Purdue has been mired in a quarterback controversy for three seasons now. The last time we had a bona fide No. 1 starter was Joey Elliott, who was more than solid in 2009. Since then, Purdue has not had a season where less than three different quarterbacks attempted at least one pass. In 2010 it was due to injury, but last season Robert Marve and Caleb TerBush went back and forth with Sean Robinson playing in the opener for a series. This year Danny hope seems hellbent on getting Rob Henry back involved while not picking between Marve and TerBush yet again.
Last night, much to the dismay of many on Twitter, Hope named TerBush the starter for Saturday's game at Notre Dame. TerBush, as you know, is coming off of a suspension while Robert Marve looked as sharp as any player at the position has in the last three years with 295 yards and three touchdowns against Eastern Kentucky. We're likely going to see Marve at some point, and I would bet that Henry has a few wildcat-type snaps as we defy all football logic and try to force a quarterback rotation when it rarely, if ever works. Everyone knows it doesn't work too.
Here is a sampling of the reactions on Twitter:
— Jeremiah Johnson (@JJFOX59SPORTS) September 4, 2012
@hammerandrails QB rotation will fail, if bring Marve off bench and does well, people will want him to start, does poorly, be mad he came in
— Darrin Williams (@boiler_sport) September 4, 2012
@hammerandrails I'm sorry but Hope is wrong on this decision. Saying it's ok to get suspended. No leadership up top.
Of course, my initial off-the-cuff reaction was thinking more with my heart than my head:
Caleb TerBush to start vs. Notre Dame? We just lost the Notre Dame game.— Travis Miller (@HammerAndRails) September 3, 2012
Needless to say, I am as frustrated as most fans. There are several reasons for this:
The fact that TerBush was suspended - This is not Caleb's first run-in with trouble. He missed the entire 2010 season because of an academic suspension. Worse yet, he was selected as a captain and a team leader, yet did not lead by example in doing something to get suspended before Saturday's game. The exact timing of the action and what it was is likely not going to officially come out, but that does not change the fact that a team captain got himself suspended, which is not what you want out of a leader.
Marve's performance vs. Eastern Kentucky - You can dismiss it as coming against an FCS team, but just from the naked eye Robert Marve looked as good as he ever has and better than anyone since Elliott played. He was making accurate throws on the run. His one interception was simply underthrown, and he was reading the defenses extremely well. He looked better and more confident than at any time last year. Against similar competition (Western Illinois in 2010 and Southeast Missouri State in 2011) he did not play as well.
The fact we're continuing a QB controversy - Danny Hope has repeatedly stated that Marve is an NFL caliber quarterback. He has never said that about TerBush. If this is the case, then why is Marve not starting? This makes no sense to me. No NFL team rotates quarterbacks. The Jets are likely going to do it this year, but they are stupid and won't even finish above .500 in doing so. The other 31 teams are likely laughing at them. Yes, you can say, "well, we want to be ready in case of injury." Well, the Colts didn't play Jim Sorgi for years "just in case" Peyton Manning got hurt. I am not saying Marve is on the same level as Manning, but I am using it as an example that clarity is needed. This is the most disappointing part of TerBush starting.
This musical quarterbacks strategy flies in the face of all conventional football knowledge. It is important for an offense to get in a rhythm, which is something Marve had going on Saturday. Now that rhythm is going to be thrown off because neither player knows how long they have. They also know the smallest mistake can have them yanked out of a game.
I don't think it is hyperbole in saying that Saturday is now the biggest game of Danny Hope's tenure at Purdue. Many fans are upset at this announcement. Many fans are upset with the QB juggling in general. Fans are still upset that the team came out against Notre Dame last season and rolled over in prime time at home against the Fighting Irish. Hope has now pushed his chips into the Caleb TerBush and QB rotation pot. If it works and Purdue pulls off an upset or even loses a close game he'll be proven right. If Purdue comes out and gets rolled yet again by a marquee opponent the fans may turn on him for good.
It is a bit of a gamble for Hope here. If Purdue struggles from the start yet again against the Irish and TerBush is ineffective it will appear as if the TerBush gamble backfired. Does this mean Marve was instantly the better choice? Of course not. If Marve was starting he could still struggle as well. By going with TerBush, however, given the circumstances as they lead into this game Hope is opening himself up for large amounts of criticism if it does not work.
While I don't like the decision, I still have to get behind Caleb and the rest of the team. It was not my choice to make. No one has seen Caleb play since the bowl game, so maybe he really is better than Marve right now. Maybe he comes out and channels Kyle Orton from 2004 and leads Purdue to a stunning upset. We simply don't know.
I regret saying now that just because TerBush is starting it means we're going to lose. Honestly, it was a pretty terrible thing to say and takes away from the rest of the team because of one player. It takes away from a defense led by guys like Kawann Short and Ricardo Allen who still have to stop a Notre Dame offense that put up 50 points with ease last week. It takes away from the receivers and running backs. It takes away from everybody else, really, and it also is pretty insulting towards Caleb TerBush himself. Chalk it up to my own Profile in Dumbassery.
We have to get behind Caleb on Saturday, and if Marve is going to rotate with him we have to support him as well. It is not their fault that their coach cannot decide which one he wants to stick with. If Rob Henry takes snaps, we have to support him too. We're all Boilermakers here. Yes, we have our favorites, but after we get past the emotions of thinking we know what's right we still have to support the players and coaches even if we think they are wrong.
Danny Hope has made his course clear. Now it is up to the players to follow it and see it through to victory on Saturday.