Make It Happen, Coach Haze
I'll be the first to admit that I don't believe these Boilers can get anywhere close to 6 wins. I've been consistent with that idea since last Spring. Further, I've been documented here on this very site saying that I thought four wins was a pipedream back in June. I also picked Purdue to lose to lowly, rebuilding Illinois at the end of last week.
Saturday rolled around, I did what I have done the last few seasons (begrudgingly tuned into the game) and was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. A decent team probably wouldn't have let Illinois get back into it after establishing an early lead. Further, a team that had control of the line of scrimmage, as Purdue did on offense, might have just ground the other team into a fine powder while just playing solidly on defense. That didn't happen...My boilers struggled to stop Illinois' second string QB from doing exactly what he wanted, and the game came down to the wire...But the good guys won.
It was a refreshing change to see Purdue close out a game. But honestly, they've done a pretty good job doing that this season versus lesser opponents. I'd argue again, that I don't think any of the three wins were versus teams worth much of a damn, but a win is surely a ton better than the alternative...something we've gotten to know too well as Purdue fans during the last 2, 4, 6 even 8 years, really. It's been a tough run. We feel it...the new AD feels it and Coach Hazell feels it.
It sure was obvious that he's been under pressure following the game on Saturday.
Seeing him nearly brought to tears after beating Illinois is something I would have mocked had it been Kevin Wilson, Brian Kelly...or really anybody, for that matter. But I get it.
Bobinski made it clear at an athletic department event last week that he had been hearing plenty of crap from people like me following Maryland's ass kicking of our Boilers...and the trickle down to Hazell, I'm sure wasn't pleasant.
Whether it's the Darrell Hazell Show on the radio that no one listens to or calls into anymore...heck, no one even claps in the restaurant when it's being taped, or the lack of fan interest or the frigid breezes in the halls of Mollenkopf, these have been tough times for Purdue's 2 million dollar man.
I don't really feel sorry for him- he took a job that pays him well...he's been given time to win and install his system, and generally Purdue fans are a pretty harmless bunch (with a few exceptions). That said, one recurring theme that I'm hearing from my pals is that this Illinois game just delayed the inevitable firing of Hazell...and it seems like that's the case.
When you're in the fourth year of your job, and you've had little success, whether you coach or sell or design products for a living, you're constantly looking over your shoulder for the gleam of the guillotine. That feeling sucks, regardless of how much you get paid to do it.
Hazell's recruiting has left much to be desired on the field. There are clear holes in the roster and the talent disparity between Purdue and much of the BT (save Illinois and maybe Rutgers) is apparent. On top of that, the system that he's installed demands a high talent level and massive, strong humans on both sides of the ball to control the line of scrimmage. Purdue has a few of those...but not enough. And that scheme isn't Joe Tiller's in its novelty nor innovation.
This beleaguered, yet well-dressed bunch of Purdue athletes, might not always look the part as college football players, but from everything that I've gathered, with very few exceptions, they are good kids who are pretty good students too. That makes it tough to demand the change that is needed to make Purdue football matter more than one or two Saturdays per season to the fan and alum base. There's too much on the line from a money and PR standpoint to allow Purdue to play the game of football as badly as they have for the past few seasons...
But a 3-2 record looks pretty OK...especially when compared to some teams (MSU, Oregon and UND, specifically) in early October of 2016. Sure, Purdue's wins don't carry much weight with any bowl committee or post-season board. I don't think that matters nor do I think that any of us thought a bowl was a remote possibility a month ago...but I want to see my Boilers do well when they step on the field of play each time they do it.
So Coach Hazell, go win a few more...go prove us all wrong...go earn another year or two on campus. Yeah, I'm serious; I really want to see it. I want to see an improbable turn around. I want to talk to my son's kids in 20 years about how the legendary Coach Darrell Hazell (yeah, the one with the statue next to Fat Jack and Cowboy Joe) was once on the brink of getting fired before an overtime victory versus Illinois started the greatest turnaround in the history of college football. Is it likely? Hell no! Wouldn't it be fun though.
I will say this though, Coach- if you can't win 6 or more, don't bother winning another one...I think that will only piss off the detractors more. You'll probably be a good WR coach again for aOSU in the next few seasons...but as an HC, very few of us have bought into what you're selling; even in season four.
Hopefully your players have bought in, Coach...after all, it's you guys against everybody, pretty much.