Points of debate

Strongside linebacker Jason Werner will be in the thick of things this week against Oregon. He led the Boilermakers in tackles last week against Toledo with 13, including one tackle for a loss and a broken-up pass.

The following is an excerpt from an e-mail debate between Emerald sports editor Ben Schorzman and Purdue Exponent assistant sports editor Laura Henry.

PE: Purdue is definitely excited about this game against Oregon. After last season’s double overtime loss to the Ducks, the Boilermakers have been looking forward to this rematch. With the loss of LeGarrette Blount, who had 132 yards against the defense last year, there is definite hope for Purdue in the game.

One key for Purdue is the run game. Last week, sophomore running back Ralph Bolden led the country in rushing, racking up 234 yards and 2 touchdowns. Another key for the Boilermakers is making pivotal tackles. Purdue needs a productive game from the highly touted duo of senior defensive tackle Mike Neal and junior defensive end Ryan Kerrigan.

The final key to the game is attitude. The Boilermakers were bashed in season previews and were not expected to be a major force in the Big Ten. If the Boilermakers play with a chip on the shoulder and a little swagger, they will give Oregon a run for their money.

ODE: Oregon’s excitement for Saturday’s game stems from a far different reason than Purdue’s. The Ducks were embarrassed on a national setting against Boise State and their image took a gigantic hit with the actions of LeGarrette Blount. This is a statement game for Oregon. Play well, and the shadow that has been cast over the team will diminish a bit; play poorly, and the questions that emerged after the offense couldn’t manage a first down in the first half rise back to the top.

I would agree with you that Purdue’s key to success is the run game, and because of that, Oregon’s key to winning is stopping it. Although the defense wasn’t great at stopping the Broncos last week from gaining five or six yards on a rush, they managed to stop them enough times to give Oregon opportunities. If the defensive line, anchored by ends Kenny Rowe and Will Tukuafu, can hold Bolden to fewer than 100 yards, I would say they did their job.

The other part for Oregon will be the need of getting a rhythm on offense. Three-and-outs just won’t cut it. Early in the game they need to be able to move the ball and garner some confidence. If not, Jeremiah Masoli might try to press things like he did last week and end up with a lot of incompletions. It is important to not only get all three running backs coach Chip Kelly plans on using into the game, but also to get catches for tight end Ed Dickson, who had only two a week ago. Who do you think will be a dark horse this week for the Boilermakers?

PE: I think junior wide receiver Keith Carlos is a dark horse for this game. He’s a junior college transfer and coach Hope believes he’s going to be an impact player once he gains more experience.

ODE: For me, it’s freshman punter Jackson Rice. He averaged 43.9 yards a kick last week and coach Kelly was very impressed with him. The ability to pin opponents deep in their own territory cannot be underestimated. The true freshman showed a lot of poise last week in a tough environment.

Basically, this game boils down to whether or not the Ducks feel like they are national contenders. Last week showed the nation that Oregon wasn’t the force people expected them to be, but instead pretenders. A weak offensive line was pushed around, and with it, the entire team by a better Boise State team. If the Ducks turn it around and finish out the non-conference schedule 2-1, things will be looking up, but it’s a steep road to climb, especially because the Boilermakers are a team that could surprise people this year under new head coach Danny Hope.

PE: The reason the Boilermakers could pull out a win on the road is that they have not forgotten last season’s heartbreaking loss. They have found a plethora of talented running backs to boost the Purdue offense. No matter the outcome, the game is going to be competitive and will be a close decision.

ODE: I agree. The game could be decided by less than two touchdowns. I look for this game to be a tightly contested matchup with anything tipping the balance to one side or the other. I want to say that the Ducks are slightly favored, but until they erase last week’s game from people’s minds, there will be doubts.

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