- Associated Press - Friday, September 18, 2015

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) - Purdue coach Darrell Hazell likes the progression he saw from Week 1 to Week 2.

He knows the Boilermakers must play even better Saturday against Virginia Tech.

In an early-season game that will become this season’s first real measuring stick about Hazell’s three-year rebuilding project, it’s a chance to make a statement.

“It would be helpful to get (a win) against anybody,” starting running back D.J. Knox said. “Beating Virginia Tech would be a good day. But no matter how we get a win, or who we get it against, it’s a good day in my book.”

But it won’t be an easy one.

While coach Frank Beamer has led the Hokies to 10 or more wins 13 times since 1995 and taken Virginia Tech to 22 consecutive bowl games, the Boilermakers have only appeared in two postseason games since 2008 and haven’t posted double-digit wins in a season since 1979.

History isn’t the only thing going against the Boilermakers (1-1).

Less than two weeks ago, Purdue committed four turnovers in a 41-31 loss at Marshall.

The next day, Virginia Tech (1-1) took a 17-14 halftime lead over No. 1 Ohio State, then lost quarterback Michael Brewer with a fractured collarbone in the third quarter and wound up losing 42-24.

Last week, the Hokies used both Brenden Motley and Dwayne Lawson, got a 42-3 win over Furman and left Hazell with plenty of headaches heading into this weekend.

“You have to be really good at closing drives out, whether it’s a field goal, whether it’s a touchdown,” he said, noting that Purdue can’t afford to leave points on the field as they have the first two weeks this season. “You have to be able to put the points on the board when you have opportunities.”

Beamer expects them to do just that Saturday.

“I think you see good things happening in this program, progress. They play hard. They’ve got good players, getting better all the time,” Beamer said. “I think this is a real test for us.”

Here are some other things to watch this weekend:

HE’S BACK: Sophomore defensive end Gelen Robinson will make his season debut against Virginia Tech after serving a two-game suspension. The 6-foot-1, 250-pound son of former Purdue basketball star Glenn Robinson is expected to split snaps with another sophomore, Antoine Miles. How much will Robinson’s return help? “He’s really explosive off the edge, which is something we need,” defensive tackle Jake Replogle said.

BEARING DOWN: It could be a milestone weekend for Beamer, who is chasing career win No. 275. If the winningest coach in Virginia Tech history (232) wins Saturday, he also would break a tie with Paul “Bear” Bryant for the seventh-most wins at one school in Football Bowl Subdivision history.

RUSH WEEK: One of Hazell’s biggest concerns this week is adjusting to the Hokies’ defensive front. After being shut out in sacks against No. 1 Ohio State, Virginia Tech had three sacks in last week’s win over Furman. Since 1996, Virginia Tech has had more sacks (726) than any school in the nation. Purdue’s problems could be compounded if starting left tackle David Hedelin (calf) misses the game.

THE NUMBERS: Virginia Tech’s success on the road follows a script. In non-league games on the road over that span, the Hokies are 16-4 overall, 13-3 against unranked foes and 11-0 when scoring 30 or more points.

EARLY HOMECOMING: Purdue will honor its 2000 Big Ten championship team that went to the Rose Bowl. Among those expected to come back are former coach Joe Tiller, who set a school record with 87 wins in 12 seasons. The most familiar face from that team - Saints quarterback Drew Brees - won’t come back because his team hosts Tampa Bay on Sunday.

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