DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 29, 3:15 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Ross-Ade Stadium (62,500) -- West Lafayette, Indiana. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: Marshall 1-1, Purdue 2-0. Away Record: Marshall 1-1, Purdue 0-1. Neutral Record: Marshall 0-0, Purdue 0-0. Conference Record: Marshall 1-0, Purdue 0-0. Series Record: First meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Marshall Thundering Herd face a huge test this weekend when they enter Ross-Ade Stadium for a non-conference bout with the Purdue Boilermakers.
This is the first-ever matchup between these programs. Both these teams managed to win bowl games in 2011 and appear to on the right track to another postseason appearance.
Marshall is coming off of a thrilling, 54-51, double-overtime victory over Rice in its Conference USA opener. The Thundering Herd continued their impressive offensive play in the contest by racking up 593 yards. Coach Doc Holliday's team began the season with a loss at West Virginia (69-34) before defeating Western Carolina (52-24) and losing to Ohio University (27-24) at home. With one of its best teams in recent history, Marshall is considered one of the top contenders to win the Conference USA this season.
The Boilermakers should be well rested after being idle last week. Purdue improved to 2-1 its last time out with a dominating, 54-16, victory over Eastern Michigan. It began the season with a 48-6 win over Eastern Kentucky and a tough, 20-17 loss to the Fighting Irish at Notre Dame. Coach Danny Hope's team is receiving votes in both top 25 polls coming into this weekend. This contest will be the final test for the Boilermakers before they enter Big Ten play next week.
The Herd's offense is ranked seventh in the FBS with 561 yards per game and first with 383.5 passing yards per game. Although the Herd have been torching opponents through the air this season, they relied on a potent rushing attack to get by the Owls.
Kevin Grooms rushed with 103 yards and three touchdowns, including the game- winner. Steward Butler dashed for a game-high 166 yards and a touchdown and Remi Watson picked up 84 yards and two touchdowns. The three-headed rushing attack came after the team's starting running back, Travon Van, changed his position to defensive back the night before the contest.
True sophomore Rakeem Cato is having a breakout year in his second season as MU's starter. Cato has already passed for 1,481 yards and 10 touchdowns with just two interceptions.
Cato's passing numbers are significantly better this season than last year. This comes in part due to the numerous targets he has in the passing game. Tommy Shuler, Aaron Dobson, and Antavious Wilson are all fantastic wideouts and tight end Gator Hoskins (three TDs) is a threat near the end zone.
Although Marshall's offense is in its best condition since Byron Leftwich was dropping back in the pocket, the defense has been as sturdy as a revolving door. The Herd are allowing their opponents to score 42.8 points and gain 509 yards of total offense per game. Those averages rank 117th and 118th, respectively, in the FBS.
Holliday is making changes to try to slow down opponents. In addition to moving Van from running back to defensive back, Penn State transfer Derrick Thomas made his first career start at cornerback last week.
The Boilermakers' passing attack will be led by Caleb TerBush this week as Robert Marve has been sidelined indefinitely with the third ACL tear of his career. TerBush began the season as the starter, but has split time with Marve.
TerBush has thrown for 327 yards with three touchdowns and the same number of interceptions.
Antavian Edison has continued his streak of receptions and could extend it to 25 straight games versus Marshall. Edison leads all of Purdue's receivers with 186 yards and four receiving touchdowns.
Purdue's most dangerous offensive weapon will be lining up behind or aside TerBush for the majority of the contest. Senior RB Akeem Shavers is off to a slow start with just 167 total yards of offense in three games, but he has a second gear that makes him a home run threat every time he touches the ball.
The Boilermakers' defense is one of the best in the nation. Purdue is ranked second in the Big Ten in both scoring defense (14.0) and total defense (294.7).
Opposing offensive linemen have had no answer for tackle Kawann Short. Purdue is consistently energized by Short's aggressive pass rush.
Marshall's high-powered offense will certainly be put to the test by the stingy Boilermakers. The Thundering Herd should give Purdue a good fight, but an upset is unlikely unless Marshall's defense suddenly becomes impermeable.