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September 5, 2007

Weekly Purdue Review

Throughout football season, GoldandBlack.com takes a weekly review of Boilermaker football in its Weekly Purdue Review.

Today, we look at things coming out of the Boilermakers' 52-24 Week 1 win at Toledo, in advance of their home opener against Eastern Illinois at noon Saturday in Ross-Ade Stadium.

Who's hot?

Anthony Heygood: In his first game as a linebacker - he didn't see a single snap last season at the position he took on mid-year - Heygood was a stud. He made a game-high 11 tackles, including a fourth-down TFL in the second half that was a backbreaker for the host Rockets.

Throughout the game, Heygood was all over the place in what made for a fine debut on defense.

"Playing defense is all aggressiveness, speed and noticing things faster," Heygood said. "That's kind of a change from offense, where you wait more, see something and go."

Purdue's receivers and tight ends: No one caught more than three balls, but a couple of those 14 completed balls went for huge plays. The wide receivers blocked on the perimeter and downfield well, something that, if it keeps up, will be of tremendous value to the offense.

Robbie Powell: The senior center was lauded by Coach Joe Tiller as having a fine game, spear-heading a lights-out effort for a retooled line making its debut. Purdue dominated in the running game and QB Curtis Painter was hardly touched.

Dan Bick: The senior now-backup middle linebacker combined with platoon-mate Josh Ferguson for 18 tackles. Considering Bick seemed to almost be written off during camp due to neck problems, it was encouraging to see him so active Saturday. He's not the most physical player, but his smarts were especially evident when he smoothly read and snuffed out a Toledo screen pass.

Terrell Vinson: When was the last time Purdue had a cornerback that was this effective a tackler? Good question. Vinson made 10 stops, sacked the quarterback and was effective around the line of scrimmage and on the corner in the running game.

Dorien Bryant, Return Man: Though his instincts in fielding kicks could use the sort of fine-tuning that will come with repetition, Bryant was dominant in the return game for Purdue. He returned a kickoff 91 yards and had one punt return for 16, earning Big Ten Player-of-the-Week acclaim.

What's not-so-hot?

Purdue's first-team offense didn't throw any interceptions against Toledo, but did lose a pair of fumbles, in the first half, keeping the game closer than it should have been.

The Boilermakers will need better than the cumulative 44 percent its quarterbacks completed.

Off on the right foot?

Fifty percent for the season would be a disappointment for place-kicker Chris Summers, but a close look at Summers' 1-of-2 showing at Toledo shows some positive signs.

The kicker who struggled so mightily as a freshman attempted two 40-plus-yard kicks, missing the first, but nailing the second.

Summers hit both balls soundly, but the first just hooked wide left. The second, of course, was good.

For a player who needs confidence on his side, it may be a positive sign that he rebounded successfully from missing his first kick of the season.

"I was really happy to see how he rebounded," special teams coach Mark Hagen said. "Last year he kind of got in that rut and got down on himself, but he came right back and drilled that second one."

Welcoming Werner

In what amounted to the first significant action he's seen in a game - let alone at linebacker - former safety Jason Werner excelled.

Between extensive special-teams work and some second-half defensive snaps, Werner made six tackles, a fine start for a player who hadn't so much as really practiced for a year prior to camp, thanks to back problems.

"I thought Jason did great," said Hagen, who coaches Purdue's linebackers, also. "Considering he really hasn't played linebacker all that much - just one spring and then this preseason camp and early fall - it's going to take him some time to get the big picture. That's a big thing as a linebacker, maybe not having all the time and space as he did as a safety. But for his first time out, he was out there a lot more than I thought he'd be, and he came out of the game fine."

Tiller spoke highly of Werner Tuesday, and suggested he'll play even more against Eastern Illinois. Should anything happen to Stanford Keglar, a healthy Werner would seem like a solid backup option, along with a prime candidate to be a starter next season.

Kerrigan's A Keeper

A likely move to defensive tackle and a broken hand suffered early in training camp could very easily have pushed freshman Ryan Kerrigan into a redshirt year.

But the Muncie native pushed through the pain, and through offensive lines, during camp, establishing himself as a defensive end and winning a spot on the field as a true freshman.

At Toledo, he impressed. He made two tackles, with one of them being a 16-yard sack on which he smoothly read a misdirection play and trapped the quarterback in the backfield, then finished the play.

Kerrigan may not be as powerful as the older players he lines up against - at least not yet - but he was physical and hustled at Toledo. And he's been described as a fast learner.

The freshman occupies a spot in Purdue's two-deep, a spot opened up by the loss of senior Mike McDonald to an ankle injury, and got on the field after Cliff Avril was stricken with a cramp and taken to the locker room.

But if Toledo was any indication, you may see more and more of Kerrigan in the weeks to come.

Balancing act

Much has been made of Purdue's arsenal of "weapons" on offense, but its biggest gun shot only blanks at Toledo, as Bryant caught just two passes for 12 yards.

"I don't think anybody has gaudy numbers," Bryant said after the Toledo game, "but we made some big plays. If that's what we have to do, that's fine. We're not in it for stats."

Painter said Tuesday that Bryant's certainly not the offense's only target. At Toledo, tight end Dustin Keller and outside receivers Greg Orton and Selwyn Lymon all caught touchdowns.

"We're versatile," Painter said. "We have guys on the outside who can make plays just like (Bryant) can."

Painter's 14 completions went to seven different receivers, with none catching more than three balls, as the Boilermakers split their 488 yards right down the middle between the passing and running games.


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