WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — When Purdue wide receivers coach Gerad Parker was promoted to interim head coach on Oct. 16, replacing fired Darrell Hazell, Parker promised more energy and faster starts.
True to his word, Parker has the Boilermakers (3-6, 1-5 Big Ten) playing solid first halves heading into Saturday’s home game against Northwestern (4-5, 3-3).
Purdue led No. 21 Nebraska 14-10 at halftime, was tied with No. 12 Penn State 17-17 through 30 minutes and led Minnesota 28-23 after two quarters.
But second halves have been nightmares under Parker, with the Cornhuskers (7-2), Nittany Lions (7-2) and Golden Gophers (7-2) outscoring the Boilermakers by a collective 83-10, each rallying to defeat Purdue.
While turnovers have been a second-half issue, Parker says there’s more to it than that. At minus 14 (23-9), the Boilermakers rank 126th among the 128 FBS teams in turnover margin.
"Some things are common," Parker said Tuesday in reference to Purdue’s second-half woes. "The things you all see we see. No. 1 is turnovers. Also, your running game always is going to be a factor in the second half.
"Depth is going to be a factor in the second half. And I will never use this as an excuse, but these three most recent teams have only six combined losses. They are good football teams. Welcome to being a head coach. We also have not reacted well to sudden changes on defense."
Sophomore quarterback David Blough, who leads the Big Ten in passing yards per game (304.1) and in total offense (303.7), shoulders part of the blame because he has been intercepted 13 times and opponents have recorded 18 sacks.
Blough was intercepted on the second half’s first series in the 44-31 loss at Minnesota, setting up a Golden Gopher touchdown. He threw four first-half touchdown passes in Minneapolis, but the Boilermakers were outscored 21-3 during the final 30 minutes last Saturday.
"They were the same plays we made in the first half against the same coverages," Blough said. "The turnover to start the third quarter was the same play DeAngelo Yancey took to the house in the first half. My throw was a little bit behind, and (the Minnesota defender) made a good play.
"I have to protect the ball when things go bad. It’s frustrating. Minnesota gave us every single coverage in America in the second half, and they kept throwing wrenches in it. We have to battle and make our bad plays gains of 2 and 3 yards instead of minus 2 yards or turnovers."
It does not help Blough that Purdue ranks 125th nationally in rushing offense (101.2 yards a game) and is 121st in rushing defense (248.3).
The Boilermakers enter the Northwestern game 0-14 in November games since the 2012 season and are 3-27 in Big Ten competition beginning with the 2013 season.
NOTES: Parker said that when athletic director Mike Bobinski hires the next head coach, he hopes to remain on the staff. "My family loves it here, and I’ve loved working here," said Parker, who came to Purdue with Hazell for the 2013 season. "All those are reasons to obviously want to move forward here if something happens." … After missing three consecutive games with a concussion, standout DT Jake Replogle played the first half at Minnesota but did not play after halftime. Parker said Tuesday that while he hopes Replogle plays against Northwestern, the lineman remains day to day.