Boilermakers lacking that winning football formula

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 26, 2012 - 7:07 AM

 Strong efforts against Ohio State and Notre Dame ended in defeat.

When a coach calls his team's third consecutive loss "momentum," you know there's trouble -- right there in West Lafayette.

And that starts with T, and that rhymes with D and that stands for ... Danny Hope?

With Purdue reeling from an 0-3 start in Big Ten play -- in a season that started with dreams of the Rose Bowl -- the Purdue coach's seat is only getting hotter. As the team heads to Minnesota for Saturday's game against the Gophers, Hope is looking less popular than the "Music Man" did when all his promises went sour.

After starting off the Big Ten slate by getting crushed by Michigan and Wisconsin, the Boilermakers gave away a near-win at Ohio State that could have helped ease the program back on the right path and calmed a fan base growing impatient with Hope.

"I think we gained some pride from this past Saturday, and definitely some momentum as a football team," Hope said.

But for a team that was supposed to be greatly improved from last year's version and went 3-1 in nonconference play -- nearly upsetting unbeaten Notre Dame in its only loss -- those words tend to ring hollow. Remember, Purdue went to bowl games in eight consecutive seasons from 1997 to 2004, including a Rose Bowl.

The Buckeyes game represented what should have been a much-needed victory for the Boilermakers, who were leading 22-14 with 47 seconds left and Ohio State's backup quarterback in the game. But Kenny Guiton, who took over for injured star Braxton Miller, marched the Buckeyes down the field and produced first a touchdown, then a two-point conversion to tie the score in the closing seconds before winning 29-22 in overtime.

"They've got to be really down in the dumps after the ballgame because they went toe-to-toe with Ohio State," said Gophers coach Jerry Kill, whose team also started 0-3 in Big Ten play. "I know they feel like they should have won the game because they played tremendously against Ohio State and did the same thing against Notre Dame."

Playing tremendously, however, is not getting it done. Purdue went to its first bowl (albeit the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl) in Hope's three full seasons last year and looked to be building. With Ohio State and Penn State ineligible for a conference title game because of NCAA and Big Ten sanctions, and fellow Leaders Division foes Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois showing flaws early, the Boilermakers had thoughts of the program's third trip to Pasadena.

Instead, a 3-1 start -- Purdue's best since 2007 -- has crumbled into a 3-4 crash and a firestorm of questions for Hope, whose potential exit is the subject of a Facebook page labeled "Fire Danny Hope."

The defense has given up 111 points in the past three games. The running game has struggled to produce. The quarterback position remain unstable. The Boilermakers have shown sparks and flashes at times but so far have lacked the consistency they need to compete in the league, even in a down year.

"We've shown we can compete with top-10, premier teams in the country in Notre Dame and Ohio State," senior tight end Crosby Wright said after Saturday's loss. "But obviously at the same time, it hurts to not get the win. ... You don't play to get pride, you play to get wins."

  • GOPHERS VS. PURDUE

    2:30 p.m. Saturday • TCF Bank Stadium • TV: BTN (100.3-FM, 1130-AM)

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