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Purdue looking for some way to break out of slump

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Purdue looking for some way to break out of slump

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) Purdue came into the 2012 season hoping to return to the national stage.

After back-to-back blowout losses at home, the Boilermakers would settle for simply proving this quest isn't hopeless at the midway point.

``Definitely not the way we'd like it (the record) to be, but this is when you find out where you are,'' quarterback Caleb TerBush said Tuesday. ``Look, we're only 3-3 right now, but it's not the end of the world. We've got six more games to play. We've just got to put points on the board and keep points off the board.''

Two weeks ago, the Boilermakers (3-3, 0-2 Big Ten) seemed perfectly positioned to make good on those preseason promises.

They were off to a 3-1 start, their best in five years, and a favorable schedule meant they would start league play against demoralized Michigan and struggling Wisconsin in West Lafayette. Winning either game, or both, would have sent a clear signal that Purdue was back.

Instead, the Boilermakers were victimized by too many mistakes.

Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson rushed for 235 yards in a 44-13 victory on Oct. 6, and last weekend, Montee Ball ran for 247 yards and three scores as unranked Wisconsin drubbed the Boilermakers 38-14 in a steady rain.

Coach Danny Hope thinks he can change gears by spending practice this week by focusing on the defensive fundamentals of better tackling, better gap play and better alignments.

The offense hasn't been much better, though. Purdue has managed only three touchdowns in the last six halves and has averaged a measly 3.4 yards per carry in the two losses.

That's certainly not the way the Boilermakers thought they would head to Columbus, Ohio, and that's something they intend to change in their biggest test of the season against the seventh-ranked Buckeyes (7-0, 3-0).

``I'd say we're definitely motivated right now,'' TerBush said. ``It was kind of another wake-up call last week. We came back and looked at the film Sunday, and we didn't like it, but we have to move on.''

Purdue has other problems, too, notably in the training room.

Top receiver O.J. Ross is listed as questionable with a turf toe. Kickoff returner Raheem Mostert could miss up to four weeks with a strained knee. Cornerback Ricardo Allen has been hobbled by two sore ankles, backup quarterback Robert Marve continues to play with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, running back Ralph Bolden returned from ACL surgery against Wisconsin and is still trying to round into top form, and defensive tackle Bruce Gaston hopes to play his second straight game with a bad hamstring.

Outsiders also have started to question Purdue's continuing quarterback saga. On Tuesday, Hope acknowledged he may have yanked TerBush too early against Wisconsin, a mistake he doesn't expect to make again in Columbus, Ohio.

``Obviously, Caleb TerBush will start and we'll let him stay in the game for a sustained amount of time,'' he said. ``Then we'll make a determination about whether to rotate or alternate quarterbacks.''

The most worrisome part may be going up against an angry group of Buckeyes, who have plenty to prove after losing 26-23 at Purdue last season and barely escaping with a 52-49 victory at Indiana last weekend.

``I'm sure they'll be ready,'' TerBush said. ``I'm sure they're not too happy about getting beat last year. I guarantee that.''

What can be done to help the troubled Boilermakers get out of this funk?

``On Sunday, we spent a lot of time in the locker room together and a lot of guys took a good, hard look at their performance,'' Hope said Tuesday. ``Each and every one of us has to look at ourselves and get it done. I think that's been addressed.''

These sorts of losing streaks are hardly unprecedented at Purdue, which has lost three straight games in seven of the last 10 seasons.

But the blowouts are a rarity. No Purdue team has lost three straight games by 21 or more points since 199, when the Boilermakers lost four in a row by 25 or more.

Hope's team has no intention of joining that club this week - or this year.

``Winning is never easy, and the last three years have never been easy,'' Hope said. ``This is big-time football. This is Big Ten football and this is no place for the faint-hearted. This is Purdue football and you have to be tough, and we take a lot of pride in that.''

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Redskins fans and players can both be right about FedEx Field frustrations

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USA Today Sports

Redskins fans and players can both be right about FedEx Field frustrations

The Redskins moved to 6-3 on Sunday by beating the Buccaneers in Tampa, and now sit two games clear in first place in the NFC East. 

That should be the biggest football story inside the Beltway. But it isn't. 

The story has become that two of the most high-profile members of the Washington defense said that they prefer playing road games to being in their home stadium. Why? Because on the road they can hear better and focus more since they don't have fans booing them. 

Seriously. 

"Home games, that’s some of the worst things I’ve seen. I’ve played on four different teams, never seen it that bad, with other team’s jerseys in the stands, the boos, whatever it may be," Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger said during an appearance on 106.7 the Fan's Grant and Danny program on Monday. 

"I’ve never been a part of nothing like that."

This freight train started moving on Sunday, when after the win in Tampa, Josh Norman said he likes playing on the road. Why? Because there aren't any boos.

"We go into the homestands, and it’s like an open bubble,” Norman said. “Like the other team’s turf or something. You hear more of them than you do us. Then if something bad happens, they suck. They sit back in their seat, and they boo."

There's a lot to unpack here. 

Norman and Swearinger are right. There are always a lot of visiting fans at FedEx Field. Some of that might be that Washington is a transient city, but some of it is also because other fans have determined that it's easy to get tickets at FedEx Field. 

Why is it easy for visiting fans to get tickets? Well, there's not much sizzle at FedEx Field.

The area doesn't have shopping or restaurants around it like many newer NFL stadiums. The traffic, like much of life in the D.C. area, is awful. The stadium itself is underwhelming; old and lacking character. 

The Redskins are working hard to overhaul the game day experience, and some of the efforts are alrady working. But the problem is some fans have soured on the idea of spending the day at FedEx Field, and that will take time to fix. Probably years. 

One obvious fix? A new stadium, preferably back in downtown D.C. That is a long way off though. 

Plenty of fans are bothered by Swearinger and Norman's comments, and they have reason for that, too. 

To start with, there are tens of thousands of fans at every home game, cheering on their club. Lifelong, loyal fans that pay good money to watch the Burgundy and Gold. 

Do some boo? Certainly. But they only boo when the team is bad. Play good, no boos. It's fairly simple.

And the boos aren't only about a specific game, or even a specific season. Many Redskins fans are just frustrated with the franchise in general for a litany of reasons. Things have been stable under Jay Gruden, but for a long time, they weren't. 

What isn't fair for Norman and Swearinger is they played zero part in the multi-decade erosion of the Redskins fan base. And some would argue the fan base hasn't actually eroded, just that fewer fans want to make the trek to the stadium and commit to the full day that is attending an NFL game.

For 20 years, Washington has played plenty of bad football at home. During that time, some fans simply decided they'd rather watch on television, or go for a walk, or do yard work, or hang with their family. 

The toughest part is that both Norman and Swearinger can be right, but the fans that are upset with the comments can be right as well. 

Are there good fans? Absolutely. Are there lots of visiting fans? Yep. 

It won't be fixed overnight. Winning is the best cure, however, as old fans will return and new fans will be created. 

Play well and there won't be any booing. Keep winning games and there won't be anything but burgundy in the stands. 

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Virginia, Virginia Tech each moved one spot in new top-25 poll but in opposite directions

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USA TODAY Sports

Virginia, Virginia Tech each moved one spot in new top-25 poll but in opposite directions

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Duke changed everything about who AP Top 25 voters considered to be the nation's best team with a single dominating performance against a marquee opponent.

It also gave the Blue Devils yet another milestone under Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski: a record number of appearances at No. 1.

The Blue Devils jumped from fourth to first Monday in the first regular-season poll, leapfrogging Kansas at the top after a blowout win against then-No. 2 Kentucky last week. That allowed Duke to set a record with its 135th week at No. 1, breaking a tie with UCLA for the most top rankings in poll history.

The 34-point win against the Wildcats in the Champions Classic to open the season marked the program's most lopsided win against a top-5 opponent. Duke was practically flawless behind star freshmen RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish, and that created a buzz about the team's already lofty potential being somehow even higher than anyone anticipated.

Granted, it was one game. And Duke (2-0) didn't look nearly so dazzling Sunday at home against Army. But that one performance caused a major voting shift, even with now-No. 2 Kansas earning a quality win of its own against then-No. 10 Michigan State in the first game of the Champions Classic.

Kansas was a solid preseason No. 1 by earning 37 of 65 first-place votes, followed by 19 for Kentucky and four for Duke. But Duke now has 48 first-place votes, claiming the top spot for all 19 voters who had Kentucky as preseason No. 1 while also causing 23 voters to switch from Kansas in the preseason Duke this week.

Duke also prompted switches from the lone voters who had Gonzaga and Villanova at No. 1 in the preseason.

The hype probably won't slow anytime soon, either. The Blue Devils have everyone's attention.

"Part of becoming good is keeping the noise out of your locker room," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the Army win. "And when something good happens and you have the start of the season ... there's a lot of noise. And for us, it's not always good noise, but in this case, it was exceptional noise. Exceptional noise.

"When you have four freshmen and we don't have veterans, you have to be more mature about listening to that."

COMPLETE MEN'S BASKETBALL TOP-25 RANKINGS WEEK 2

1. Duke 2-0 (48 votes, No. 4 last week)

2. Kansas 1-0 (14 votes, No. 1 last week)

3. Gonzaga 2-0 (No. 3 last week)

4. Virginia 2-0 (2 votes, No. 5 last week)

5. Tennessee 2-0 (1 vote, No. 6 last week)

6. Nevada 2-0 (No. 7 last week)

7. North Carolina 2-0 (No. 8 last week)

8. Villanova 2-0 (No. 9 last week)

9. Auburn 2-0 (No. 11 last week)

10. Kentucky 1-1 (No. 2 last week)

11. Michigan State (No. 10 last week)

12. Kansas State 1-0 (No. 12 last week)

13. Oregon 2-0 (No. 14 last week)

14. Florida State 2-0 (No. 17 last week)

15. Syracuse 2-0 (No. 16 last week)

16. Virginia Tech 1-0 (No. 15 last week)

17. Mississippi State 2-0 (No. 18 last week)

18. Michigan 2-0 (No. 19 last week)

19. Clemson 2-0 (No. 22 last week)

20. UCLA 2-0 (No. 21 last week)

21. TCU 2-0 (No. 20 last week)

22. LSU 2-0 (No. 23 last week)

23. Purdue 2-0 (No. 24 last week)

24. Marquette 2-0 (Not ranked last week)

25. Buffalo 2-0 (Not ranked last week)

AT THE TOP

Gonzaga stayed at No. 3, followed by Virginia and Tennessee each climbing a spot to round out the top 5. Nevada, North Carolina, reigning national champion Villanova and Auburn were next, while Kentucky slid eight spots to No. 10.

TOP RISERS

There weren't any dramatic climbs beyond the Duke-Kansas change at the top. In all, 16 teams moved up this week poll, with No. 14 Florida State and No. 19 Clemson matching Duke's three-spot jump for the biggest of the week.

Twelve of the gains were merely one spot.

LONGEST SLIDES

Kentucky's fall was the biggest for any team that stayed in the poll. The others were all modest, with four teams -- Kansas, No. 11 Michigan State, No. 16 Virginia Tech and No. 21 TCU -- falling one spot each.

NEWCOMERS

There were two new teams in the poll with No. 24 Marquette and No. 25 Buffalo.

It's the first appearance for Marquette in nearly five years since last appearing at No. 25 in November 2013.

As for Buffalo, it's the first AP Top 25 appearance in program history. It comes after the Bulls got 43 points and 14 rebounds from CJ Massinburg to beat then-No. 13 West Virginia on the road -- another marquee upset for a team that beat Arizona and eventual No. 1 overall NBA draft pick Deandre Ayton in the first round of last year's NCAA Tournament.

SLIDING OUT

The Mountaineers slid all the way out after losing to the Bulls, which marked their first loss in a home opener since November 2003. Washington fell out from No. 25 after a loss to Auburn.

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