Every week, it seems Purdue is one swing away from demolishing a brick wall that has road blocked its success for the past three years.
Turnovers, poor clock management and uninspired defensive possessions have prohibited the Boilermakers from breaking down that wall and adding a number of tallies in the “W” column.
Losses to Marshall, Bowling Green and Michigan State have come by a combined 20 points, a heartbreaking total for a program that’s only posted five victories since Darrell Hazell’s arrival in 2013. Perhaps the more devastating realization, however, is that each of those games were within reach.
With each Saturday, Purdue appears to be one step closer to finally exercising its three-year-old demons, but the end result continues to be the same.
As the Boilers sit 1-4 for the second time in three seasons, there hasn’t been much reason to believe Purdue’s issues with squandering winnable games will be solved.
But this weekend, the wall that Purdue has been chipping away at with a forceful sledgehammer might finally come tumbling down. With Minnesota coming to West Lafayette on Saturday, the Boilers might finally be able to break through.
For Purdue, it’s a match-up built to end an ugly trend.
The Big Ten’s worst defense meets the conference’s worst offense.
Thanks to a lack of playmakers and a struggle to establish any rhythm through the aerial attack, Purdue is catching a weak Minnesota team at an opportune time.
As hard as it might be to believe, considering Minnesota’s 3-2 record, the Boilers are trending up while the Gophers are tumbling down.
For Purdue, the substitution at quarterback appears to be working. Redshirt freshman David Blough has shown a more comfortable presence in the pocket than his predecessor, Austin Appleby. That was evident almost immediately, when Blough completed 29 of his 39 passes for 340 yards and two touchdowns in his debut against Bowling Green.
Though his numbers weren’t nearly as impressive last week in East Lansing, the eye test indicates that things are looking more stable under center.
The ground game is also starting to look more polished with the emergence of freshman Markell Jones.
Jones, the Big Ten’s top freshman ball carrier (405 yards, five touchdowns), put together his best performance against Michigan State. He totaled 157 yards on 22 carries and reached the end zone twice, including a 68-yard jaunt.
Contributions from receivers DeAngelo Yancey and Danny Anthrop also have the Boilermakers on the verge of a major breakthrough.
That’s more than can be said about the Gophers.
Minnesota has the worst rushing offense in the conference, averaging just 141.2 yards per contest. The passing game isn’t much more effective, either, as Mitch Leidner ranks 88th nationally in completion percentage.
Those numbers and the lack of an effective offensive are all factors in Minnesota owning the nation’s second-lowest scoring average.
The Gophers have played defense well enough to win football games this season. Even though they haven’t won a game by more than three points this season and were blown out by Northwestern in the conference-opener, Jerry Kill’s team has proven it can win.
So far, Purdue hasn’t. That doesn’t mean the Boilers won’t learn to win this weekend.
Basically, Saturday’s contest boils down to one question; is Purdue’s defense worse than Minnesota’s offense?
If so, that brick wall that’s stood in the way of the Boilermakers’ success for the past three seasons might never get knocked down.