Winless Purdue trying to dig out of problematic start
By MICHAEL MAROT
The problems continue to pile up for Purdue.
After losing twice at least in part because of late personal foul calls, the Boilermakers blew another chance Saturday when a late touchdown was overturned by replay review and the defense couldn't get a stop on the ensuing drive. The status of quarterback Elijah Sindelar remains in doubt because of an undisclosed injury, and now Purdue must try to dig itself out of the program's worst start since 1996 as it faces its first ranked opponent this season.
It's enough to draw questions from even the most ardent supporters, and it has frustrated coach Jeff Brohm.
"I think really what I'm saying is we have hurt ourselves and good football teams don't hurt themselves," he said Monday, elaborating on Saturday's postgame comments about his team not being very good at the moment. "Good football teams don't beat themselves. That's kind of what we've done, that's self-inflicted wounds."
Clearly, this is not the encore anyone expected after Brohm's remarkable turnaround in his first season at Purdue.
And things won't be getting any easier any time soon, either.
Purdue (0-3, 0-1 Big Ten) hosts No. 23 Boston College, then heads to Nebraska and Illinois, before welcoming No. 4 Ohio State to town. Then it's a trip to No. 24 Michigan State.
The Boilermakers need to win at least a couple of those games to keep Brohm's perfect postseason record intact. In four seasons as a head coach, his teams have reached the postseason all four times, won all four bowl games and never finished worse than third in their division.
Brohm isn't worried about his resume. He just wants a solution.
"We had multiple dumb penalties that have cost us, and we have multiple situations that we could have easily converted or got off the field that haven't happened," he said. "Really the intelligence factor and playing smart is what's hurt us the most."
At least he can count on the steady leadership of David Blough, who went 39 of 55 with a school-record 572 yards, three touchdowns and only one interception in Saturday's latest loss, 40-37 to Missouri.
It was Blough's best performance since the 2017 Missouri game and may go down as the best of his college career.
The Boilermakers may need him to be equally efficient this weekend if Sindelar sits out again. Sindelar led Purdue to three straight wins last season while playing on a torn ACL in his left knee. He didn't return to full workouts until preseason camp, where he won the starting job.
Blough took over after Sindelar threw three interceptions in the first half of the season-opening loss to Northwestern. Both played in a Week 2 loss to Eastern Michigan, before Sindelar missed Saturday's game.
"We're still working hard to get him healthy," Brohm said. "You know, (Sunday) he did not throw, so we'll see Tuesday where he's at."
The bigger issue is eliminating the mistakes.
At least twice this season Brohm has questioned crucial calls - Lorenzo Neal's personal foul, which allowed Northwestern to seal its victory, and the replay decision, which forced Purdue to settle for a tying field goal instead of a go-ahead TD against Missouri.
Still, Brohm knows this: The Boilermakers must do a better job themselves.
"I think the effort has increased and that's been good. I do think our guys are competing," he said. "We have to play smart and we can't cost ourselves or we're not going to have a chance. If we do that and we play hard and continue to get a little bit better, I think we can have a chance to win. But guys have to believe that all the small things matter and everybody has to do their part."
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Updated September 17, 2018