Finally, a good week for Purdue coach Danny Hope

By CLIFF BRUNT
ISL Editor

Breathe, Danny Hope. The perfect storm is over.

The Boilermakers finally won their first Big Ten game of the season with a 27-24 win over Iowa on Saturday. Then, all the talk about Indiana possibly going to the Big Ten title game was washed away with Wisconsin’s 62-14 win in Bloomington on Saturday.

There’s irony in where the teams now stand. Before the season, Purdue was the big dog and Indiana was the afterthought. Midway through the season, IU was the hot commodity and Purdue was on the ropes.

Cliff Brunt, ISL Editor

Now their situations are oddly similar.

Both are in must-win situations if they want to go bowling. Purdue plays at Illinois on Saturday, which should be a win. Indiana plays at Penn State on Saturday, which will be a challenge. Of course, IU and Purdue play each other to close the season in West Lafayette.

No matter what happens from this point on, Purdue will have fallen short of expectations and Indiana will have exceeded them. Still, Hope said on Tuesday that the Boilermakers still can have a successful season if they win out.

“Anytime that you have a winning season and you get in the postseason play and have a chance to win in postseason play, that’s a successful season,” he said. “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 in the offseason to get themselves ready for this season, this opportunity. So postseason play is a great reward for our football team, absolutely.”

As it turns out, Purdue is a better team with Robert Marve at quarterback. He hit 25 of 33 passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions against Iowa.

Hope said he had no regrets in not replacing Caleb TerBush with Marve sooner.

“We always thought he was a heck of a player,” Hope said of Marve. “That’s why we were committed to playing two quarterbacks. We wanted to get Robert ready and get him on the field and see if he could make a difference and an impact to our football team. As he got healthier and got more reps and played his position better, he certainly can, and he certainly is.”

Ralph Bolden ran for 102 yards against the Hawkeyes, his first truly big game of the year. With Marve and Bolden getting healthier, Purdue is a much better team than it was just a few weeks ago. The offensive line played better on Saturday. If the line protects Marve, the Boilermakers will be able to get the ball to their assortment of fast weapons and Purdue becomes a much better team. Hope said on Tuesday that the offensive line was talented but inexperienced, and now the experience is catching up.

Meanwhile, Indiana is trying to recover from being blown out for the first time this year. The Hoosiers’ previous losses were by two points to Ball State (that loss doesn’t look so bad anymore), 15 to Northwestern, four to Michigan State, three to Ohio State and one to Navy.

To his credit, there seemed to be no panic in IU coach Kevin Wilson’s voice. He felt it was just a matter of executing better. You could laugh, but the Indiana camp said the same thing after the Hoosiers gave up more than 700 yards against Northwestern and they bounced back and got better.

Indiana offensive coordinator Kevin Johns said the offense was off by an inch here or there.

I do think we pressed a little bit, Johns said. I think as a quarterback, you can squeeze it a little too tight, want it a little too bad, receivers just one-arming. It’s just a little bit of a young team that probabaly didn’t play their best when we needed them to play their best.

Wilson said a win at Penn State would be a big boost and a necessary step if the program is going to grow.

If you’re going to be a winning program, you’ve got to learn to win on the road and if you’re going to win in the Big Ten, you’ve got to learn to win in challenging road environments, big crowds that are loud, he said.

Wilson said he looks forward to seeing how his team plays on Saturday with so much at stake.

Would love to see these men come back and respond to our standard, Wilson said. They’ve set the standard. Well, we’ve set it, they’ve embraced it. Would love to see these guys come back and have the week we need to have. If we’re going to improve, this is the week to see what we’ve got.

It will be interesting to see how the two teams respond to their change in fortunes. I asked Hope last week what the team needed to turn things around and he said it needed to break through and have some success to build on. Now that the breakthrough has happened, we’ll see if the Boilermakers are awake now and ready to live up to their potential, even if just for a few games.

IU’s Wilson said his team needs to find out if it is the one that has been competitive all season or the one that got blown out last week.

Would love to see these men come back and respond to our standard, Wilson said. They’ve set the standard. Well, we’ve set it, they’ve embraced it. Would love to see these guys come back and have the week we need to have. If we’re going to improve, this is the week to see what we’ve got.

The plot for the Bucket Game isn’t quite what it would have been had IU won last week, but it still could be very interesting. If both teams win on Saturday, they will play for a bowl bid the next week. Two wins for Wilson would be huge for a program that is clearly on the rise. Hope can’t afford to lose either of the final two regular-season games, and winning both still might not save him.

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cliffbrunt_isl

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