Change Is Upon Us
It happened a year later than I thought it would, but a new culture is taking root in the halls of Mollenkopf...and finally, it's not just platitudes that are the proof of real change. Last week, we had a reader say that Purdue was going the right direction under Danny Hope and all of the great progress was lost with the poor hire of his successor.
We're in America. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion...and as wrong as that opinion was, that guy or girl has the right to believe whatever he or she wants. But if you want to find proof that things were broken under Hope, compare and contrast the post-game comments after yesterday's MSU game to the near misses under the previous coaching staff.
Not only did Hope just enjoy being in a big game, his players began to reflect that attitude as time went on. Good enough for almost winning was enough. Grinning, laughing and positive post-game press reports after a loss were the norm. Hope recruited speed in the skill positions...and that speed could beat a few teams on the schedule. But as time wore on, Hope's inability to manage the entire recruiting picture became obvious. Furthermore, thrashings by teams in the upper part of the conference were all but expected...and that continued into last season.
It took a while, but the attitudes are changing...and while it's taking longer, the physical nature of what Hazell expects from the bigguns is in process as well.
Purdue started the MSU game in very familiar position- a deep hole. The 8th ranked team in America looked the part...and one of the worst programs in America last year did as well. But a big deficit didn't kick the Boilers into a self-dug grave...instead they were smelling salts as Purdue fought back and made it a game.
If I stopped there, this would look similar to the worthless moral victory from earlier in the season against UND. But the play on the field is only part of the story. After the game, Hazell and the players all agreed, that not only did they not do enough to earn accolades, but that they will learn how to finish games like this in very short order.
Defensive lineman took responsibility for giving up too many points early. The quarterback not only knew he made an egregious error at the end of the game, but vowed to fix it. The running back promised us that Purdue's success at running the ball came from his line's ability to create...not just one or two good games. And a wide receiver reminded us that while the offense is playing better, they can do more in the closing minutes of games to transition from the cellar to being a team that is a force.
I don't mention names intentionally- this team, this coaching staff gets it. Finally. They weren't good enough to win a game versus a very good team...and that's nothing to celebrate. Losing; whether by 50 or by 14, still stinks. The really good news is for me as a fan, is I actually believe what they're saying.
They are getting better. They are capable of more. And, most-importantly, the signature victory of this rebuilding program is coming soon.
From the beginning of this season, I think I've been skeptical. Last season knocked the optimism out of me. Not only did I watch too many thrashings, but I was in the stands among hardly anybody and felt the depth of the chasm that had become of my alma mater's Purdue program. As Aneesh said a few days ago, the process matters...but only if the goal is reached.
Hazell's boys are getting closer.
I believe the proof of tangible change in this program is coming in one of the next two games...on the road.