good quickness.”
Kickoff is set for noon at Ross-Ade Stadium. The game can be seen on the Big Ten Network.