WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Caleb TerBush is no on-field gambler. The gunslinger mentality is better suited for others.
So as Purdue's senior quarterback prepares for one of the biggest games of his life -- although you won't hear that from him when talking about Saturday's Big Ten opener against Michigan -- he takes a mature approach.
“It's about just playing and putting the ball in the right person's hands,” he says. “Make those plays everybody expects a quarterback to make. I've always tried to keep myself steady on making wise decisions. Don't put the team in jeopardy by throwing an interception, although I know I have a couple. I'm trying to minimize that. I don't take many risks.”
Risk-taking likely won't work against a 2-2 Michigan team coming off a bye that followed a 13-6 loss at Notre Dame. Coach Brady Hoke wants no part of a losing record.
Purdue, meanwhile, is 3-1 and looking to show it's a Big Ten contender.
“We know what we're capable of,” defensive tackle Kawann Short says. “We feel we can beat a lot of teams in our division. We have the right guys to do it. We have to live up to the hype.”
It starts with TerBush. In three games this season he's completed 51 of 89 passes (63.8 percent) for 531 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions. It's the best completion percentage of his career, and if he can keep those touchdowns coming and limit the interceptions (he's had at least one in every game) against Michigan, look out.
“We think Caleb can continue to improve,” coach Danny Hope says. “I think he's gaining momentum in getting back to the form that he was at. Toward the end of our camp he was playing very well. Then he got a little disjointed not being available the first game (a one-game suspension for an undisclosed violation of team rules) and not being well for the third game (he suffered a severe migraine headache before the Eastern Michigan game). This is the first time we've had continuity at that position.”
Still, don't be surprised if TerBush shares duties on a limited basis with Robert Marve, who has missed the last couple of games with a torn ACL. Marve has returned to practice, although he isn't going live.
“I believe Robert could be ready physically (to play against Michigan),” Hope says. “We would have to make a decision on what we would anticipate his role being. He's hasn't had a whole lot of snaps since he was injured.”
The plan was to get Marve plenty of practice reps this week.
“We might not go into the game with a predetermined rotation or plan, just based on the face he hasn't played in a live game (since getting hurt), this is a big game against a very physical team,” Hope says. “We might utilize Robert as necessary.”
Hope seeks every edge he can find against a Michigan team featuring dual-threat quarterback Denard Robinson (the Big Ten's total offense leader at 319.5 yards a game), a big offensive line (four of the five linemen weigh more than 300 pounds) and an aggressive defense that ranks ninth nationally against the pass (allowing 154.5 yards a game), but struggles against the run (its 182.0 yards allowed a game is 11th in the Big Ten, ahead of only Indiana).
Still, Hope sees danger everywhere he looks.
“They play with a purpose. They're very physical on defense. Their secondary tackles very well. They have a big, strong, tough defensive line.
“Offensively they have a ton of weapons, a talented offensive line. Denard Robinson can do things to change the outcome of a game. They have a host of talent around him.
“They play with a lot of emotion and enthusiasm; they're physical and fast, and they play to win.”
Purdue is playing to win a championship, a point Hope continues to hammer. He was hired to return the program to its Big Ten title winning ways under former coach Joe Tiller.
“We talk to our team about some aspects of returning the program to national prominence … That's why we're here,” Hope says. “We came to Purdue to return the program to national prominence, and we sold that to recruits.
“We expect to win and we expect to do well. Even though we've been a little shorthanded and had some rough sledding at times, we've still been able to manufacture some signature wins as a result of our expectations in ourselves.”