WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – This isn't how it was supposed to be for Purdue and coach Danny Hope this season.
The Boilermakers, expected to challenge for a Rose Bowl berth this season, have started 0-4 in conference play and are in danger of missing out on postseason play.
Athletic director Morgan Burke released a statement Monday night saying he expected more from the Boilermakers this season, but the team's performance "has kept us from reaching our goals."
Hope said Tuesday that he didn't think the statement was a big deal, and that he was more concerned about Saturday's home game against Penn State.
"I read it, but didn't pay a whole lot of attention to it, or didn't try to read between the lines any," Hope said. "I think it's a pretty generic statement and pretty similar to the one that was posted out this time last year. Our focus is to prepare our football team for a game this Saturday. So I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to the statement."
The statement got some attention given recent circumstances.
Purdue was crushed in back-to-back home games to start the Big Ten season — 44-13 against Michigan and 38-14 against Wisconsin. The Boilermakers looked like they might be ready to turn the corner with a solid effort in a 29-22 overtime loss to Ohio State, but they fell behind 44-7 at Minnesota before losing 44-28 last week. Minnesota had been winless in Big Ten play and had mustered just 39 points in three Big Ten games combined.
"We played well against Ohio State," Hope said. "Played well enough to win against a top opponent, in a hostile environment. Thought we came away from that ballgame with a lot of confidence. We were disappointed in a loss. Bounced back and practiced probably as well these past two games as we have throughout any other time in the course of the season. Didn't perform as well this past Saturday."
Purdue rallied against Minnesota behind quarterback Robert Marve. The senior, who has torn his left ACL three times, completed 11 of 19 passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns against Minnesota, enough to earn the start Saturday over the struggling Caleb TerBush. Marve started the season-opening win against Eastern Kentucky, then split time with TerBush against Notre Dame. He tore his ACL for the third time against the Irish, and TerBush had been starting ever since.
Marve has worked back into the rotation since stepping in during the second half of the Michigan game and now is playing well enough and is healthy enough to take on a greater role. That, combined with TerBush's season-long struggles, made the move necessary.
"It was based on his performance in the ballgame, and the fact that we believe now he can play with his leg like it is," Hope said. "A month ago we were told that he probably wouldn't play football again. So even though he was saying all the right things and we were hoping that he could, the medical experts were telling us it was very doubtful."
Hope said the Boilermakers still can have a successful season.
"Obviously, you want to be aware to stop any negative momentum or any downward spiral," he said. "But you hope that you surrounded yourself with the right coaches and players that can do something besides just being ordinary when you're going through tough times.
"This is a time for extraordinary people, not ordinary people. I believe we have enough extraordinary people around us to still manufacture a good season. There is still a lot to be played for or to play for. There are four games left — a third of the season. We can still win seven regular season ball games."