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November 6, 2012

Hope ignoring critics; more Tuesday notes

LISTEN: Danny Hope on Tuesday

During the five-game losing streak, and particularly as the season has slipped away in the last two games, Coach Danny Hope has seen a fair share of criticism.

It's come from the stands, via the Internet and on the airwaves, with calls to his radio show being vociferous in their displeasure. A caller Monday asked for reasons why Hope should keep his job, similar to a question from a reporter following Saturday's loss to Penn State, asking whether or not he thought he'd be fired.

But Hope, Purdue's fourth-year coach, says he doesn't allow disgruntled fans take away his spirit; he's a positive-minded football coach, he says, who wants to win.

"Obviously the fans have a reason to be disappointed - we're very, very disappointed - but I don't let someone who demonstrates himself in a small way set me back a whole lot, if you will," Hope said. "Certainly, I wouldn't let someone that has that small character take my happiness away, I assure you that. It wouldn't be worth it, so it would be beneath me."

Hope's not been the only subject of criticism. Twitter has been an avenue for vocal fans, whether it be in the form of public tweets or direct messages with pointed comments for players. Either way, quarterback Robert Marve doesn't pay much attention.

"I truly don't care at all," the sixth-year senior said. "The fans, everyone has their opinions, like everything else. You hear a little bit more of it when it comes to football and opinions of other people. I play as hard as I can. That's all I can do. I have fun playing the game. I really don't care at all. It doesn't bother me at all. It shouldn't bother a team at all. I don't see why that would bother a team."

But it does. During the last couple weeks, Purdue's coaches have pointed to criticism from fans, on Twitter or messages boards or otherwise, as having a negative effect on the Boilermakers' confidence. Hope says he tries to direct players to not focus on criticism.

"It's hard to, because it kind of chases you around a little bit," he said to the media at his weekly teleconference Tuesday. "You guys know that, you add fuel to the fire in some ways. But (players) have families that get on message boards and there's some tough things that are said at times. They are young people.

"A lot of people that are judgmental to the players are people who never really have enough substance to even come close to accomplishing near what (players) have in their collegiate or athletic lives. So you have to consider the source, most of the time. That's kind of the message we send to our football team. What we want to focus on is winning and having a successful season, and being winners. And it's hard to focus on that if you're focused on losers on the outside looking in."

'OK' outing
Marve had to deal with consistent pressure and players dropping balls in his first Big Ten start last week against Penn State.

After the game, he wanted to wait to watch the film to evaluate his performance. He'd done that by Tuesday.

"I felt like I played an OK game," said Marve, who will start against Iowa this weekend. "I threw the ball pretty well, I thought, with the situation being the way it was. My knee held up better than I thought it was going to."

Marve's injured left knee was sore and swollen on Sunday, though, after he got battered and played into the third quarter.

"It was just something I have to get used to again," he said. "I feel like I'll be better and last longer next week."

Marve wouldn't only like to stay on the field longer in terms of time, though. He wants the offense to extend its drives.

Marve said he was frustrated with Purdue's lack of success on third downs - the team was 1 of 11 in the first half and finished 7 of 21.

"You've got to convert third downs when third downs are there," he said. "We have to understand how big third downs are, and when you don't pick it up you lose your whole drive, you lose momentum of the games. I thought we had a lot of that. We didn't pick up on third down as good as we have to win the game."

Part of improving that percentage will be players simply carrying out their assignments.

"I just felt like we made some mistakes that were Day 1, Day 2 mistakes, just simple stuff with the routes, simple stuff with the protections, just something we need to put together," he said.

Injury updates
O.J. Ross might be available Saturday at Iowa after missing the last two weeks.

The junior wide receiver is nursing a turf toe injury. Hope said Ross participated in practice, albeit a light one, on Sunday, which was a bit of a surprise considering sports medicine staff earlier had said it thought he'd be out at least another week.

But Hope is optimistic it'll be Saturday.

"But we'll have manage it and see," he said. "but I'm way more encourage now than a couple days ago about his availability this weekend."

Ross' return would be big, particularly considering that Dolapo Macarthy, a starter the last two games, is dealing with a death in the family this week. Hope, however, said he thought Macarthy would be ready on Saturday.

Defensive tackle Kawann Short might be feeling better this week than last. For the last couple games, the senior has dealt with an ankle injury.

"My ankle is doing a lot better than what it was," he said. "I won't have the amount of tape that I had last week. But I'll have some tape. I feel real confident about it right now. I could go out and play tomorrow if the game was tomorrow."

The news isn't as good for a couple others. Kick return specialist and wide receiver Raheem Mostert, whose been out since tweaking a knee vs. Wisconsin, is doubtful. The same can be said for backup defensive tackle Brandon Taylor, who has a high ankle sprain.

"And that's disappointing because we're banged up on the defensive line," Hope said.

Try to relax
Hope says he thinks his team has been too tense, making putting too much pressure on itself to perform up to expectations.

That'll have to change this week despite Purdue needing to win the first of three consecutive games if it wants to be eligible for postseason play.

Marve has a suggestion.

"We have to stop thinking, 'We have to win three games' and maybe start thinking, 'What is my job on this play? What's the defense doing? How am I going to provide for us to get in a third and short or get a first down on that play?' " he said Tuesday.

It's the "do your job" mentality that coaches on both sides of the ball have been preaching from Day 1.

Short thinks it'd be good to get back to that.

"We go out there and worry about a lot more things than just the play that's in front of us," he said. "(You're thinking) win this game, and yeah, we're supposed to think that way, but you've got to win the play you're doing. You've got to beat the blocker, you've got to defend the guy, you've got to get a pass breakup. I just feel like we think further than what we have to do at that moment. It's affected us.

"We've got a lot of things going on off the field and on the field, but to come on the field, you've just got to do the task at hand and just relax. We're too nervous probably sometimes as far as what we have to do, how to go about it and what the coach might think."

Evaluating the offense
Dropped passes, mistakes in protection and poor decision-making all have contributed to Purdue's struggles on offense in Big Ten play.

Hope said sticking with the running game could help the offense and the passing game.

In five league games, Purdue has rushed for fewer than 100 yards twice and carries have only reached the 30s twice. The 183-yard effort against Minnesota two weeks ago was the highest total in conference play.

"Sometimes you can go into the ballgame with a great run game plan in mind and you'll call your run game a couple times, but if it doesn't manufacture some right away, you can be apt to back off it a little bit," Hope said. "When you get behind, and that's happened to us some the last couple weeks, running the football becomes less of an option in regards to catching up."

The passing game could use that run support, too.

But even without it, Hope said he thinks that part of Purdue's offense has potential. He points to Marve's insertion at quarterback and "some linemen who have improved from a pass protection standpoint" as reasons for that assessment.

The receivers need to pull their weight, though.

"Our receivers have to do a better job in their route-running," Hope said. "You have to defeat coverages. That can get yourself in position to be open and provide some room for yourself and sometimes that can increase your odds of catching the football."

Effort is there but …
More than anything, Hope wants to see a consistent effort from his players.

He hasn't had any complaints with that this season, which makes it a bit surprising why that effort hasn't translated into victories, he said.

"(It's) baffling in some ways," he said. "But I think it's a combination of a lot of things. A lot of it might be poor management on my part. What they can handle and what I think they can handle may not be the same thing at times."

When players do make mistakes, they're coming despite playing hard, Hope said. So he's not going to be seen tearing into his guys on the sidelines during games, even though he believes in "open and direct dialogue."

"If we're not successful in our performance on game day, I'm the one who ought to be ripped. I'm the one who trained them," he said. "But we have our moments when we have to put our cards on the table and have open and direct dialogue and we try to spell it out for our team exactly where it's at.

"(We) try not to coddle them right now. We don't need them feeling sorry for themselves. They need to man up."

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