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November 14, 2010

'An awesome player'

Ryan Kerrigan's about as humble as they come.

So his four-sack, 10-tackle, two-forced fumble performance didn't exactly faze him, and certainly didn't have him jumping for joy, especially considering it came in a 27-16 loss to Michigan.

"It was a team thing," Kerrigan said. "We had excellent coverage in the secondary by the DBs and linebackers - a couple of them were basically coverage sacks - and they allowed me to get back there."

That's a good Clark Kent-type answer, appropriate for the player they call "Superman." But the defensive end certainly looked super human on the field Saturday, terrorizing the Wolverines' backfield and keeping the Boilermakers in the game, almost by himself.

Kerrigan's four sacks tied Purdue's single-game record, and his two forced fumbles gave him 14 in his career, the most for a Big Ten player and tied for the most in the NCAA all-time. The senior is now third in Purdue annals in career sacks, with 32.5, and his five tackles for loss move him to fifth all-time, with 54.5.

"He's an awesome player and awesome person," quarterback Sean Robinson.

Kerrigan's done a ton of damage to Michigan over the years, having accumulated an almost unheard of nine sacks against the Wolverines in the last three seasons. He says, though, that he's got no extra motivation to succeed vs. UM.

"I just treat them like any other game," he said. "I try to go out there and try to do your job, try to get to the quarterback and make as many plays as you can."

Kerrigan did so often vs. Michigan. His recovered fumble - yes, he did that too - toward the end of the second quarter gave Purdue an opportunity to pull within one, 14-13, at the end of the half.

Three of Kerrigan's four sacks came on third down, as did both forced fumbles, which ended drives for the Wolverines.

"He just plays his heart out every snap," Coach Danny Hope said. "Every day, NFL scouts come to practice and they watch him and like him, and then they watch film on him all day long. And after they watch the whole season, they like him even more because they realize he's got a great motor, a relentless effort, a very unselfish player. He plays for the team first, plays inspired football. He certainly deserves all the accolades and attention he's getting right now. He's definitely one of the best defensive players in the country."

Kerrigan is putting up numbers that warrant All-America consideration. The Muncie, Ind., native now ranks No. 1 in the country in tackles for loss, averaging 2.35 per game, and is second in sacks. His five forced fumbles also rank second in the country.

Kerrigan is a finalist for the Lott IMPACT Trophy, which honors a defensive Player-of-the-Year, and is a finalist for the Bednarik Award for best defensive player.

His performance against Michigan certainly won't hurt his chances at either award. Three times, he was able to bring down the elusive Denard Robinson and once his QB victim was backup Tate Forcier.

With Robinson, perhaps the best dual-threat quarterback in the country, Kerrigan says he had to be wary of over-pursuing and slowed up at times to try to keep him in the pocket. Still, he was able to chose he times to pursue wisely.

After the game, he was asked what the performance, and particularly the forced fumbles record, meant to him.

"Well, right now it doesn't mean a whole lot, because it's a tough loss," he said. "We fought so hard today, like we have the last couple weeks and just came up short. It's nice, but not something I'm thinking about."




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