Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Curtis Painter has started 35 consecutive games -- tied for the national lead among active FBS quarterbacks -- and will move up in the Purdue and Big Ten record books every time he steps on the field this fall.
But he's not immune from being benched, as he almost found out last week. After Purdue endured four consecutive scoreless drives and remained tied 17-17 with Central Michigan early in the fourth quarter, head coach Joe Tiller approached his fifth-year senior quarterback.
"We thought Curtis was underperforming," Tiller told reporters on Sunday. "We actually told him -- I don't like surprising guys, particularly if they're veteran players -- that we'd go with him one more series and that's it. We need some productivity."
Was Painter caught off guard?
"It was certainly a real need to play better at that point," said Painter, who has thrown all 114 of Purdue's passes this season. "You've always got to be on your toes and always got to be sharp, because if you're not being effective, they'll get somebody else in there that can play."
Painter bounced back nicely on Purdue's next possession, finding junior college transfer Aaron Valentin for a 57-yard gain that set up a 2-yard scoring strike to Desmond Tardy. The quarterback went 4-for-4 passing on the 78-yard drive.
After Central Michigan took a 25-24 lead with 1:18 left, Purdue answered as running back Kory Sheets scored from 45 yards out. Painter added the critical 2-point conversion by finding Greg Orton, and Purdue prevailed 32-25.
"It was real key for me to go in and execute the offense and get things going," Painter said. "That's really the approach I took. Some of those sudden changes where we really needed to respond, we did."
The strong finish boosts Purdue heading into Saturday's game at Notre Dame. In his last trip to South Bend, Painter racked up 422 yards of total offense in a 35-21 loss to the Irish.
Painter's top three targets from the last Notre Dame game -- Dorien Bryant, Dustin Keller, Selwyn Lymon -- are no longer with the team, but he's gradually getting comfortable with a new crop of receivers.
"You work out with them all summer and in the spring and during camp, but it's always a step faster during a game," Painter said. "That little bit of experience these last few games has really helped us out a lot. Each day, we continue to grow with each other."