INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke is looking for a strong finish after the school's football team got off to a disappointing start.
He issued a one-paragraph written statement on Monday acknowledging that even though this season's results have not matched the university's high expectations, he hoped to see stronger performances as the Boilermakers fight to become bowl-eligible over the last four regular-season games.
"Everyone around our football program has high expectations for the 2012 season," Burke said. "We have worked very hard over the past four years to improve our personnel, facilities and every phase of our program, which is evident."
He did not mention coach Danny Hope by name, but it's clear he expects to see better performances in November.
Hope was not available for comment Monday, though he is expected to hold his weekly news conference Tuesday.
The fourth-year coach and hand-picked successor to Joe Tiller, the winningest coach in school history, agreed to a two-year contract extension in December after leading the Boilermakers to a bowl game for the first time in his tenure. The deal runs through Dec. 31, 2016, and Hope is 19-26 since replacing Tiller.
After three injury-plagued seasons, Purdue was expected to contend for the Big Ten title this season.
Players and coaches embraced the expectations, talking repeatedly about playing in a New Year's Day bowl game, representing the Leaders Division in December's conference title game and putting Purdue football back on the national map.
It hasn't worked out.
Purdue blew two chances to get back into the national discussion, losing on a late field goal at Notre Dame and getting blown out at home by Michigan in the conference opener.
And things have gone from bad to worse.
Following a strong 3-1 start, Purdue has lost four straight Big Ten games, with three losses coming by 16 or more points, including Saturday's 44-28 setback at Minnesota.
The Boilermakers host Penn State (5-3, 3-1) on Saturday. Purdue then heads to Iowa and Illinois before hosting rival Indiana in the Old Oaken Bucket game.
Hope said Sunday he planned to bench starting quarterback Caleb TerBush in favor of sixth-year senior Robert Marve, who is playing with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. And that may not be the only lineup change.
Whatever happens on the depth chart, it's clear Burke is looking for better play on the field.
"Our student-athletes, alumni, fans, coaching staff and administration all expect to see the program move forward and take a step up the postseason ladder," he said. "Currently, our performance has kept us from reaching our goals. But we have a third of the season left to play, and our focus is to achieve that consistency over the remaining four games. We need to press forward, converting potential into results and having fun playing Boilermaker football."