Purdue needs wins to extend season
If Purdue wants to extend its season beyond November, it's time to get things right.
The Boilermakers host Ohio State on Saturday knowing they need to win two of their final three games to become bowl-eligible. Players and coaches say they understand the situation, and the sense of urgency is strong.
''Our backs are against the wall right now,'' left tackle Dennis Kelly said. ''We can't afford to have any more breakdowns. We need to show up every Saturday knowing that we only have three games left in the season, and there's a lot of guys on this team that have three games left in their careers if we don't get to a bowl.''
For the players, it's not just about winning, it's about feeling better. They are embarrassed after losses of 36-14 at Michigan and 62-17 at Wisconsin.
''We talked about having pride within our program,'' Kelly said. ''Having a couple of losses like that in a row should sting a little bit. You put a lot of effort into understanding what we're playing for, who we're playing for, for the team, for Purdue, for the program.''
The Boilermakers (4-5, 2-3 Big Ten) are confident that they can get the necessary wins. After Ohio State (6-3, 3-2), the Boilermakers host Iowa and finish the regular season at Indiana.
''That's the challenge we've got to step up and take,'' defensive lineman Kawann Short said. ''We've got all the right keys and all the right people to do it, we've just got to stay focused and keep our composure and get these wins.''
The Boilermakers have been successful at home this season. They are 4-1 at Ross-Ade Stadium, including a win over then-No. 23 Illinois.
''Obviously we are disappointed in the way the last two games have gone, but we have to move on, and I think being back home in Ross-Ade is a difference maker for us right now,'' Purdue coach Danny Hope said. ''The timing is perfect.''
Purdue faces a much different Buckeyes team than the one that was struggling a month ago with several players suspended. Ohio State has won three straight on the strength of its running game and its defense. Running back Daniel Herron has rushed for 415 yards in three games since returning from suspension.
''Well, they have most of their players back now,'' Hope said. ''I think the beginning of the season, they probably were not that solid as a team. Some of their top guys were out. So the team that I'm seeing on the field the last couple of games, the one that just beat Wisconsin a couple of weeks ago looks like an awfully good football team to me.''
The biggest challenge for Purdue will be stopping that attack with a defense that allowed 364 yards rushing to Wisconsin.
''From a defensive line standpoint, we felt like we lost respect,''' Short said. ''Obviously, you're going to lose respect after what happened to us last week,'' he said. ''Now, we've just got to do what we've got to do to stop the run. It starts with the defensive line.''
Hope said he put things in perspective when he talked to the team after the loss to Wisconsin.
''The leaders amongst the team really have to step up, and that was more of my message in the locker room,'' he said. ''You know, the season has come to a critical time, crunch time in some ways, and if you want to be champions, you want to get a ring and you want have a special season, seniors and leaders, you have to really step up. It's their team and their season.''
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