When it comes to quarterback Curtis Painter, Joe Tiller isn't letting off the public motivational button.
Yes, Tiller said, Painter will start Saturday at No. 12 Ohio State (5-1). Other than that, all bets are off.
“I want to see how he snaps back from this,” Tiller said. That was a reference to Painter's fourth-quarter benching last Saturday against Penn State and backup quarterback Joey Elliott's solid replacement play.
“I think it will give us an indication of where he's headed in the future and where we're headed.”
In other words, Painter must play to his four-years-as-a-starter experience or lose his job.
“I'd like him to deliver in the clutch,” Tiller said. “You can draw your own conclusions.”
Painter has struggled with clutch playmaking this season. That's a big reason why Purdue (2-3) has lost three of its last four games. How much of that is on him and how much is on an inexperienced receiving group is uncertain, but that's not the issue, Tiller said. The quarterback always gets the brunt of the blame.
“Whether (Painter) likes it or not, that's what people are going to think,” Tiller said. “So it's irrelevant.”
The numbers are relevant. Painter is completing 57.6 percent of his passes for 1,225 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions.
That touchdown-to-interception ratio isn't close to being acceptable (last year it was almost 3-to-1) and it starts, Tiller said, with accuracy issues.
“We need to make throws and they need to be in an area where we can catch the football, not at the ankle level or behind or, on a deep throw, two yards over the receiver's head,” Tiller said.
“Our accuracy is perhaps the thing that is hurting us the most.”
Painter's struggles aren't due to lack of effort.
“If anything, he's trying harder and maybe that's a problem,” Tiller said. “He's really trying. He's studying the game more than he's ever studied it. He's doing what's being asked of him.”
Painter said he won't play “scared to make a mistake.” He said he's motivated to play better and help produce more points.
Extra motivation will come in practice this week. Elliott will get more snaps with the first team. Tiller wouldn't say if Elliott will play Saturday, but he did say he's not in favor of a quarterback rotation.
“I've always believed you're better off if you have a designated starter,” he said.