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Coach Danny Hope and players Joey Elliott, Keith Smith and Mike Neal spoke at Purdue's weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon as the Boilermakers prepare to host mighty Ohio State this weekend.
Decision-making the key
In light of his team's turnover woes, Hope said Tuesday that the key to turning it around is "better decision-making from our playmakers."
That refers obviously to the fumble-prone Boilermakers covering up the ball and such, but Hope also talked about the passing game, which has been intercepted deep in its own territory numerous times this season, often the result of bad routes.
"Incomplete passes don't beat you," Hope said. "Sacks and turnovers beat you."
Elliott said that from his perspective, to limit turnovers, he needs to fulfill his standard duties of getting the Boilermakers into good plays at the line of scrimmage, among other things.
"The people who are going to have the ball in their hands the majority of the time," he said, "just have to make great decisions, play with confidence and secure the football."
Defensive back departs
Junior safety Josh McKinley has left the team, Hope said.
"Josh is not on the team right now," Hope said. "He stopped coming to practices and so he's dismissed."
McKinley played in three games this season, starting twice while cornerback Brandon King was out with a bruised thigh injury, forcing safety Torri Williams over to corner.
His departure also strips Purdue over one of its few experienced players slated to return in 2010, when the secondary will have to break in four new starters.
Redshirt freshman Gavin Roberts replaces McKinley on the depth chart, backing up senior Dwight Mclean at strong safety.
"He's got some physical tools," Hope said. "He doesn't know a whole lot about playing his position right now and he's way behind. He's a guy that we are going to have to develop down the road, anyway, so there's your opportunity."
Prior to Sunday's practice, the players met to discuss what's transpired during the Boilermakers' five-game losing streak.
"We wanted to make sure everyone's focused," said Elliott, one of Purdue's five captains. "Ohio State's a very, very respected football team and if we're not positive and all on the same page, we're not going to give ourselves a chance to win."
Smith said that immediately after the Minnesota game, he approached linebacker and co-captain Jason Werner and said, "We really need to talk to this team."
"It was something that needed to be done," Smith said. "It was a good meeting on Sunday, a lot of stuff was said and a lot of young guys know where we're coming from. It showed Sunday in practice, when everyone came out fired up and ready to go."
Neal, another co-captain, spoke at the meeting.
"Every captain has a different theme that when they stand in front of the team, they want to (communicate)," Neal said. "My thing is basically what I've been taught growing up. If you let somebody know where your heart is, and they understand where you're coming from, then it's easier for them to back you up.
"I told the team, 'Regardless of the record, regardless of what's going on, you need to let everyone in this room know where your heart is, because of you do that, I think you can overcome a lot.' It was basically about getting everybody to rally behind one another that we can win football games, because we've beaten ourselves. We can get a lot accomplished."
Marve back in action
He's not eligible to play this year, but quarterback Robert Marve has returned to some activity on the practice field after injuring his knee in the spring and undergoing surgery.
"He's doing well; he's throwing and doing very well," Hope said of the transfer who won't be eligible until next season. "He's not ready to have contact yet, but he can put on the (equipment) of the day, what the team wears, pads, helmets, shoulder pads, whatever we have on, and he's able to do some drills with the trainers and strength coach and throwing and stuff. He's doing very well.
"He's an excellent teammate and has a great desire to be a great football player."
Following the season, Marve could be the frontrunner to be the Boilermakers' starter in 2010.
Long way off
In other injury news, tight ends Jeff Panfil and Colton McKey and offensive guard Eric Hedstrom won't be returning to the field any time soon, Hope said, when asked about the injured trio.
Panfil, Purdue's No. 3 tight end, has been sidelined since sustaining a neck/shoulder injury at Oregon.
McKey and Hedstrom haven't really even practiced this season after injuring their knee and shoulder, respectively, and undergoing surgery.
Hope said he doesn't know if any of them will play again this season.
"Maybe toward the end," Hope said. "I don't know when that would be. It depends how it goes.
"We have guys back coming off surgery, guys with a shoulder surgery who's not had a whole lot of time in the weight room yet and then to play the offensive line in the Big Ten, that's the situation you're looking at. You have some situations they won't be back ready to play year, or if they are, they had better get back pretty soon."
Wide receiver Royce Adams remains sidelined, too, with a knee injury suffered against Northwestern.
Otherwise, Hope doesn't anticipate there being any other injury-related losses for this weekend's Ohio State game.
Evaluating options in the return game
This week, Hope said, Purdue will look at all its options in the return game, as the Boilermaker coaches look to find a balance between ball security and big-play potential among their turnover-riddled special teams.
Aaron Valentin did not return kicks at Minnesota, in part because of a mild concussion and in part because of fumbling issues, Hope said this weekend. Keith Carlos replaced him on kickoff returns and fumbled himself.
Adams and Jaycen Taylor have also been on the KOR team, but Adams is out and Taylor has a sore hamstring.
Waynelle Gravesande returned punts at Minnesota.
"We have some other athletes back there," Hope said, "who can get the ball in their hands and they can help us win."
He didn't name them.
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