IOWA CITY (MCT) — The Purdue football team’s final three games have come down to the same thing Iowa’s season has — win or it is going to be a long off season.
The Boilermakers come to Kinnick Stadium winless in the Big Ten at 0-5. They are 3-6 overall.
The record and last-place mark in the Leaders Division are shocking after high expectations in West Lafayette to start the year. With Penn State and Ohio State ineligible for the conference championship, Purdue was expected to be the only challenge to Wisconsin for the division title. Instead, the Boilermakers sit with Illinois at the bottom of the division and Indiana is the only team who can catch the Badgers for the berth in the championship game.
“I think at times we’re pressed to win,” said Purdue coach Danny Hope. “We are. We are pressed to win. We’re hungry to win, and the expectations are high, and sometimes you can be too pressed to win.
“The pressure of wanting to win and wanting to exceed and wanting to meet our expectation levels. But again, I don’t apologize for trying to be the best. I think it would be beneath us if we did.”
The Boilermakers got off to a 3-1 start, losing only their second game of the season to Notre Dame. The Irish escaped with a 20-17 win and are now ranked fourth in the country.
But then conference play began.
Purdue was blown out by Michigan and Wisconsin at home before going on the road and taking No. 5 Ohio State to overtime. The Buckeyes pulled out a 29-22 victory after rallying late in the fourth quarter to send the game to the extra period.
“They came out and got off to a great start,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said of Purdue. “Just played very aggressively. Played with confidence, and didn’t make errors that keep you from winning.”
“We played Notre Dame right to the wire and then we get into a huge game against Michigan, and even though the score was lopsided, we really weren’t as far away from making the plays or making it a ballgame. But you lose and you lose ugly and then the fans turn on you in some ways and then doubt creeps in it a little bit and maybe a guy doesn’t play as well and then a few guys get injured and pretty soon you’re not as good as you were.”
The Boilermakers followed the strong showing against Ohio State with a 44-28 loss to Minnesota, the Gophers’ first and so far, only, Big Ten victory.
Then came a 34-9 loss at home against Penn State.
With just three games left, the Boilermakers are scrambling to save their season, something the Hawkeyes are trying to do as well.
Iowa has dropped three straight games, including their 24-21 loss at Indiana last week that kept the Hoosiers in the Leaders’ title chase. With a trip to Michigan and a home tilt against Nebraska left, the Hawkeyes need a big game against the struggling Boilermakers.
“We believe in them. We’re going to coach them hard and coach them good and get them ready to play the ballgame, and we believe in them, and there’s still everything in the world to play for,” Hope said
“It’s a team that could emerge,” Ferentz said. “We played these guys last year. That was a tough game, a hard-fought game. They got most of the same guys back. All that other stuff is irrelevant.
“But the starting point and most of my focus is on what we can do and get better and play better Saturday. That is our goal, to win this game Saturday.”