Purdue's Elliott expects run game to rebound
September, 21, 2009
By Adam Rittenberg | ESPN.com
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Most Purdue quarterbacks would break into a big smile at the sight of eight or nine defenders filling the box.
Teams that load up to stop the run against a program famous for flinging the ball around the field usually pay a steep price.
But Boilers senior quarterback Joey Elliott sees the bigger picture.
"It doesn’t matter how many people they put in the box, you still have to be able to run the ball," Elliott said Sunday afternoon. "We have to have a running force, and we'll continue to run the ball."
Purdue struggled to do so in Saturday's home loss to Northern Illinois, which stacked the box against Boilers sophomore running back Ralph Bolden, who entered the game as the nation's leading rusher. The Huskies' strategy paid off as Bolden went nowhere in a 28-21 NIU victory.
Bolden racked up only 64 rushing yards on 12 carries. Elliott, not known for his speed, actually finished as Purdue's leading rusher with 68 yards and two scoring runs, including a 58-yarder late in the third quarter.
Notre Dame figures to employ a similar strategy against the Boilers on Saturday night at Ross-Ade Stadium (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET). The Fighting Irish haven't been particularly good at stopping the run or the pass so far, but they'll likely try to take away Purdue's biggest weapon, Bolden.
Purdue could counter by returning to its "basketball on grass" roots, but Elliott doesn't want to abandon the ground game.
"You watch Wisconsin, you watch smashmouth football teams in the Big Ten, they run the ball consistently," Elliott said. "It doesn’t matter how many guys in the box they have, you have to be able to run the ball downhill."
Elliott shouldered the blame for much of the NIU loss, pointing to several drives he couldn't complete with big throws. Notre Dame's offense will be shorthanded without Michael Floyd, but the Irish have put up more than 30 points in all three of their games.
The Purdue attack needs to get back to what it did the first two weeks to keep pace with the Irish.
"Any time you have a Big Ten team versus Notre Dame with big-name guys, you’ve got to put points on the board," Elliott said. "If it comes down to a shootout, it comes down to a shootout. But we have a lot of firepower here and we’re ready to go.”