Is there a silver lining to Purdue tailback Kory Sheets criticizing quarterback Curtis Painter in the wake of a four-game losing streak that threatens to turn this into the worst season of retiring coach Joe Tiller's career?
Perhaps, offensive lineman Kenny Plue said.
“Kory is a competitive guy,” Plue said. “Everybody is getting frustrated. He wants the ball because he thinks he can do great things. Maybe (his comments) will get things rolling for us. Maybe more guys will step up.”
The Boilers (2-5) need somebody to step up fast if they are to make a bowl in Tiller's final season. It starts Saturday with Minnesota. The Gophers' 6-1 record, 2-1 in the Big Ten, has jumped them to No. 25 in the national rankings. They've won at Illinois. They played solid in a loss at Ohio State. They've been the conference's biggest surprise.
Purdue, on the other hand, has been a disappointment.
“This is not quite what I had in mind,” Tiller said. “I've been to the mountaintop. I've been to the valley, too. The mountaintop is a lot better.
“I'm disappointed with our results to date. We have five games left and I want to give it our best shot.”
Purdue's record is a tough blow for a program that has made 10 bowls in the last 11 years.
“It's frustrating because we feel we had some opportunities to win, and it's tough when you don't,” Painter said. “We can play better. We should play better. It's tough to think we haven't excelled.”
It's time, Painter added, for the players take charge.
“We need some leaders to step up. That's a role I want to take on and off the field, and on the field, do the things I can do.”
Northwestern at Indiana
Could there be a worse defense in the nation than Indiana over the past two weeks? The Hoosiers have given up 100 points in losses to Iowa and Illinois. They've allowed at least 42 points in four of the past five games, all losses.
On Saturday IU (2-5) hosts a 6-1 Northwestern team that balances offense and defense as well as any Big Ten team not named Penn State. This might the Hoosiers' Homecoming Game, but these Wildcats are anything but patsies.
It doesn't help IU that quarterback Kellen Lewis is unlikely to play because of a high ankle sprain for the second straight week. That will save him a mugging given the state of the battered offensive line. Starters Cody Faulkner and Andrew McDonald are hurting. Dennis Zeigler is out for the season after having knee surgery. True freshman Justin Pagan struggled at tackle, and might play at guard because of the injury situation. And healthy or not, nobody has blocked well lately.
That leaves the offense to Ben Chappell. If he gets time, he might be able to show why coaches are so high on him. But add the uncertainty with top receiver Andrew Means (he has a cast on his left hand and might not play) as well as the shaky offensive line combined with an aggressive Northwestern pass rush and time might be the last thing Chappell gets.
“We've been inconsistent,” coach Bill Lynch said. “I'm not trying to make excuses, but some injuries have affected our consistency on offense. Everything starts up front and we have had to rotate some guys.
“I like what we're doing, we just have to keep getting better. We are still turning the ball over too much. We're not getting enough turnovers on the other side when we've had opportunities.”