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Orton coming into his own in Purdue offense

Chris Federico | Friday, September 26, 2003

The days of Drew Brees and 400-yard passing games are no more at Purdue.

But the Boilermakers believe they have a fine heir to their career-passing leader in junior Kyle Orton.

As a freshman, Orton won the starting job from Brandon Hance, who transferred from Purdue following the season, after many in the Boilermaker program became displeased with the play of the elder Hance, who took over the reins from Brees.

Last season, Orton himself struggled at times with the starting role, battling then-freshman Brandon Kirsh for the starting role. Orton played in all 13 games and started nine, but appeared to lose the job to Kirsh for good after a three-interception performance in a 10-6 loss to eventual national champion Ohio State.

But the gritty Orton reclaimed the starter’s role the next weekend, coming off the bench in the Michigan State game and throwing one pass – a game-winning 40-yard touchdown with 3:18 remaining. The next week, Orton went 22-for-28 against in-state rival Indiana.

Against Washington in the Sun Bowl, Orton made a statement to be the starter in 2003 with one of his best performances, going 25-for-37 for 283 with two touchdowns and no interceptions. The career day was a sweet ending for Orton, who was named Sun Bowl Most Valuable Player for his efforts.

This season, Orton has finally started to come into his own with the Boilermakers. After three games, he has a pass efficiency rating of 142.9, completing 64 percent of his passes and throwing seven touchdowns with only one interception.

Orton has the help of having one of the best wide receiver tandems in the country to throw to in senior John Standeford and junior Taylor Stubblefield. The two provide a formidable pair of weapons for opposing defenses, as they compliment each other well, with one being a sure possession receiver and the other a deep threat.

“It is no secret that Stubblefield is the kind of guy you throw to when you need a first down and Standeford is the guy you throw to when you need a touchdown,” Tiller said. “John has the ability to get open deep, whereas Taylor has been a real sure-handed receiver for us and has made many clutch catches on third down.”

After three games, Stubblefield has 26 receptions for 230 yards and Standeford has 14 catches for 260 yards, displaying his deep play potential last week against Arizona with an 81-yard touchdown catch. The two also have a pair of touchdowns each on the season.

“Offensively, I think their quarterback and two-receiver combination is probably as good as you’ll find around,” Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham said.

With Orton comfortable at the helm of the Purdue offense, the Boilermakers are 2-1 this season. After a 59-7 drubbing of Arizona last week, the Boilermakers will be looking to stay hot as they host the Irish Saturday at Ross-Aide Stadium.

Orton, who played in Purdue’s last two matchups against the Irish, feels the experience he has had in big games over the years has prepared him well for the Irish heading into the weekend.

“Going into it this year, I’ve seen their defense twice,” Orton said. “I’ve seen Michigan. I’ve seen Ohio State. I’ve seen some pretty good defenses in my day. Obviously we’re going to have to play well, but it’s not like I’m overwhelmed by their speed or by how physical they are.”