Purdue Breaks Through
Feature image from @BoilerFootball
It didn’t take much to dredge up the ghosts of seasons past. Opening week loss - check. Loss to an inferior MAC opponent - check. Loss to a strong non-conference opponent at home - check. Purdue football, never a juggernaut, on paper resembled those forlorn squads, the wraith of unmet expectations and a well-worn seat at the bottom of the conference looming over a cool Autumn afternoon in West Lafayette.
Last year injected such an energy in this team, fan base, and local community, an energy once so great yet dampened by a disappointing start. Walking around Slater Hill before the Missouri game I found my fellow fans vibrating with that energy, built up over all of last season but which hadn’t been afforded the opportunity for release yet in the 2018 season. I drank too much beer and bourbon, and just talked to my fellow fans, all of whom were not yet resigned to the grim fate of failure.
Losing to Missouri was a set back, acceptable in the summer but devastating in context, and a question about whether this team had become unmoored in its focus and purpose, the worst possible fate for a sports team, surfaced at least in my own mind. And I know I can’t be alone in that. Winning requires focus and energy, and to lose that before the season really even began would put Purdue squarely back in the Hazell era.
Perhaps as a testament to Jeff Brohm’s staff, the pride of the season class, or a general sense of ownership over one’s fate, that was shown early to not be the case against Boston College Saturday. While they didn’t quite match the “f*ck it, we’re firing it deep” attitude found in David Blough’s 572 yard game against Missouri, this team realized its potential as a talented, dynamic problem for its opponents. Balancing run and pass, hitting deep and in the seams, the production wasn’t quite the eye-popper that the Missouri game was, but it was effective and devastating to B.C. in all the ways it needed to be when hosting a ranked, non-conference opponent. And the defense evoked memories of last season, attacking the ball, attacking the quarterback, attacking, attacking, attacking. The defense was opportunistic in its approach, intercepting the ball four times. This defense is young when compared to last season, a fact apparent in the early games. It’s easy to see how this team will be much different in November than in September, solemn consolation with a 1-4 start, perhaps.
But it all came together Saturday against Boston College. The team that we expected to see showed up and ground B.C. into the Ross Ade dirt. And the energy is back. The road ahead is hard, and a bowl might still be out of reach, but this team will not roll over and show its belly. That in, and of itself, is worth it.
As a side note, Rondale Moore is a revelation. He now has had two touchdowns in two of this team’s four games, an insane output for anyone, much less a true freshman. He’s been both a volume received (33 receptions on the season) and a big-play threat (game-long receptions of 32, 42, and 70 yards, game-long rushes of 76 and 53 yards in games this season. Insane!) Rondale Moore has been sending a message to all who watch Purdue this season: come play for Jeff Brohm and you too could find yourself running unobstructed towards the endzone all season. Who turns that down?