Contrast of styles for MU, Purdue
HUNTINGTON -- When Marshall University and Purdue get together Saturday it will be a display of polar opposites in how the football teams get things accomplished.
Marshall (2-2) touts a strong offensive attack that is producing more than 500 yards a game while ranking seventh nationally.
Quarterback Rakeem Cato is statistically the best passer in the nation, leading in yards (1,482) and completions (142). He has thrown for 10 touchdowns while only tossing two interceptions.
However, when Cato takes the field at 3:15 p.m., Saturday, at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind., he will be going against a team that prides itself on defense first.
Purdue (2-1) is 17th overall in total defense (294.7 yards per game), including 19th in sacks with nine. The Boilermakers will be going after Cato fast with a defensive front that is among the tops in the nation.
"We have to execute the things that we do best and find what our niche is," Marshall offensive coordinator Bill Legg said. "That's always the goal every week, and somewhere during the course of the game that needs to appear, but it will appear if, and only if, we prepare like we are capable of preparing and if we play like we are capable of playing."
Both offenses have performed well, although the methods they use are different.
Marshall has been a quick-strike offense with few scoring long drives consuming much of the clock.
Meanwhile, Purdue has the rushing attack to power forward for three to five yards a play and churn clock while wearing down a defense. Purdue is averaging 219 yards rushing per game, yet the leading rusher is Akeem Shavers, who only has 167 yards.
The Boilermakers are very balanced and quarterback Caleb TerBush is a veteran who stepped in for the injured Robert Marve during the Notre Dame game. While TerBush can hurt a team through the air -- he was 16 of 24 for 158 yards and two touchdowns Sept. 15 against Eastern Michigan, a 54-16 victory -- Purdue will heavily rely on its ground attack for much of its output.
That fact might especially be magnified, considering Marshall is 117th out of 120 teams in total defense (509.0 yards per game) and 112th in rushing defense (243.8).
Given the Boilermakers' success on the ground and Marshall's quick-strike offense, the game also lends itself to an interesting aspect that Marshall head coach Doc Holliday has to prepare for.
Even if the teams trade scores in the contest, the tendency this year has been for Marshall's drives to go quickly while Purdue's are more methodical.
That could lead to the Herd defense being on the field an awfully long time.
"If you go down and score in three straight plays, and your defense is out there for a 14-play drive, you may want to come back and slow it down a bit to get the defense to catch their breath a little bit," Holliday said. "We have the ability to do that, and if we need to, we will."
Holliday and his staff know that Purdue is going to be able to put points up, as they have done all season long. The Boilermakers are just behind Marshall in points per game at 19th in the nation. Purdue averages 39.7 points to Marshall's 41.0.
The real question is whether Purdue can stop the Marshall offense?
Purdue head coach Danny Hope said much of his team's focus during an off week since beating Eastern Michigan was on simulating Marshall's speed.
"From a defensive standpoint, we will see the ball get out on the perimeter a bit more," Hope said. "You saw that in the last game. They may, at times, shy away from running at the teeth of our front seven. You can see the ball getting on the perimeter some, so we have to play better defense on the perimeter."
Whether it's the hyperspeed offense of Marshall or the rough, rugged attack of the Boilermakers, Saturday's contest should have a little bit of everything.