By CLIFF BRUNT
AP Sports Writer
WEST LAFAYETTE -- If Curtis Painter is to be taken seriously as a Heisman Trophy contender, Saturday offers an ideal opportunity to reverse his trend of shaky performances against elite teams.
The senior quarterback will lead the Boilermakers against No. 16 Oregon in front of a national television audience on ABC in search of his first career win against a ranked opponent.
Painter is in line to set numerous school passing records, but he knows wins and losses ultimately determine how a quarterback is viewed. Despite his 0-7 career record against Top 25 teams, he spoke with a higher level of confidence than usual on Tuesday at Purdue's weekly media conference.
"We can come into this game and have a chance to win," Painter said. "We've got to play well, that's for sure. We think that we can be there and give ourselves a chance to ... be there at the end."
Painter said his confidence comes with experience. He's tied with Arizona State's Rudy Carpenter for the most consecutive starts at quarterback in the nation with 33.
"I think I'm just a little bit more mature, knowing a little bit more of what we want in the offense, and running it a little better," he said.
Painter already has set Purdue records for passing yards in a season and a single game, and is nearing several others. Last season, he passed for 3,846 yards, 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He passed for a school-record 546 yards in the 51-48 Motor City Bowl win over Central Michigan and now is a contender for every major award for quarterbacks.
Purdue has started www.Curtispainter12.com as part of the school's first Heisman campaign for a player since Kyle Orton in 2004.
Drew Brees, the standard by whom all of coach Joe Tiller's Purdue quarterbacks since have been measured, said Painter is an exceptional player.
"He does have an opportunity to break every record that I hold, or Jim Everett, or Mark Herrmann, or all the great Purdue quarterbacks," Brees said. "I hope he breaks every one of them. He's worked hard and put himself in that position."
Brees said he talks to Painter every summer and likes what he's heard.
"I really like his attitude," Brees said. "I think he carries himself in a great way. Very humble guy, and I like to see people like that succeed."
The main difference between Painter and Brees is big games. Brees beat Ohio State and Michigan in 2000 and led Purdue to the Rose Bowl. The big wins helped Brees finish third in the Heisman balloting that season.
Purdue receiver Desmond Tardy said Painter's laid back demeanor will prevent him from worrying about what's at stake against Oregon.
"He takes every game one game at a time," Tardy said. "I've never seen him get nervous or take one game different than the next."
Tiller said Oregon's defense will offer a stern test for Painter, the kind that Painter needs to pass.
"They've got the talent to really run the table," Tiller said. "Winning a game like that would bode well, first of all for us and second of all, for Curtis."
Tiller said Painter needs to perform well for more than just a shot at awards. Many experts project the 6-foot-4, 230-pounder with the powerful right arm as a high NFL draft choice.
"They're all important," Tiller said. "I think for Curtis, if he has aspirations beyond the collegiate level, he needs to perform well every Saturday out. He's evaluated on the season, not one game."
Tiller said Painter was solid in the season opener against Northern Colorado. He completed 15 of 28 passes for 286 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in a 42-10 win.
"I think Curtis is on track," Tiller said. "He'll have to play better this week than he did last week. Our receivers will have to play better. We'll have to play better as a football team, there's no big secret about that."
Painter has a fan in Brees.
"I think he's gotten better every year, and he's put himself in position to finish his career off in a great way."