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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 28 Digital 6

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Page 13 of 91

GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 6 14 The accomplishment sure would be, though. Purdue hasn't won a Big Ten title since it was tri- champs in 2000, that magical Rose Bowl season. It hasn't even finished as a runner-up in the division alignment restructure — or in any fashion since 2003, when it tied for second. It hasn't had a truly meaningful Big Ten game, in terms of conference-altering results, arguably since 2003 when it lost to Ohio State in the second-to- last game when a win would have essentially guaran- teed a share of the title. That nightmare-inducing Kyle Orton-fumble-game against Wisconsin in 2004 was only the second game of league play, and Purdue lost the next three games to become irrelevant in the title conversa- tion. And yet, players speak freely now of not only winning the West Division in 2018 — which would mean eclips- ing consistent powerhouse Wisconsin, as well as Iowa and even Northwestern, a program that's beaten Purdue four consecutive times — but also taking the Big Ten championship game. A title likely would mean overcom- ing Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan State — and for a theoretical second time in the case of the latter two opponents, which are both on the reg- ular-season schedule. The Boilermakers have lost seven consecutive games to the Spartans and haven't beaten the Buck- eyes since 2011, though they haven't played them since 2013. "I've always thought that is something we can obtain," senior tight end Cole Herdman said of the Big Ten champion- ship. "We know we need to put in a ton of work. We need to dedicate ourselves in the film room, the weight room. It's go- ing to take everybody on the team. We're not a team that can just show up. We don't have one or two guys who are just studs who can make plays and win us a game by themselves. So we know it's go- ing to take 11 on offense, 11 on defense to get to that Big Ten championship and get our goal." The season opener certainly will set a tone. Purdue opens its season with a con- ference game for the first time 1996 with Northwestern Aug. 30, a Thursday night, at Ross-Ade Stadium. Senior Markell Jones said he likes that be- cause there's a familiarity with the Wildcats, instead of the usual non-conference season opener that often re- quires significant research to get a grasp of the match- up. But Purdue knows what it'll get with Northwestern and Coach Pat Fitzgerald. Now, it just needs to have a better grasp of what it will be by Week 1. The perception is the offense will need to carry the defense, especially early and, maybe, all season, as the latter unit is replacing seven starters plus key backup Eddy Wilson. One could argue the opposite was true last season, when Nick Holt transformed the defense into one of the conference's best units and, certainly, one of the most-improved defenses in the country. The Boilermakers went from being a sieve against the run to being so good against it, they largely forced opponents to have to pass to win. They did it with Holt's aggressive approach — and a front seven that was stout, physical and experienced. That is not what this front seven projects to be. At least not on paper and prior to the season. CERAMIC • ENGINEERED HARDWOOD LAMINATES • MARBLE CARPETING Specializing in • Homes • Businesses • Churches • Schools Where Contractors Buy Their Flooring Builders! Call our Contract Department and ask for our Contract Specialist 3437 South Street 765-447-9393 800-403-6889 FAX 765-448-9978 Across from the Post Office GO BOILERS

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