Can The 2013 Boiler Football Season Be Salvaged?
Well, before you check me for hallucinogens, let me clarify what I mean. Obviously, I don’t think it can be “salvaged” in the sense of becoming what anyone would look at as a successful season. I get that. And we can debate endlessly how much of this is the new system and how much is what Hope and company left behind. What I’m asking is, does 2013 still have the chance to be looked at as anything but a very dark period? And the answer is that I think it does.
The team currently sits at 1-9, with just two games remaining. But those games are probably the two most winnable games since the ISU game. That said, they’re easily losable, too, which is why they actually can be seen as pivotal. I hope that Coach Hazell and staff are instilling that feel in the players during practice this week. It’s not over and it better not be viewed as over. If anyone is acting like it, well, there’s the bench over there. I feel confident that’s still going to be the approach of these coaches.
Illinois comes to town Saturday and let’s think about this weird scenario.
Illinois is a 3-7 (0-6) team that hasn’t won a game since September 28 (six straight losses) and hasn’t won a Big Ten game since October 8, 2011 against Indiana. Remember, 2011 was Zook’s last season and one in which the Illini started the year 6-0 and reaching #16 in the country, before losing to OSU (an unranked, Fickell-coached OSU, remember) and then coming into West Lafayette at 6-1 and #23. Danny Hope and Caleb TerBush made quick work of the Illini and they still haven’t won a Big Ten game since.
The weird scenario is that despite all that, the Illini are a full touchdown favorite on the road in the Big Ten game. That is…kind of astonishing. And it tells you where Purdue football is right. Yes, I’m the first one to point out that point spreads aren’t based on who is better –they’re based on betting trends and getting action on both sides. But still, what a ridiculous situation both teams find themselves in.
This is a stinker of a game to anyone not affiliated with these two programs. It kind of feels to me like one of those sh-tty December 28 bowl games between 6-6 teams – nobody cares but the fans of each program and each team desperately wants a win because the game feels winnable to them. There’s actually some reason to get excited for Purdue fans because this is the first game since perhaps ISU where you don’t feel silly exuding some small measure of optimism. Should Purdue be considered a favorite? No, I’m not ready to go that far – I don’t think they’ve earned that yet. But what we saw last week tells me we also haven’t seen them quit yet, and that’s a marked improvement from the Hope era. These guys still want to win and if this losing streak has done anything, it’s made them more hungry for a taste of success. If they come out and get a lead on Illinois, or this is a tight game in the fourth quarter, I genuinely think you’ll see guys who smell blood and go for the kill.
It’s also Senior Day in Ross-Ade and so I would say that if you’re on or near campus, you should remember that these guys – and especially the seniors on this day – put on that Old Gold and Black and represent your University every weekend. And the seniors have been doing that for four years. They deserve to be sent out in style.
So going back to my original question – can the season be salvaged in any way? As I said, I think the answer is yes. If you beat Illinois, you probably get their coach fired and you’d then not be the worst team (record-wise) in the conference. (Think about this: Purdue has a legitimate shot at finishing with a better conference record than Northwestern – the Cats are about to get destroyed by MSU this weekend, before finishing against these same Illini.) And if the Boilers beat Illinois, do you not think they’ll be ready to go right back onto the field to attack Indiana? I sure think they will be.
If these guys win this week and next and head into 2014 with all these young guys having the experience they now have, 3-9 will feel as good as it possibly could.