For Purdue, a train wreck

After 2-0 start sparked Big Ten title talk, the Boilermakers have dropped five straight

National Notebook

October 29, 2005|By DON MARKUS | DON MARKUS,SUN REPORTER

Since this is the season that instant replay has come to most of college football, we have decided to review an opinion espoused in this space recently that Louisville was the most disappointing team in the country.

Certainly, the Cardinals haven't lived up to the preseason predictions of running the table in the suspect Big East and finding their way to a Bowl Championship Series invitation.

But upon further review, we have decided that Purdue is the biggest bust of the season.

The Boilermakers, picked to win the Big Ten because they didn't have to play perennial powerhouses Michigan and Ohio State, haven't won since opening the season with wins over Akron and Arizona.

That's five straight defeats, and an 0-4 start in the Big Ten.

The struggles of the Boilermakers have certainly surprised some in the league.

"I thought Purdue would have as good a chance to win the league as anyone," Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez, whose Badgers beat Purdue 31-20 last week, said on a teleconference earlier this week.

Purdue coach Joe Tiller wasn't one of those to get caught up in the early-season hype, but he figured that with all 11 starters back on defense and former starter Brandon Kirsch replacing Kyle Orton at quarterback, the Boilermakers would certainly be in the mix to contend for the Big Ten title.

Instead, the defensive backfield has been decimated by injuries - to the point where Tiller recently moved a backup wide-out to cornerback - and Kirsch's inconsistent play led to him getting replaced last week by redshirt freshman Curtis Painter.

"I don't believe that Brandon has put together a complete game yet, like he's capable of doing, and I think he would concur with that," Tiller said. "That's what we're looking for at the position, and hopefully that will come his way."

So what does Tiller tell his players heading into Happy Valley to play Penn State today?

"Our message to our football team is that you need to stay the course and have an unshakeable belief that if you do things the right way, things will eventually break for you," Tiller said.

Tiller admits the message is getting old.

"The difficult thing is that none of us have a crystal ball available, and as a result, you can't tell them when it will break," he said. "You can only assure them that if they continue to do things the right way, things will happen."

Carson's little brother

While Marcus Vick has done a good job playing in the shadow cast by big brother Michael at Virginia Tech, the little brother of former Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer has also started to make a name for himself.

Jordan Palmer, a junior at Texas-El Paso, has led the Miners to a 5-1 start and put together decent numbers for his career, with 47 touchdown passes and 5,752 yards.

"Jordan has really improved a lot," UTEP coach Mike Price said. "He's getting better every week and he's got a great attitude. He works hard. He's a special guy from a special family."

The comparisons to Carson Palmer, who won the Heisman at Southern California and is now emerging as a star in his third year with the Cincinnati Bengals after being the top pick in the NFL draft, are not only to his brother.

More suitable comparisons are made to some of Price's former quarterbacks at Washington State, including Ryan Leaf and Drew Bledsoe.

"In one year, Ryan made a lot of progress. That's what Jordan has done," Price said. "His arm is good enough to throw the long ball, to throw the post, or to throw it with touch on the screen. He just needs to get better at reading defenses, the mental side."

In UTEP's only defeat this season, a 27-20 loss at Memphis on Oct. 1, Palmer threw for a career-high 431 yards, but also had three passes intercepted. Palmer's brother called him after the Memphis game.

"He said, `Forget it. I've been there and done that. Everyone does it,' " the younger Palmer recalled. "It's still pretty new. That's why experience is so huge for me. Every game counts. In some ways, it's like it's my second year playing football."

Defending DeBerry

Jason Brown came to the defense of embattled Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry after DeBerry came under criticism for what was perceived as a racist remark earlier this week.

DeBerry said during his weekly news conference Tuesday that his team's 48-10 loss to TCU last week had a lot to do with the racial makeup of the Horned Frogs team.

"It's very obvious to me the other day that the other team had a lot more Afro-American players than we did, and they ran a lot faster than we did," DeBerry said. "It just seems to be that way, that Afro-American kids can run very, very well."

Brown, a senior wide receiver who is African-American, said he wasn't offended by the words of his 67-year-old coach, who was later reprimanded by academy officials. DeBerry, who has been at the academy for 25 years, later apologized.

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