Purdue optimistic about bowl chances
By Michael Osipoff 648-3137 or email@example.com November 13, 2012 11:14PM
Purdue kicker Paul Griggs (37) celebrates with teammates after kicking the game-winning 46-yard field goal against Iowa late as time expired in the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012, in Iowa City, Iowa. Purdue won 27-24. (AP Photo/The Gazette, Liz Martin)
The Big Number
490 —Purdue’s total yardage — balanced, with 279 passing and 211 rushing — at Iowa, its highest output in a Big Ten game this season (381 at Minnesota had been its previous best).
Offensive coordinator Gary Nord likely will miss his second straight game because of a back injury, though an outside chance remained he could return at Illinois. If he can’t, wide receivers coach Patrick Higgins, who served as OC under Nord at UTEP, again would call the plays for Purdue. Danny Hope said that last Thursday was the first time Nord had missed a practice in his 31-year coaching career.
Updated: December 15, 2012 6:29AM
The beyond-this-season prognosis for Purdue’s program likely hasn’t changed. But the Boilermakers’ win at Iowa has dramatically changed their rest-of-season prospects.
Before, with as poorly as they had been playing, it seemed highly improbable that they would be capable of stringing together the necessary three wins to gain bowl-eligibility.
Now, a second straight postseason appearance actually seems probable.
Granted, the Hawkeyes have been enduring their own struggles. But with that win — in a place Purdue had not won in 20 years — coupled with a seemingly manageable schedule, for Purdue not to make a bowl game could be considered a collapse, in a season that already has failed to meet expectations, regardless of what happens the rest of the way.
“Any time that you have a winning season and you get into postseason play and have a chance to win in postseason play, that’s a successful season,” Purdue coach Danny Hope said on Tuesday. “We have a lot of guys that put a hell of a lot of effort into this season. It’s been years working for this season, and they really worked hard. … So postseason play is a great reward for our football team, absolutely.”
Said East Chicago defensive tackle Kawann Short: “We expected this year to be a lot different than what we had in the past. But right now, we still can bring a little hope to this team as far as getting to a bowl game.
“It’s lighting our hair on fire right now and just trying to get these wins that we need, and everyone contributing and doing their job.”
On more than one occasion on Tuesday, quarterback Robert Marve referenced a “playoff system” for the Boilermakers.
“It was pretty passionate on the sidelines the whole time (against Iowa), understanding we can’t lose another game,” he said. “(A bowl is) a huge deal, and I feel like our team feels like that’s a huge deal. We still can have a successful season — not exactly the season we had in mind, but a season that at the end of the year that people can look back and be proud of how we bounced back.”
After defeating Iowa, the Boilermakers (4-6, 1-5 Big Ten), still have to beat Illinois (2-8, 0-6) on Saturday in Champaign, then close the regular season with a win against Indiana (4-6, 2-4) for the Old Oaken Bucket at Ross-Ade Stadium, to reach the requisite .500 mark.
Under first-year coach Tim Beckman, the Illini have lost seven straight games. They have lost 12 straight Big Ten games, the only team this season still without a conference win, after Purdue got off the schneid last week. Last season, Illinois won 41-20 at Indiana on Oct. 8 to improve to 6-0, climbing to No. 16 in the rankings, then lost its final six games of the regular season, including 21-14 to Purdue on Oct. 22 as the No. 23 team in the nation. The Boilermakers have won six of the last seven games in the series against the Illini.
“We jelled the way I hoped we could jell earlier in the season. We need to build that into Illinois, or Iowa doesn’t matter,” Marve said.
“Sometimes when you have your back against the wall, all you can do is swing. So maybe that was it, maybe it was learning from our last games and how we lost them, and maybe it was just a combination of everything going into it. Not a straight answer, but there’s a time when a team has to say we’re going to be good or we’re OK with losing. We’re turning it around.”
The Boilermakers’ win at Iowa reinvigorated them.
“We had a lot of fun, we had a blast,” Hope said. “It was an emotional win for our football team. … We let it all hang out, and played well in all three phases, and our guys were into it for the whole 60 minutes. Winning is living, and we got to live some on Saturday.”
Purdue apparently wasn’t as tight heading into its game against the Hawkeyes, and aims to continue that attitude and approach against the Illini.
“If we play with that type of energy and that type of emotion and that type of heart this weekend, we’ll be successful again,” Hope said.