It was very difficult to sit in the blazing sun and watch Purdue look like their old selves from the bad old days of Darrell Hazell in the 14-12 loss to Rutgers yesterday. In fact, I can barely believe I’m writing those words – a 14-12 loss to Rutgers. This is a team that lost earlier this year to EMU, that was shut out four times last season, including 56-0 and 78-0 in back to back weeks. It’s also a team that Purdue outgained 474 to 217 and 25-8 in first downs.
The issue is that this Purdue team is, quite frankly, still not a good team. They’re decidedly mediocre. And that’s not a dig at the team, the players or the coaches. This is a program that still had this graphic attached to them earlier this season:
So let’s recalibrate just a tad. Sure, they absolutely should have won at Rutgers. Let’s not lose sight of that and don’t misunderstand me – I’m not saying that’s an okay loss. In fact, it’s a crushing loss in the sense that it changes everything about our confidence in this team racking up wins down the stretch and reaching a bowl. It’s like the old saying goes, “if you can’t beat Rutgers, who can you beat?”
That said, if any of us didn’t expect some bumps along the Brohm-led road to happiness, that’s on us. Of course this team was going to go through some growing pains. I’ll be honest with you – I thought something exactly like this would happen but I honestly thought they’d crush Rutgers and wind up losing at home to Illinois. Illinois is terrible but Purdue is too inexperienced at being a favorite to know how to handle it. It turned out that being a ten point road favorite wasn’t something they were ready for, either.
I think it’s important to look at it this way… this was the first game of the season where Purdue surprised us in a letdown kind of way. Whereas in previous seasons, every single week was a new kind of disappointment, this season’s first half featured competitive losses and exciting wins. And no faceplanting to speak of. In fact, when they looked as though they might collapse (i.e., letting Ohio march down the field in the first half or turning the ball over four times in the first half versus Minnesota), they immediately righted the ship and took control back. I kept waiting for that to happen in Piscataway yesterday but it became clear far before the end that it simply wasn’t to be.
You can look for positives and the massive statistical disparity is one place to console yourself a tad – as bad as Purdue played on offense, they still almost rolled up 500 yards and 25 first downs. The weird glitches on fourth down, the gunshot wounds to the feet with those ugly interceptions and the general malaise we saw are the counterpoints. And those you need to simply give the coaching staff the benefit of the doubt that they’ll get them fixed – we’ve longed for a coaching staff to make us believe and to earn a benefit of the doubt. That’s what we have no, so we’ll see what things look like next Saturday night against Nebraska.
This one will sting all season. If they miss a bowl by one game, you’ll remember this loss to Rutgers. If they win six and go to a crappy bowl, you’ll note that seven wins might have been a noticeable upgrade. It’ll never feel okay unless Rutgers goes on to win the East. So unfortunately, to maintain sanity, the best course of action is to let it go and chalk it up to what it is: growing pains of a program that is moving in the right direction but wasn’t going to get where it needed to be by halfway through season one of Coach Brohm.
Brighter days remain ahead. Forge on and fill Ross-Ade.