Boilermakers eager for season's second half
By JEFF WASHBURN
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) Unless Iowa suddenly gets hot, Purdue likely won't face another Top 25 team during the final six games of the regular season.
The Boilermakers (3-3, 1-2 Big Ten) play at Rutgers (2-4), host Nebraska (3-4) and Illinois (2-4), travel to Iowa (4-2) and Northwestern (3-3) and close the regular season at home against Indiana (3-3).
During the first half of the season, Purdue lost to Louisville, Michigan and Wisconsin, the latter two ranking first and third, respectively, in Big Ten Conference total defense.
The remaining schedule appears easier on paper, but it doesn't mean coach Jeff Brohm is lowering his expectations for a team that was 3-9 last season and 9-39 during the past four.
"I do like the way we have competed against some very good football teams," Brohm said Monday. "It's encouraging that we had chances in each one of those games to win. Those are things you can build on. But we're really not looking beyond that. We've got another opponent (Rutgers). The one game we won in the Big Ten - Minnesota - we had to win in dramatic fashion. I really anticipate probably every game the rest of the way out being very similar. We have to find a way to win, get better and compete. This week will be a true test for us."
Purdue linebacker Danny Ezechukwu understands how talented the three opponents to beat Purdue are.
"We've been hit in the mouth this season," Ezechukwu said. "Saturday at Wisconsin wasn't the first time we've been hit in the mouth."
Purdue lost only 17-9 in Madison on Saturday and had a chance to pull even in the fourth quarter until Leon Jacobs stepped in front of wide receiver Jackson Anthrop at the Wisconsin 7-yard line and intercepted Elijah Sindelar's pass. Sindelar played all but one series and finished 13 of 29 for 155 yards and the lone interception.
"They gave us ample opportunities to make something happen, but we have to do a better job of capitalizing," Sindelar said. "It helped us to settle in a little bit with me being out on the field with the guys. It helped us get some chemistry, and we started to get some drives. When we got close to the red zone, we stalled. We can't have that as an offense."
Purdue's defense has allowed only three total second-half points in three of its past four games - Minnesota scored those three points, and neither Missouri nor Wisconsin scored during the final 30 minutes - while Michigan scored 21 second-half points in its 28-10 victory.
Cornerback Da'Wan Hunte said that for Purdue to have a winning record during the final six games, the defense must play 60 minutes. Hunte missed a first-half tackle on Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor, who ran 67 yards for a crucial touchdown.
"When the defense needed me, I didn't come through Saturday," Hunte said. "Their long touchdown, that is on me. I've got to clean it up."
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Updated October 16, 2017