Still Freezing in Football Siberia
You have to look back to 2011 to find a game that gives Purdue fans a tangible reason* for hope. That season, Purdue beat a bad aOSU team, won two road B1G games, Beat IU pretty soundly and won a low level bowl versus a MAC squad. And we were all thinking things could be better. Guess what- We were right...BUT things could also be worse, MUCH worse...and they have been for the last four seasons. As much as many Purdue fans malign other Purdue fans for their loyalty, I thought my alma mater represented herself quite well today. Good turnout, enthusiastic fans...some even believed that this could be the game in which they saw Coach Hazell's regime turn the corner. Not so much.
Purdue was beaten in every aspect of the game today by a better program. A more talented group of players and an experienced coaching staff that has a system that works spelled doom once again for our lowly Boilermakers. Those of you that were there are good fans...I mean that. I am in the Far East...was relegated to watching Game Cast and highlights a few minutes after they happened as my pals kept me updated via text message.
Like some of you guys, I thought a win was a possibility...and if you read the predicto, you saw my rosy outlook for another moral victory. I wasn't right. The Good Guys could only hang around for a half versus the Hokies. Even as they did, the offense was never a factor and the defense made a bad, inexperienced quarterback look like a Heisman candidate (he had 200 yards passing in the first half alone).
Just to get in on the action, the special teams failed a few times as well- a kickoff returned for a TD and the easiest blocked punt for a TD that I've ever seen in DI football. It looked like Purdue wanted it to happen. Beamer ball is based on successful special teams, salty defenses and an offense that is opportunistic. I think Hazell wants his system to look like that...Sadly, the only thing the two programs have in common is Nike jerseys.
Purdue continues to look like a team that would finish in the lower third of the MAC to my untrained eye. Each time they're given an opportunity to take a step forward, they soil themselves.
After the game, Kugler was asked how this season was different than the last few.
He responded by saying the Seniors and leadership in the locker room wasn't going to let this one get away and that things are going to turn around. Excellent...hope he's right.
Appleby continued the rah rah talk by saying he's confident that they'll "Get it fixed." Appleby finished the day with a respectable 32% completion rate, 2 lil' interceptions, and 2 tiny lost fumbles. Plenty of reason for confidence, no? Sure Va Tech is a salty defense...but c'mon!
If you've been coming on this site for a long time, or even just a few weeks, you know that I really like #12. I think he knows it too as I try to talk to him each time I see him on campus whether its football season or not. But today was horrendous...and the problems he has had, he continues to have. He makes slow decisions, he doesn't go through his progressions and tries to force things when pressure is in his face.
He seems to be a great guy off the field with tons of tools in the shed for use between the lines...but not enough to lead this team on a medium stage at this point.
His loyal head coach stayed positive after the game as well saying that his squad isn't "any further away from winning a signature game" than before today...He continued that they just need to handle "stressful situations" better. They were at home, down just one touchdown, and Coach Haze gave a halftime speech that implored his team to do the little things and go and win the game in the final minutes.
Instead, the offense came out firing blanks as the defense got kicked in the teeth. Hazell's steady personality translates to a coaching staff that seems to believe that adjustments at halftime are illegal for teams clad in black, gold or white helmets (depending upon the game). As the deficit grew, friends of mine texted me that they couldn't bare to watch any more of the game...and before the blood letting had gotten into full swing, many of them said Purdue was already done.
It's funny watching a game on GameCast gives you just enough info. One thing that it felt like was that Purdue had possessions that lasted less than a minute real time. That was waaaaaay off...Purdue's possessions were around 65 seconds in game time, and averaged around 5 yards per possession. "Appleby's two yard pass incomplete to Yancey." "Knox runs for no gain." "Appleby's 3 yard pass incomplete to Hart." "Purdue punts."
Riveting stuff...Like you, I still kept my eye on it for some reason.
It was 5:30 in the morning, and Chinese censors kept me from watching live action...but I felt like I was there with you...languishing. We've been here before. Versus Cincinnati, Central Michigan, Marshall or others...we've seen this show before. The question isn't if the letdown is coming...it's how and when it's coming. Versus Cincy, we knew it early. V. CMU last season, we watched a MAC team muscle our Boilers up late, versus Marshall two weeks ago, we watched Purdue let it slip through their lifeless, late game fingers...this week, it was a third quarter slaughter that left RA with a ton of empty seats and Purdue loyalists asking themselves why their favorite team did it again.
Purdue did it again, because they are who they are. After today, I believe more than every that while John Shoop might be a great man...he is an awful offensive coordinator. Players, parents and fellow coaches tell me how much the guys like him. I can tell you that while that might be the case, I don't like his offenses one bit. He gets paid around $400,000, I believe...good work, if you can find it. In the corporate world, I'd guess his department's lack of success might be a reason to force a change or restructuring. Turns out, there's a capable coach...in his staff...who has been an offensive coordinator...who has to be better...who is going to stay right where he is (coaching tight ends) due to Hazell's loyalty to his guy, his offensive coordinator.
I've said it before, I'll say it again. Hazell's loyalty to Shoop is going to cost him his job...and the longer this goes on, the more I believe it's going to be tough for Hazell to make it to the fifth year of his five year contract simply because a program can only take so many deep gashes.
Am I over-reacting based on one game? Hell no. This is a pattern of lousy offense, underprepared teams and systemic failure that has led me here. I've been fair...I'll keep rooting for my Boilers...but I don't think it's smart for any of us to believe a change is coming until we see proof.
David Blough looks to be a promising player because he makes quick decisions, has a quick release and has quick feet. My guess is that if he's given the reigns, he'll have his OC in his ear telling him to never make mistakes, if he wants to stay the starter...and the 2 yard bubble-less screens, 4 yard out routes and fake jet sweeps can only lead to so much success.
VTech's heady DC knew what Purdue was going to do all day (with exception to Jones' breakout run)...not only because they're predictable, but because the playbook is thin and uninventive. Serious question- if we found out Drew Brees had a fifth year of eligibility remaining, what would Purdue's record be in the remaining 9 games? My guess is Brees would check out of every play Shoop called, and quickly get benched or never even see the field. He wouldn't run the read option, and would have a hard time staying in the bumpers of this system (as he did at times in Chaney's). The difference is, being a gunslinger and competitor was a positive waaaaaay back in the go-go late 90s.
There are still tons of opportunities for success on this schedule. I see six or seven games that are against opponents that just aren't that good. Note: I didn't say winnable games...because why in the heck would I believe they're winnable, at this point??
I've had friends and people that just read the site ask me if this is worse than the Hope era.
C'mon. Can I pretend to believe this is better any longer? We know that Hope burned the place down when he left. We know that he was an absolute wild man in the halls of the athletic department as well as on the sidelines. He was unprofessional, looked to be over his head much of the time, had poor situational awareness...and his record was still much better than Hazell's.
This coach that I like so much is 5-22 as Purdue's head coach. Worse than Burtnett, Akers, Colletto or Hope in their first 27 games. Historic stuff. Is it his problem or Shoop's? It's his! He hired Shoop...he stays with Shoop.
Did Coach Shoop coach special teams today? Did he allow a bad VTech offense to look like a steam roller? Nope...his boss has to take responsibility for that.
After the game, Purdue's manchild LB, Bentley said, "That wasn't Purdue defense you saw out there today."
And while I love the sentiment, I'll have to disagree. Maybe he just added too many words. "That wasn't defense you saw out there today."
Generally speaking, when Purdue plays teams that are in the top-60 or so in the nation, they get rolled up. It was great seeing the looooooooong fumble recovery for a TD today. When defense scores a TD, it's usually a good sign for a team. That said, when a defense is led by an upperclassman-laden defensive backfield, you don't expect mental lapses and cheap long passes...but you still get that with our Boilers.
Do I sound like I'm airing grievances? Perhaps. Nothing personal. Once again, Frankie Williams seems like a great guy...same goes for Brown and others...but they didn't look like what I expected them to be this season, at times today...and the rest of their defense's vets seemed to be afraid of contact. Losses of Herman and others hurt...but shouldn't have made Purdue look like a HS squad in snazzy unis.
How many times can I write about being let down? Maybe the better question is how many times will I (and the rest of the fanbase, for that matter) actually believe Purdue is going to win coming into a Saturday afternoon? The good news for me is now I don't even think they're going to beat their MAC opponent next week in the friendly confines...Progress!
Next week, they have little to gain versus BGSU, but they can lose even more hind ends in the seat with a loss. Then it get interesting as Purdue plays four teams in a row who have all won 10-plus games in the last few seasons. Once again, the opportunity for a signature win will present itself again and again...will they ever take the opponent up on the offer?
*In this case, I'm defining that as beating a historically strong team, a rival or a team on a large stage.