Boilers rally around Marve, fight for bowl

Robert Marve never could have predicted his football career to play out the way it has. No one could.

Here's the synopsis: nationally decorated recruit, signs with Miami, breaks his arm in car accident before freshman year, redshirts the 2007 season, starts most of the 2008 season, clashes with coach Randy Shannon, transfers to Purdue, tears his ACL, sits out the 2009 season as per NCAA rules, starts at quarterback to open the 2010 season, tears his ACL again in Week 4, misses the rest of the season, backs up Caleb TerBush in 2011, receives sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA, starts the 2012 opener after TerBush is suspended, tears his ACL in Week 2 against Notre Dame, amazingly returns to the field four weeks later despite the ligament tear, claims the starting job four weeks later and leads Purdue to a 2-1 mark since.

Got all that?

"It's definitely been interesting," Marve told ESPN.com this week. "It's been a roller-coaster, but I wouldn't want to change it for anything. It's made me a better person. It's matured me and gotten me to a place on and off the field where I'm definitely happy with myself.

"It'd be a great ending to go to the bowl game and get that W."

Marve and his Purdue teammates must beat rival Indiana on Saturday in the Bucket game at Ross-Ade Stadium to reach the 6-win mark and head to a bowl for the second straight season. It isn't the situation they envisioned back in August, when many saw the Boilers as a potential sleeper team in the wide-open Leaders division, and coach Danny Hope touted the squad as his best at Purdue.

A five-game losing streak to start Big Ten play -- including four losses by 16 points or more -- derailed the Boilers, but they've rebounded a bit with consecutive wins. Although Purdue lacks a signature victory, no team tested the nation's two unbeatens -- No. 1 Notre Dame and Ohio State -- more than the Boilers, who fell 20-17 in South Bend and were a play away from beating the Buckeyes in Columbus before losing in overtime.

An odd season, to say the least.

"It wasn't exactly what we had in mind," Marve said.

"There was some real rough sledding in the middle of the season at a focal point in time in our season," Hope said. "But hats off to our players for being resilient."

No Purdue player has shown more resiliency than Marve. Out of eligibility beyond this season, he vowed to return following his latest ACL tear. Hope had his doubts but Marve made steady progress in practice.

He has completed 72.9 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and no interceptions in his last two games.

"Everyone is rallying around Robert," Hope said. "He's inspirational to us all, coaches and players alike. I really admire him playing the game at the level he's playing at with the injury that he has. Very unusual … to see a guy playing Big Ten football at the quarterback position with a torn ACL."

Other Purdue players have elevated their play after the disappointing start to the Big Ten campaign. Senior cornerback Josh Johnson ranks second in the Big Ten and in the top 10 nationally in passes defended with 17.

Johnson has five pass breakups and two forced fumbles in Purdue's last two games. He has multiple passes defended in five games this season and has three forced fumbles, three interceptions and a fumble recovery, including a pick-six against Marshall.

"My whole concept of every series is get a turnover or make a big play," Johnson told ESPN.com. "Right now, it's been working very well for me."

Johnson notes that Purdue found itself in the same situation a year ago, needing to beat Indiana to reach 6-6 and secure a bowl spot. The Boilers got it done and then won the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl against Western Michigan.

"We know what it takes," Johnson said.

Another subplot Saturday is whether a win saves Hope's job. The fourth-year coach has been under fire this season, and many fans are voicing their opinion by not showing up for games.

Purdue has lost its three Big Ten home games by an average of 26.7 points. Hope wants more time to get his master plan in place, but whether he gets another year remains to be seen.

"We love Coach Hope," Johnson said. "We're doing whatever it takes to have him stay here."