WEST LAFAYETTE – After three years of consistent play by one quarterback in Drew Brees, Purdue finds itself in the midst of a controversy at the position for the second consecutive season.
Former Boilermakers’ standout Brees started his final three seasons, setting many Purdue school records in that span. But coach Joe Tiller has yet to get the same play out of his quarterbacks the past two seasons.
In 2001, Brandon Hance began as the starter, but he was replaced by then-freshman Kyle Orton by the end of the season. The battle ended poorly with Hance deciding to transfer to Southern Cal. at the end of the year.
Now Orton appears to be the one getting swept away as freshman Brandon Kirsch got his first start against Michigan on Saturday.
Tiller pointed to Kirsch’s play in his appearances as a backup, providing a spark off the bench, as to why he got the starting nod. Tiller had previously told Kirsch and Orton that the decision would be made on play during practice.
Orton, who Tiller said was the better practice player, said the decision caught him off-guard.
“I won’t say it shocked me that he went with Brandon, but it kind of surprised me because we were told it was going to be based on practice,” Orton said.
But Tiller was not as pleased with Kirsch’s play in the starting role.
“He responded, quite frankly, as most young people do,” Tiller said. “They’re always better when they’re relaxed and come off the bench.”
Kirsch moved the ball against Michigan, but mostly by choosing to run rather than hitting his receivers. He led the Boilermakers with 81 yards rushing and a touchdown on 15 carries.
In Tiller’s offense, results are better with a pass-first, run-second mindset.
“His first few series, he pulled the ball down way too much and ran way too much,” Tiller said. “If he’d had a little patience, crossing routes were coming open.”
Kirsch kept the Boilermakers close, but Tiller opted to go with Orton – the better passer of the two – in the fourth quarter.
“We felt like we had to throw the ball and Brandon had missed enough checks and enough open receivers that we just thought, ‘Hey, we’ll give Kyle a try,'” Tiller said.
But Orton did not have the same success that Kirsch had by going three-and-out in his first series and ending the drive with an interception in his last two possessions. Kirsch then came back into the game to lead the Boilermakers to another touchdown.
Cheap shot: Michigan safety Julius Curry can thank Purdue wide receiver Taylor Stubblefield for the pain in his right knee.
The injury occurred “away from the ball, and he came and chopped me late,” said Curry, who was sidelined on crutches for the second half. “It’s cool. It’s part of the game.
“I was more shocked than anything. I don’t know how bad it is, I just have to see the doctors when I get back.”
Curry’s absence gave junior Jon Shaw, who previously hasn’t been able to crack the lineup, a chance to get some legitimate game action. Carr was impressed with Shaw, which bodes well for the Michigan defense, as Curry indicated that it could be a while before he returns.
More injuries: While Shantee Orr returned to action this week, recording a sack in the fourth quarter, defensive tackle Norman Heuer sat out for the third straight game. Carr said last week that Heuer was “close” to returning, but obviously, not close enough.
The Wolverines also lost their redshirt freshman offensive line duo, Adam Stenavich and Matt Lentz, for the game against Purdue. Lentz hurt his ankle, but Carr would not disclose where Stenavich was hurt. Courtney Morgan started for Stenavich at left tackle, and Dave Petruziello got the start at left guard.