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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, October 03, 2017 1:00 am

Bye week allowed Purdue to get healthy

JEFF WASHBURN | For The Journal Gazette


vs. Minnesota

When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette


Radio: 1380 AM, 100.9 FM

WEST LAFAYETTE – Purdue quarterback David Blough (shoulder sprain) and running back Markell Jones (knee) are on the road to recovery and likely will play Saturday when Minnesota comes to Ross-Ade Stadium.

Starting running back Tario Fuller and starting defensive end Austin Larkin, however, likely will miss the game – each with an ankle sprain.

And for the first half, the Boilermakers (2-2, 0-1) also will be without middle linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley and strong safety Jacob Thieneman, who were ejected for targeting during a Sept. 23 loss to unbeaten Michigan.

Blough, who sprained the same shoulder in August and missed two weeks of practice, suffered the same injury while being sacked during the fourth quarter of the 28-10 loss to Michigan. Coach Jeff Brohm said Blough returned to practice Sunday – last week was Purdue's bye week – and is confident Blough will be ready to play against Minnesota (3-1, 0-1).

“This one is less severe than the last one, and that is encouraging,” Blough said of his shoulder injury.

Blough completed only 5 of 13 passes for 32 yards against the Wolverines.

“That's a championship defense,” Blough said. “In my time at Purdue, that's the best one we played against.”

Brohm liked what he saw during last week's practice.

“I think we had a good week of practice,” Brohm said. “We've got some guys healthy. We will continue to track David this week, and hopefully, he will be ready to play. I am optimistic that will happen, barring any setbacks.

“Tario Fuller is a little bit more of a long shot. If he does play, he probably won't be able to practice much. So, I am probably not real optimistic on that one. I think, hopefully, Markell Jones will be back this week.”

Jones suffered a knee injury in the season-opening loss to No. 17 Louisville, and Fuller sprained an ankle in the 35-3 victory at Missouri. Fuller did not play against Michigan.

Brohm said sophomore Markus Bailey easily could slide into Bentley's middle linebacker spot for the first half, and freshman linebacker Derrick Barnes could start at Bailey's strong side linebacker slot during the first 30 minutes.

Navon Mosley or Antonio Blackmon probably will get the start with Thieneman penalized for a half.

With Larkin battling a bad ankle, senior Gelen Robinson probably will move from defensive tackle to defensive end, and Lorenzo Neal and Eddy Wilson will start at the defensive tackles.

If Fuller is out, Brohm said that Jones, D.J. Knox, Richie Worship and Brian Lanford-Johnson will be in line to run the ball, a facet the coach said must be more productive for Purdue to beat talented opponents.

“You can't just drop back and pass the ball unless you are really outstanding on the outside and on the offensive line,” Brohm said. “Our guys are getting better, but we've got to keep the defense a little more off balance.”

In the loss to Michigan, Purdue rushed 20 times for 30 yards. In the second half, the Boilermakers ran 18 plays for 10 net yards of offense.

Remembering coach Tiller

Brohm said he had great admiration for the late Purdue coach Joe Tiller, 74, who died over the weekend in Wyoming.

“I remember growing up and watching the Purdue teams play in his days, and it was an exciting brand of football,” Louisville, Kentucky, native Brohm said. “It was a little bit different than maybe some of the other teams in the Big Ten, and they found a way to win.

“I think that his blue-collar approach, working hard to improve his team to find ways to win, any way or avenue he can, doing things the right way and treating people with respect were huge. He really was a legend in the coaching profession – somebody that everyone should try to mold themselves after.”

Tiller took Purdue to 10 bowl games in 12 seasons and is the winningest coach in school history at 87-62, including seven victories against Top 15 teams.