Looking at 3-2 Through Different Lenses
A year ago at this time, Hazell's Boilers had three wins and two losses, had already had their bye week...and we all knew the end was near.
This year, Brohm's Boilers have three wins and two losses, have had their bye week...and we all know this is just the beginning.
In 2016, David Blough was passing the ball quite a bit...but hadn't shown the ability to make big plays 52 weeks ago. He was completing just under 58% of his passes, had seven TDs...but the 10 Ints were tough to swallow. In fact, his throwing 5 interceptions in one game didn't lose him the job. At the same time, Markell Jones had just been injured after starting the season with a lot of yards in the first three games (around 350), and a pair of TDs.
In 2017, Blough splits time with Sindelar. He's completing 68% of his passes, has 7 TDs and just 4 Ints. Two of those are pretty fresh in our mind and are eerily similar to some of what we saw in 2016. After Blough stared down receivers on two occasions and hit the LB and safety, Coach Brohm brought in Sindelar as a reliever...Purdue's Soph QB delivered. He's completed just 55% of his passes this season, but has 6 TDs and just 2 Ints. Markell Jones has just been reinstalled following tweaking his knee this year. He only has one TD...but it was a beauty that put the Boilers up and helped lead to the victory last Saturday. Jones, Fuller, Knox and Worship have all contributed at key points this season with Fuller being the most effective thus far; averaging over six yards/carry and getting into the end zone twice.
The 2016 defense last season was forgettable. 3 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries doesn't sound awful through five games...but three of those interceptions happened against lower division foe, EKU. Oh yeah, that same defense allowed Maryland to score 50 points...and while we might not remember it this way, that Maryland team finished the season 6-7 last year...but Purdue helped their lil' scat back look like Barry Sanders...for at least an afternoon.
In 2017, this defense has been opportunistic, snagging four interceptions (the pick 6 from Bentley sealed the Minny game) while recovering eight fumbles. Their timing has been immaculate it seems as they are simply stout in the red zone.
In 2016 at this point, Purdue had played just one marginal bowl team after five games...and this earned them the 3rd easiest schedule in all of the land. Lying ahead of them, six of their remaining seven opponents would go bowling.
Purdue's 2017 schedule thus far has been filled with quality opponents; four of them look to be bowl teams (Ohio and Minnesota were victories, of course)...while their weakest foe hailed from the lowly SEC- I had to do some research to learn about that conference. In their final seven games, Purdue has a few lightweights, but four of the remaining seven look like bowl teams. This year's schedule is said to be between 25-35 in the country.
We all knew Coach Haze was a deadman walking by October of 2016...some of us even started naming potential candidates to replace Purdue's third-year HC. A year makes a large difference...Purdue's candidate is now the best first-year coach in America according to some in the college football world, and is being named as a candidate for about every potential job...just two months into his six year initial contract in God's country. The fanbase is starting to come back; Our Boilers enjoyed their first sellout crowd in eight seasons a few weeks ago and ticket sales are trending upward among alums and students alike.
A 3-2 record in itself can mean many different things...but this year's 3-2 looks nothing like last season's version. Sure, a bunch of the names on the backs of the black and gold jerseys are the same, but the differences become pretty evident without even a deep look at the two squads.
Five games in, we're already in the midst of a renaissance of Purdue football. Purdue is doing things that some people (including defensive coordinators) can't predict. Some are already calling Brohm's Purdue squad appointment football each Saturday. And while we didn't miss many games even in the bad ole days, a ton of college football fans had come to regard Purdue has an automatic win in the past few seasons. In a short time, this program has come a long way. Case in point- I heard a national radio show talking this morning about Purdue as a team that could take Wisconsin to the brink this coming Saturday. I'm not sure I agree with that assessment...but the fact that Purdue is no longer a punchline is progress in itself.
Now that I think of it, Wisconsin does kinda love running between the tackles...and Purdue is pretty damned stout in the middle on defense...I'm probably getting ahead of myself. But who knows what we'll be saying this time next year.