Spread offense, spread offense, Kyle Orton and oh yeah, the
spread offense.

That’s what your likely to hear about Purdue – that the
Boilermakers have a potent offensive attack with multiple threats
at receiver and a strong-armed quarterback. The passing game has
definitely stood out – Orton threw 55 passes and 411 yards last
weekend against Wisconsin. But the Boilermakers can play defense,
too. Pretty well, in fact.

“All the way across the board you have some great players at
each position,” Michigan center Dave Pearson said. “They bring a
lot of things at you. They have a real good defense this year, and
we are going to have to be ready to go against it.”

Purdue is first in the Big Ten in total defense and ranks in the
top 10 nationally in three defensive categories. The defense has
given up 20 points or more just twice this season (Michigan has
surrendered at least 30 points in three games). But the key number
for this weekend might be 66, as in 66 rushing yards per game that
the Boilermakers’ opponents manage to squeak out on average.
Purdue’s run defense is third in the nation.

That could provide for an interesting matchup between Purdue’s
run defense and Michigan’s rushing offense, a.k.a. Chris Perry.
Michigan hasn’t shown much depth at running back this season, but
Perry has kept defenses busy all on his own.

Perry is one yard short of 1,000 and has scored 12 touchdowns.
His average of 124.9 yards per game is nearly twice the number that
Purdue gives up on average to entire teams.

“He’s a guy you have to contain,” safety Stuart Schweigert said.
“If you let him get going, it’s going to be a long day for the
defense because he’s a great athlete. But I think we’re going to
have some things defensively to kind of help us with that. We’re
playing good run defense right now, and we just want to continue

With a strong front four and talented linebackers, the
Boilermakers have stuffed opponents’ ground games and allowed just
three rushing touchdowns. Purdue hasn’t faced a back of Perry’s
caliber this season.

But Perry has tended to dazzle against weaker opponents, and
then struggle against tougher defensive teams. He blew up for 232
yards in the season opener against Central Michigan, but in
Michigan’s losses to Iowa and Oregon, he was held to just 87 and 27
yards, respectively. The Wolverines’ tight game with Minnesota was
the third time Perry ran for fewer than 100 yards this season.

But Schweigert pointed out that the Boilers won’t be able to
focus on Perry alone.

“Michigan’s just as good in the passing game as they are in the
running game, and they’re pretty good in both of them. So we have
to be sound in our running game and our passing game,” Schweigert

Schweigert is Purdue’s top man on defense. The senior leads the
team with three interceptions, and he has 40 tackles and two sacks.
He also has a Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week Award on his
2003 resume.

“He’s an exceptional open field tackler,” Purdue coach Joe
Tiller said. “He’s not necessarily a guy that’s going to come up
and turn the ball carrier and knock him clear into tomorrow, but
he’s a guy that’s going to get you on the ground. Now that he’s
older, he adds an element of leadership back there in the secondary
for (us), which is much needed.”

Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said “it’s a combination of things”
that makes Purdue’s defense so good, and he cited the size up front
and speedy cornerbacks as two of the factors.

“It makes for an outstanding defense,” Carr added.

Even if doesn’t stand out next to the spread offense.




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