It’s been a tale of two halves for Purdue the last two weeks. During the first, the Boilermakers felt euphoric. After the second, they were left wondering what hit them.
Purdue led then No. 8 Nebraska, 14-10, at halftime two weeks ago only to drop a 27-14 decision. Last week, they were tied with then No. 24 Penn State, 17-17, at the break before crumbling in a 62-24 loss.
Interim head coach Gerad Parker has invoked some more life into a downtrodden program. But in the end, the losses kept coming.
The Boilermakers (3-5 overall, 1-4 Big Ten) head to Minnesota (6-2, 3-2) Saturday (3:30 p.m. CT, BTN). The Gophers are riding a three-game winning streak. The visitors will need two good halves of football to pull off the upset.
“The first thing you do is you try to allow bad things not to happen,” Parker told reporters in West Lafayette this week. “I think everybody says deal with it. We need to not have as many bad things happen you won’t have to deal with as many.
“The other thing is is we have to create a heightened sense of focus during those bad moments. So I think those are the two things we’ll continue to harp at our guys about and push forward on.”
Parker said his team needs to build off its strong first halves. Limiting turnovers and penalties would aid that cause.
“Six of our eight quarters we’ve played (with Parker serving as head coach) have been pretty sound quarters, but what we did in the third quarter and at the end of the fourth certainly are not something we want to be proud of,” he said.
While the Boilermakers are building for the future, Minnesota is trying to better its bowl outlook and win the Big Ten West Division.
“Coach (Tracy) Claeys has got those guys playing well. Another good football team. They do a great job with their schemes there, doing some things well with their run game and playing very physical, playing the same culture of football they’ve played for years,” Parker said.
The Gophers feature two of the league’s best running backs. Rodney Smith ranks third among conference rushers at 100.1 yards per game while Shannon Brooks chips in with 78.7.
“I think probably everybody that plays them would say that that’s what you have to do (make them pass),” Parker said.
“They’re good at what they do. They’re up for that challenge each and every week. Both backs are good backs that can get you several different ways, and we’re going to have to find a way to sustain and stop the run to keep ourselves in the football game.”
Purdue’s offense could help its defense by sustaining drives and eating up clock. The potential is there with quarterback David Blough leading the league in passing yards (293.3) and touchdown throws (16). A Big Ten worst rushing attack (111.0 YPG) is where they problem lies.
Saturday will be a good test to see of the Boilermakers learned from their recent second-half struggles.
“Society is not going to take it easy on us to move forward, nor will they on me, and we’re going to focus on moving forward and building off what we’ve done these first two weeks in a positive way, fix the things that we have problems with, continue to approach those and see what happens,” Parker said.