WEST LAFAYETTE – Purdue has a chance to salvage something out of its season.
It’s unclear whether its coach, Danny Hope, can do the same for his job.
Purdue (5-6, 2-5 Big Ten) needs a win Saturday against Indiana to have a chance at postseason play. Scraping for a bowl bid wasn’t what the team or its fans had in mind heading into the season. The Boilermakers were one of the favorites in the Legends Division, but they lost their first five conference games.
The fan base has alternated between anger and apathy, with attendance hovering between 40,000 and 47,000 at home games. Still, earning a postseason spot by beating the rival Hoosiers (4-7, 2-5) on senior day would be memorable.
We recognize we didn’t play as well at a focal point in the season and a lot of fans gave up on our football team, Hope said Tuesday during his weekly news conference. We understand that, and our play was a factor in that, along with other things, as well. But our football team hasn’t given up.
A loss would be devastating against coach Kevin Wilson’s improving program. The Hoosiers have gained credibility by playing tough against some of the better teams in the conference, and a win at Purdue would signal a power shift in the state.
The Boilermakers talked big in the preseason, and they appeared to have the talent and experience to back it up. A 3-1 start that included a three-point loss to Notre Dame energized the fans a bit because they knew Ohio State and Penn State were ineligible for the Leaders Division title.
Things went bad after nonconference play. After the loss to Minnesota in which Purdue fell behind the last-place Gophers 44-7, athletic director Morgan Burke put out a statement saying he expected more from the Boilermakers this season, but the team’s performance has kept us from reaching our goals.
Hope won’t apologize for fueling the expectations.
We set our goals high, and we shot for the stars and we didn’t hit them, Hope said. I think that let some of the wind out of our sails, and we had to rebound from that.
The Boilermakers have rallied, albeit against lesser competition, and now they at least have a chance to extend their season.
We’ve fought hard and came back and we’ve played well and we’ve won, and we’ve gotten ourselves in position to have a winning season and to get into postseason play and maybe play in a pretty good bowl game, Hope said. This is a great opportunity this weekend for our great fans and all the other fans that can get back on board and make a difference, show up this weekend in Ross-Ade because it’s a huge game this weekend against IU.