End of an Era: Purdue loses to IU 26-24
For what it's worth, Purdue really tried today. No, this is not a lesson on the value of moral victories. There has been such a dearth of actual victories that moral victories hold no value. But I watched the whole game. I stood in front of my television, with my hands on the mantle, and watched Purdue trip over its own feet at the most critical moments and lose the game. That means little, but it was a refreshing change from so many weeks over the last four years. I'm sick to my stomach at the pitiful state of the program; disgusted that things were allowed to get this bad and anxious to finally, FINALLY, turn the page. But despite Purdue's best efforts I'm still around. And if you're reading this, then you are too. That's worth a little something I guess.
I was worried that Purdue would kiss the curb against IU today, and they far exceeded my expectations in that regard. At times they even played well. An interception taken back to the 1 on IU's opening possession led to a TD and gave some hope. To be fair, it was a very close game. Neither Purdue nor Indiana led for more than 7 points. Time of possession for each team was within three minutes of each other. IU out-gained Purdue by a mere two years. Purdue turned IU over four times, and IU returned the favor three times. This game was close.
But of course "close" doesn't buy you anything, doesn't get you anywhere unless you're able to get over the hump and walk away with the win. Hell, Purdue's win probability peaked at 65% with 10 minutes left. But then IU marches 61 yards in nearly five minutes for the go-ahead TD. Purdue gets close on the ensuing possession, but then Blough throws an interception under duress in the end zone and that effectively ends the game.
Purdue did have one last shot. IU runs the clock down and finds themselves faced with a 4th-and-3 with 11 seconds left. Conventional wisdom suggests that IU punt the ball and rely on punt coverage and defense to run the clock out. Kevin Wilson instead opts to have Zander Diamont take a snap, burn the clock, sprints backwards, and take a safety. Brilliant call, if risky. The safety puts Purdue within two with 1 second left. IU kicks off, Purdue runs the worst desperation kick return lateral ever and the season ends on a whimper and a whine.
But it's over, and they tried and fought. Outside of one rough half against Penn State, they never packed it in and gave up, despite being led by a young former position coach with no head coaching experience. Through injuries and a shallow roster devoid of talented depth at nearly position and the shadow of a head coaching search hanging over their heads they played hard. They lost every post-Hazell game, but the team was undoubtedly better. The ending was bitter, but I'll always appreciate this team for how they represented the uniform as they closed out the season.
Where does that leave us? Well, we do know that this team is going to look quite a bit different next year than it does this year. There will be a new head coach and staff, this year's seniors will be gone, and the roster will certainly experience some attrition. Hopefully Purdue has better days to look forward to. Certainly they can't get much worse.