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Purdue faces tough run test against Michigan State

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


AP Sports Writer

WEST LAFAYETTE -- Purdue coach Joe Tiller went old school to describe Michigan State's running back tandem of Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick.

"I think this is a good combination because it's Davis and Blanchard," Tiller said at Tuesday's weekly news conference. "You all know who Davis and Blanchard are, of course?"

Doc Blanchard, known as "Mr. Inside," won the Heisman Trophy for Army in 1945. Glenn Davis, dubbed "Mr. Outside," won the Heisman for Army in 1946. Though he called the comparison a bit of an exaggeration, Tiller's point was that Michigan State's backs are top-notch and will present Purdue with one of its most difficult challenges on Saturday.

Ringer, a 5-9, 200-pound junior, is "Mr. Outside." He has rushed for 1,212 yards and six touchdowns, and averages 6.4 yards per carry. He also has 31 catches for 269 yards.

He ran for 128 yards against Michigan last week, including a 72-yard run on the last play of the third quarter.

"Ringer is a talented back with good footspeed," Tiller said. "Just what he did against Michigan on Saturday tells you a lot about the guy."

Caulcrick, a 6-foot, 255-pound senior, is "Mr. Inside." He has rushed for 637 yards and a Big Ten-leading 18 touchdowns.

"He's basically going to run the ball between the tackles," Tiller said. "He's occasionally going to bounce outside, but he's a physical back. He's a punishing back."

The combination makes the Spartans difficult to prepare for.

"The advantage they have with two backs they can put on the field at any time is they can wear you down with one, and then the other one can beat you with speed," Tiller said.

Tiller hopes his defense is disciplined enough to stop the combo, which has helped Michigan State rank second in the Big Ten and 17th nationally in rushing.

"You can make the adjustment where you're kind of tentative and you don't want to overrun the play because of the speed, and then the power comes and runs you over," he said.

Caulcrick had 43 yards and a touchdown on nine carries in the fourth quarter against Michigan.

"That's the first time in a long, long time that I've seen Michigan defensive linemen bending over and not being able to catch their breath."

Tiller said part of Michigan State's success running the ball comes from good blocking. The Spartans' starting offensive line of Pete Clifford, Kenny Shane, John Masters, Roland Martin and Jesse Miller averages 313 pounds. Tiller said they wore Michigan down.

The matchup doesn't favor Purdue because the Boilermakers allow 142 rushing yards per game. Purdue surrendered 251 yards on the ground in last week's loss to Penn State.

Tiller, though impressed with Ringer and Caulcrick, didn't put them in the same category as Minnesota's Laurence Maroney and Marion Barber III. In 2004, Maroney and Barber became the first pair of teammates in NCAA Division I-A history to each run for more than 1,000 yards for two consecutive years. But Tiller said Ringer and Caulcrick present a unique challenge because of their diverse skills.

"They play well off of one another."

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