More: First look: Iowa
In the aftermath of Purdue’s 23-13 loss Saturday in Evanston, Ill., Elijah Sindelar tried to stress there was still time in the season to accomplish preseason goals.
Namely, with two games remaining, the chance to reach six victories and become bowl eligible.
Sindelar isn’t the only one who will be reminding the Boilermakers of that this week.
Coach Jeff Brohm said the message from himself and the coaching staff will be similar, even if Purdue (4-6) is an 8.5-point underdog at Iowa (6-4).
“This is a game that, really, if we can find a way to win it, it changes the whole course of the season,” Brohm said Monday during his weekly press conference. “I think we’ve got to understand that, once again, our backs are truly against the wall and if we want to advance, we have to win. Even though there may not be a lot of people out there who think that can be done, we have to, internally, think it can be done. We’ve got to approach it that way. We’ve got to come out swinging and be aggressive in everything we do and go for it. That’s the mentally we have to have.
“If certain things happen, well, then it’s all good. But the last thing I want to do is not make sure we’re going all out to try to win this game.”
Brohm said a key to that could be a faster start on offense.
Last week, Purdue was shut out in the first half and didn’t score until there were less than three minutes left in the third quarter. That was similar to previous load losses at Rutgers and Wisconsin, too. Purdue didn’t have an offensive touchdown in either of those games and scored only six in the first half against Wisconsin and only three against Rutgers.
So Purdue approach certainly won’t be a just-don’t-lose conservative bend.
On any unit.
And that goes toward Brohm’s back-against-the-wall message that’ll continue this week.
“However we’ve got to do it … we have to be aggressive in this game, and we’ve got to figure out a way to just kind of be on the attack,” Brohm said, “and if we come out on the short end, I don’t want it to be because we didn’t throw enough punches. I think we’ve got to be aggressive across the board on offense, defense and special teams and try to win the game. That’s got to be what this week is about.”
Brohm has had a single-minded focus on the next game being the most important game, so he insisted he hasn’t done much thinking about the bigger picture of how to build momentum for next season.
He wants to see the team continue to make strides on the field each week.
When asked where those improvements have been made, Brohm said he’s seen the receivers progress of late after being coached harder and held more accountable for drops in practices, and he’s been pleased with the consistent defensive play against the run. He’s seen flashes of momentum-shifting ability by special teams — fake punts have extended drives at least three times this season, and Purdue has gotten its hands on at least two punts.
But he knows the secondary has its issues and needs to continue to improve; he knows the offense needs to figure out a way to score more points; and he knows special teams has its “a few weak elements.”
“I think improvement is being made, but we have a ways to go,” Brohm said. “We’ve got to be consistent, and while — I told our team after the game — I do think we play hard, but I did not think we were the tougher team and I did not think we were the smarter team in this game. It doesn’t mean we didn’t try. I just didn’t think we won that battle. So we’ve just got to continue to work our way through it.”
So there will be no looking ahead to 2018, when the rebuild continues with more of Brohm’s own recruits.
There’s still plenty of work to do in 2017. And still things left to accomplish.
“At this point, we’re still focused exactly on making this season as good as we can. We’ve got a great opportunity with this upcoming weekend,” Brohm said. “While I understand it’s a tough football game against a good team, we’ve got to do everything in our power to come out swinging and try to find a way to win. If we completely focus on that and come out aggressive, come out with energy, trying to really everybody be into it, do everything right, you never know what can happen. These type of games are not easy, but if you come ready to play, in my opinion, anything can happen. So we’ve got to try to win this game.”
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