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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — A week ago as Purdue prepared to play Notre Dame, sophomore quarterback Danny Etling was fighting to keep his job.
After solidifying his role by completing 27 of 40 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns in the 30-14 loss to the Fighting Irish, Etling is ready to take the next step: more yards per completion on Saturday when the Boilermakers (1-2) host Southern Illinois (3-0).
Etling is completing 57.3 percent of his passes (63 of 110 for 541 yards), but for an average of only 8.6 yards per completion.
With Southern Illinois averaging 44.3 points a game, Etling knows short throws may not be the answer against the high-powered Salukis from the Championship Subdivision.
"We know we need to stretch things by throwing the ball down the field," Etling said. "We have to respect the defense and continue to complete the short stuff. That is important for DeAngelo Yancey to make plays. We have to give him a chance to make big plays."
Yancey is Purdue's primary deep threat with a 19 yards per catch average.
"I have confidence in Danny that he can throw the bomb," Yancey said. "He has to trust that if he throws a bomb, I can come down with it."
Etling, who made eight starts as a freshman, is eager to take offensive coordinator John Shoop's advice and take the ball downfield instead of throwing dump off after dump off pass.
"He had two or three (long) balls that he just missed," Shoop said of the Notre Dame game. "We have to get better at throwing intermediate and deep balls. To have as many completions as we had against Notre Dame - 27 - we needed 350 yards. We have to get more chunks in the passing game. It's not any one thing. It involves protection, getting open and hitting them. We took some shots and left some on the ground."
Purdue coach Darrell Hazell will continue to emphasize deeper throws.
"We had opportunities in the passing game," Hazell said. "We threw the ball down the field, and a couple of times, our guys went up and just couldn't get it. We have to trust in our ability to react to the football."
Other things to watch in Saturday's game:
WHICH PURDUE SHOWS UP? After playing with little or no enthusiasm in a 38-17 loss to Central Michigan on Sept. 6, Purdue bounced back with excellent effort in a loss to Notre Dame. Running back Raheem Mostert said the young Boilermakers have learned a valuable lesson in the past two games.
"Coming off Notre Dame was a real eye-opener for a lot of us," Mostert said. "But at the same time, we know the potential we have going into this game. We have to win non-conference games."
SECOND HALF: In starting 3-0 for the first time since 2007, Southern Illinois has allowed only three second-half points. In consecutive losses to Central Michigan and Notre Dame, Purdue scored a total of seven points after halftime.
IMPRESSIVE NUMBERS: Southern Illinois' 44.3 scoring average ranks fourth among all FCS teams, and it's 463.3 yards of offense per games ranks 13th. Running back Malcolm Agnew is averaging 150 rushing yards a game and two touchdowns. Quarterback Mark Iannotti is 51 of 71 for 639 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions.
FEW AND FAR BETWEEN: Missouri Valley Conference member schools are 2-49 all-time against current Big Ten Conference schools, although Southern Illinois has one of the two victories - at Indiana in 2006.
STREAKING SALUKIS: Southern Illinois is 3-0 for the first time since 2007 and is on a five-game winning streak dating to last season. That's the second-longest streak in the FCS, trailing only North Dakota State's FCS-record 27-game winning streak.
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