WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — For Purdue seniors Frankie Williams and Danny Anthrop, it’s time to dump the moral victories in exchange for a real one.
That opportunity will come Saturday, when the Boilermakers (1-4, 0-1 Big Ten) play Minnesota (3-2, 0-1) in Ross-Ade Stadium, where third-year Purdue coach Darrell Hazell is 0-8 in Big Ten games.
While the Boilermakers have beaten only Indiana State, they were in a position to win during the final two minutes against Marshall, Bowling Green and then this past Saturday at No. 4 Michigan State, which hung on for a 24-21 victory.
While the Golden Gophers had won three in a row until this past Saturday’s loss at Northwestern, they have scored only 37 total points in their 12 most recent quarters and rank last in the Big Ten in scoring at 15.4 points a game and last in rushing offense at 141.2 yards a game.
Purdue is seeking its first conference home victory since beating Indiana 56-35 on Nov. 24, 2012. Overall, the Boilermakers are 1-16 — a victory last season at Illinois — in Hazell’s first 17 Big Ten games.
Veteran defensive back Williams said Purdue is ready to take the next step.
“The time definitely is now,” Williams said Tuesday. “I wouldn’t even say this is a potential (victory) week. I will say this is the week. It has been a long time since any of us has won a Big Ten home game. That can start if when our offense turns the ball over, we bow our backs and not allow any points.”
Wide receiver Anthrop, who grew up only several miles from the Purdue campus and who has been attending Purdue football games since elementary school, senses this team is on the brink of winning.
“This weekend is going to be big for us,” Anthrop said. “It’s going to be huge for us. We have had a lot of close games, especially this last one at Michigan State. We learned a lot from that, although you never want to have moral victories.
“But what we showed in the second half at Michigan State is going to be huge for us to build on the momentum from that.”
Hazell doesn’t want to make too much of a single game, but understands the significance, especially to a fan base that is unhappy with his 5-24, three-season record.
“All games are important, to be honest with you, none more than others,” Hazell said. “But we’re striving hard to win those (home) games. Every single game’s important in this profession. Absolutely you want your home field to be an advantage, and we will keep talking about that — protecting your home territory.”
Here are other things to watch this weekend:
NO DATE SWITCH: Because this weekend is fall break at Purdue — most students, faculty and staff will be away from campus — athletic director Morgan Burke asked Minnesota to move this game to Oct. 24, a bye week for both teams. However, the Gophers refused.
Beginning in 2018, the Big Ten will take Purdue’s early October break into consideration when scheduling, but the 2017 Minnesota at Purdue game (Oct. 7) also will be played during the Boilermakers’ fall break.
“Morgan has made many attempts to get it changed, but unfortunately we’re going to have to talk to our players about that,” Hazell said. “You have to get yourself ready to go regardless of how many people are in the stadium. That is the reality.”
MORE TROUBLE: Purdue freshman linebacker Wyatt Cook (minor consumption) and freshman defensive end Chazmyn Turner (possession of marijuana) were arrested this past weekend and have been suspended for two games.
Three weeks ago, freshmen defensive backs Evyn Cooper and David Rose were arrested for attempting to steal bikes on campus and were suspended for two games.
“Obviously, you’re not very happy when you get that phone call,” Hazell said. “It’s a two-fold deal. It’s got to be a discipline that you instill in these guys, but also an education. At some point, they can become a distraction.”
WHO IS NO. 2?: Backup quarterback Austin Appleby, the junior who started the first three games before being replaced by redshirt freshman David Blough, has a deep thigh bruise and is questionable for the Minnesota game.
If Blough is injured, Hazell may have to turn to freshman Elijah Sindelar, who at this point is being redshirted, or walk freshman Aaron Banks, or converted quarterback and now junior wide receiver Bilal Marshall.
GOPHER QB QUESTION: Starter Mitch Leidner was benched in the fourth quarter of the 27-0 loss at Northwestern in favor of freshman Demry Croft, but while coach Jerry Kill isn’t saying for sure, it would appear Leidner will start at Purdue with Croft playing several series.
Minnesota is 126th in FBS scoring at only 15.4 points. The Gophers have scored only eight total touchdowns in five games.
SECONDARY WOES: Minnesota likely will be without two starting defensive backs. Cornerback Brien Boddy-Calhoun (knee) probably will miss a second consecutive game, and safety Damarius Travis (hamstring) will miss his fifth consecutive game.
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