For those rooting for Danny Hope to be fired, today went about as poorly as you could have wanted. Not only did the Boilers win (and if you were cheering against your Boilers, shame on you), but they looked shaky along the way... probably further cementing the feelings of those who doubt where this program is heading.
But let's make no mistake here. No matter how rocky things have been this season, the year has ended with a victory, the Boilers have the Bucket back, they beat a ranked team this season, and they're likely headed to a bowl game. As we've said, if at the beginning of the season someone offered you 6-6, you'd have said "Hell, yeah." Well, you should have anyway.
6-6 is nothing spectacular -- we understand that. But it is a step in the right direction and it's the team's best record in four years. It's progress, no matter how small it may feel. Is it the kind of progress we want, expect and deserve? Well, that can be debated.
As for this game, it was a little unnerving, to say the least. Indiana seemed to have no trouble running their elaborate* (*Not elaborate at all) running plays, gashing the Boilers for over 200 yards on the ground. The Hoosiers held leads of 7-0, 14-7 and 17-10 before Purdue finally was able to begin putting some space between them, and the space was provided by Carson Wiggs. We've been looking for Carson to lead this team to victory all season and he has officially delivered. Four FGs, two of which were over 40 yards, made a huge difference as the Boilers worked their way to a 23-17 halftime lead. After Carson's 48 yarder just before half, he celebrated with the donkey balls gesture, which Coach Hope appeared to love -- or at least the camera cuts suggested as much. But knowing what we know about Coach Hope, I'm sure he did indeed love it.
After a back and forth first half, things calmed considerably in the second half. Perhaps fatigue was a factor -- a sign of two bad teams? Regardless, the Boilers did manage to continue to roll up yards and wound up with more than 500, including almost 300 on the ground.
Speaking of the ground game, Ralph Bolden went down with what appeared to be a knee injury in the third quarter and as of this writing, I haven't seen any updates. Not a good thing to have happen to a guy who missed all of last year with an ACL injury. The bright side of things was that Akeem Hunt came in and averaged a tidy ten yards a carry in rushing for a cool Benjamin (100) in relief.
Purdue continued with the two-QB "system," as Caleb TerBush again started but was relieved by Robert Marve once the Boilermakers were behind in the game. Marve's play was fairly nondescript before he took himself out of the game late in the second quarter. I have not yet seen an update on the reasoning for this, but one wonders if it has anything to do with lingering effects from the shots he took last week at home against Iowa.
Caleb played a solid, if unspectacular, game, going 16/25 for 192 and a TD. He didn't hurt the Boilers with any picks or fumbles and that's worth noting. In fact, the only turnover of the game was an INT hauled in by Josh Johnson with just over four minutes left, the Hoosiers down eight and driving. Thank you for that, Josh Johnson.
The team did not look particularly sharp in this one, but I do attribute some of that to IU just simply being amped to play. When I saw the footage of all the seniors coming onto the field and carrying the Bucket, I did get a little nervous -- especially when I saw how hyped they all were when the game began. This game was all they had left, it was their bowl game and they were ready to play. All these young players getting minutes should bode well for Coach Wilson in the future. This team will improve, there is no doubt. Look no further than sophomore Stephen Houston, ran seven times for 129 yards -- a nifty 18.4 yard average.
But on this day, the forces of good were simply too much for the crimson and cream fellows, and the Bucket has been rescued and now is back home, comfy and warm in its bed in West Lafayette.
Separately, the Boilers now get to speculate on what bowl they will be invited to. One assumes they will know shortly where they're invited to go. A representative was on hand from the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl and he seemed very excited about the prospect of getting the Boilers to Detroit.
"You want teams that are bowl hungry and Purdue is excited about being in a bowl again," he said. "It's only a gas tank away to go to a bowl for anybody in the Mid-American Conference or the Big Ten, so the proximity is really important."
Indeed, airplanes are hard to find.
If anyone of the Big Ten's ten bowl-eligible teams is going to get left out in the cold, I would have to think it's Illinois, who started the year 6-0 and has not won since. Purdue alumni travel fairly well and Purdue fans really appreciate bowls, so I think they'll get snatched up somewhere, especially with the Big Ten expected to send two teams to BCS bowls. The extra month of practice should help the team, but as I said at the beginning, for those hoping for the demise of Danny Hope, it's looking like you should get used to him in West Lafayette.