WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Purdue coach Jeff Brohm knows this script — and he is hoping the ending is the same.
In 2014, his first season as Western Kentucky’s head coach, the Hilltoppers were 3-5 before winning their final four games to qualify for the Bahamas Bowl, where they completed an 8-5 season with a 49-48 victory against Western Michigan.
Entering Saturday’s Old Oaken Bucket game against rival Indiana, Purdue has recovered from a 3-6 start and is in position to earn the school’s first bowl bid since the 2012 season with a win at home. Both teams are 5-6.
“At Western Kentucky, that first season, we were starting to score a lot of points late in the year, but this year, our defense started to get better, so it’s just the opposite,” Brohm said Monday. “The Big Ten is known for good defense. We have faced some good ones and another this week. Really, it has been about getting better towards the end of the year, and that is what we tried to do.”
Upsetting Iowa 24-15 on the road Saturday has put Purdue in a position many fans did not believe was possible after losses at Rutgers and at home to Nebraska. Brohm and the Boilermakers know they are facing an Indiana team that has beaten both of those foes and is also 5-6, with bowl eligibility a primary focus.
“Beating Iowa puts us in a position to compete against a very good Indiana football team that is well coached,” Brohm said. “The fact it is a rivalry game makes it even more important. I know our players are excited to play in what will be a great atmosphere. There is a lot riding on the game.”
Sophomore quarterback Elijah Sindelar, who has completed 61 of 99 passes for 637 yards, six touchdowns and one interception since replacing injured starter David Blough against Illinois on Nov. 4, was 22 of 37 for 229 yards and three touchdowns against Iowa. For the season, Sindelar is 139 of 247 for 1,544 yards, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions.
“This Indiana game is huge for us and it means even more because we have a chance to go to a bowl game now,” Sindelar said. “All the goals we set are now achievable and we have an opportunity to achieve them. It’s just huge for this team and huge for these coaches. What a blessing.”
Senior defensive tackle Gelen Robinson is 0-3 against the Hoosiers and can’t wait for the game.
“I’ve never had the Bucket here in my years, so it’s going to be even more important for me to go all out for my senior day and my last game,” Robinson said.
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