Brohmball, Game 1: WOO
I think it was the first fumble at the 1 when we realized something different was happening. The fact that I have to specify "first" tells you something, too, but I think that was it. Instead of the smash up the middle most of us were expecting, or a designed rollout or a keeper on a zone read or any number of other magical plays Lamar Jackson had up his sleeve, it was a big guy carrying what was probably the ball and also a Heisman Trophy winner on his back, chugging up field as the scoreboard continued to read Louisville 0 ... that was when we thought it might be different.
If you follow me on Twitter you probably know half of this already, but I'm going to tell you anyway because there aren't many opportunities to tell stories like this, and if the Jeff Brohm era ends with disappointment then we might not even want to look back at this, but right now, we do.
We got tickets because why not? Purdue plays in Indianapolis pretty much never, Lucas Oil Stadium is a great place to see a game, and we were in a no-lose situation: if Purdue gets blown out, at least it'd probably be exciting, and if they don't, it could be much better ... plus the seats would probably be decent ones. Saturday afternoon, I printed out the tickets I'd reserved - I'd checked out the location online and knew they were pretty good, which was surprising because I'm not even in the 50th percentile of JPC members, but then maybe not that many people would go? We had no idea. Everyone knew Louisville would travel well, but Purdue?
We headed down to BWW to watch Michigan dismiss Florida, planning to head over before kickoff. Even on the way downtown, you could tell things were different: sure, there were people in red as far as the eye could see, but there was plenty of Old Gold and Black as well. Same thing when we headed over to the stadium: plenty of fans from both sides. The only thing missing was savvy street musicians playing fight songs to match the colors of fans passing by ... if you didn't know what the Colts' colors were, you might almost think it was an NFL gameday.
Our tickets said West Gate, but the north side is the closest; lines weren't that bad, so we figured we'd go around, since for Colts games a lot of people seem to go in the North Gate. We passed a bunch of people going the other way - one woman even told us to turn around because they'd just send us back to the North Gate. I wavered, but my friend voted for West, and since we had plenty of time, we kept going.
We got to the West Gate ... and saw lines that dwarfed the ones on the north side. (It turned out that enough tailgaters were on the west side of the stadium that they simply went to the closest gate; bad for them, good for us.) So we doubled back, eased through security ... and entered the stadium to a wall of sound. Again, if you didn't know better, you'd think it was a Colts game.
As it turned out, my JPC level was apparently good enough for fancy-pants seats. Into the West Club, straight through, up the stairs, up 10 rows, and there we were: comfy seats, surrounded by Purdue fans, listening to Hail Purdue.
It couldn't get any better than this. Moment of silence, national anthem, coin toss ... wait, Louisville didn't defer? Well, I guess I wouldn't either. Going up 7-0 is enough to tell a weak team where it belongs. We settled in for what would surely be a long night. Sure enough, Louisville took the opening kick to the 43, crossed midfield with a third-down conversion (which turned out to be something of a rarity for them), and then they were at the 9, the 8, and the 1.
And then Purdue had the ball at the 37. An exchange of punts later, a Louisville penalty (definitely not a rarity) put the ball at the 26, and then Jackson Anthrop was celebrating and it was 7-0 and Louisville was not winning. We joked that we could leave now; that was probably the best the game would be, so we could head home (or more likely, to the club to watch some big-screen TV or eat fancy-pants concessions or something). But none of us left our seats.
7-7 at the end of the first quarter. 10-7 when Louisville did it again, even if it did take the scoreboard operator nearly two series to fix the score. (Louisville never did end up with 16.) Richie Worship with a TD. Purdue up at halftime - up at halftime? - 14-10. I don't remember the last time 20 minutes took so long, but I do remember 14-10.
14-13. Brycen Hopkins. 21-13. 21-19 after Petrino apparently didn't get the message about his team's short-yardage offense. Even when Blough put two passes into windows that were completely closed, 25-21 Louisville was still a one-score game. And even though I'd got my wish already - the 11-play, 78-yard touchdown drive to take the 14-10 lead - here was another one. 8 plays, 67 yards, 28-25 in the fourth quarter, Louisville is not winning, not covering the spread, and I'm not even sure we're in the right universe.
Anthrop has another TD, the two-QB system looks just fine to me, and even though Lamar Jackson looked like the offseason never happened and he was ready for an acceptance speech, even 32-28 didn't seem that bad. Goal-line stand (again thanks to a Louisville false start), 35-28, and it could still be a win. If there was a person in the house that thought Brohm would go for the tie, I didn't see them.
It didn't happen, but the Boilers didn't go down easy, either. The game wasn't ever out of reach, the defense played basically an even game and forced three huge turnovers, and oh, the offense was 3 for 3 in the red zone - all touchdowns. (Louisville had 8(!) red-zone trips; they scored just 3 TDs on those. Sure, 3 FGs as well, but TDs are what you want to see.) There were plenty of areas for improvement, but you'd expect that coming off a 2-10 season, and surprisingly, penalties weren't one of those areas. 6 for 69 is not bad at all, especially when you consider the circumstances around some of those. By my count, the Cardinals had more false starts than that, which is kind of amazing when you have Superman at QB and are facing a supposedly bend-and-break defense, and you're playing in a neutral stadium.
A nice Louisville fan we met after the game was right. Give Brohm a chance, and we'll like what we see. It's still early, and we might not see a game like this again ... but it felt really, really good to stay to the end of a Purdue football game, and it's been a long time since I could say that.
I'm still not sure we'll win more than 2 games this season ... but Brohm and the Good Guys seem on a mission to prove me wrong. I couldn't be happier.