Danny Hope pushes a silver-lining message amidst football adversity. Yes, Purdue is down to its fourth-string quarterback directing the Big Ten's worst offense. It has been hammered in its last two games.
It doesn't matter. The second-year coach insists his 4-4 team is poised for a strong finish.
“We still feel good about our chances to win,” he said. “We're going to have to manufacture some offense. We're going to have to throw and catch a lot better. We can do that because we have a guy (freshman Sean Robinson) who is a good passer. He didn't get it done so well the other day.
“Our offensive line has been together now. They're pretty good at pass protection. We have the potential to throw and catch. That has to happen.”
On Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium it has to happen against No. 7 Wisconsin (7-1). The battered Boilers go in not sure who will be the quarterback. Rob Henry is still battling a finger injury that prevented him from throwing last week. Robinson was just 7-for-20 for 52 yards in last Saturday's loss at Illinois. Receiver Justin Siller is battling a foot injury and hasn't played quarterback in two years.
“There are reasons for things to be difficult,” Hope said. “All of a sudden you start falling behind on the depth chart, you have to get things realigned, you get out of sync, you get behind in some games. Things don't go your way.
“You can't allow those things to be excuses for us not expecting to win. It doesn't matter who we put out there. We'll get you in position to make plays.”
Wisconsin will try to overpower Purdue with running backs John Clay (887 yards, 13 touchdowns) and James White (570 yards, nine TDs). Can a Purdue defense that ranks seventh in the Big Ten against the run stop the Badgers?
“Stopping it and slowing it down enough to give ourselves a chance to be competitive are two different things,” Hope said. “Nobody has shut down their power running game.
“We've made some progress against the run. A year ago we were at the bottom of the league in run defense. We've made progress, but we'll have to do a lot of things right. They're going to make some plays. They'll make some hay. We're optimistic we can slow them down, but we won't stop them.”
Wisconsin is coming off a bye week that followed victories against Ohio State and Iowa. Iowa's win last Saturday over Michigan State created, in essence, a four-way tie for first with Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin.
“It puts us into a tying position in the Big Ten race,” Badgers coach Bret Bielema said, “but if we don't take care of our business this week, it's all for naught.
“This group probably gets that better than years past. The reason they're in this position is that they've taken it one week at a time.”
Bielema said the Badgers were emotionally drained after beating Iowa and that the bye gave them some much needed time off.
“The important thing was for us to stay fresh, to be clean. We gave them a couple days off and when we came back, you could just feel the energy. I was glad we could give them that time.”