What’s the State of Things With Jeff Brohm?
(Photo credit: Greg Flint, CNHI Sports Indiana)
It’s never good when before September is even over for fans to find themselves saying things like, “Well, all this is at least good experience for next season.” Yeesh.
After a couple of disheartening losses, the 2019 Purdue football season kind of feels all but lost. And as always with sports, it’s never completely clear-cut as to why. Sure, Purdue has not played well on defense for much of this season – basically starting at halftime against Nevada. But when you consider that their best defensive players – Markus Bailey and Lorenzo Neal – haven’t seen the field much (or at all, in Neal’s case) maybe you can understand it a bit.
On the offensive side of the ball, the injury bug that seemed to spare Coach Brohm’s first two seasons in West Lafayette hasn’t been as kind this year.
One of the disconcerting things that has begun to bubble up is the frustration with Brohm this year, which feels weird to even say. But it’s fair to point out that for all the promise that is shown by his teams at Purdue, each year has started with losses and each year has also featured some complete head-scratchers, straight out of the Danny Hope era.
With those losses overshadowing things, it can be easy to overlook the wins that never would happened during the malaise period of Purdue football. So let’s take a look at things and try to “level-set” (yay, corporate-speak) on where Jeff Brohm is and where your expectations should be.
Let’s start with the positives.
2017 Notable Wins:
· @Mizzou – After coming out of the gate with a terrific performance in a close loss against his alma mater, Jeff Brohm led Purdue to a win under the permanent lights against Ohio in a game that was really never in doubt. Okay, fine, that’s good and what should happen against MAC teams but of course we know that’s also not what happened against MAC teams when Darrell Hazell was at the helm. So Purdue then goes on the road to Missouri and just absolutely dump trucks the Tigers, 35-3. It was weirdly one of those games where the winning team almost appeared to realize they didn’t need to do anything special and just kept their boot on the throat. I would say it was at this point that we all became true believers in the church of Jeff Brohm.
· @Iowa – Sitting at 4-6 with two games to go, Purdue went to an 8-win (that season) Iowa team that was two weeks off of annihilating #3 Ohio State, 55-24. In the intervening week, Iowa had crept into the rankings but had then lost at Wisconsin, so you’d have to figure they were ready to pummel someone. Elijah Sindelar out-dueled Nate Stanley by going 22/37 for 229 yards, 3 TDs and zero picks (I guess luck was on his side that day) and Purdue rose to 5-6 with a game against IU to go to a bowl. We know how that turned out.
· Bowl vs Arizona – In Dick Rodriguez’ final game as ‘Zona head coach, Jeff Brohm’s team – led by another fortunate performance from Sindelar (33/53, 396 yards, 4 TDs/1 INT) – overcame a furious comeback led by Khalil Tate to win on a TD with 1:44 to go, 38-35.
· @Rutgers – On Oct 21, Purdue rolled into the birthplace of college football sporting a 3-3 record and Purdue fans everywhere were happy in that they had a really good shot at being 4-3 with five games to go. Instead, Purdue had perhaps the most inexplicable performance we’ve ever seen – and definitely the most mind-bogglingly bad of the Brohm era – in a 14-12 loss to the Scarlet Knights. Chris Ash went 3-26 in the Big Ten during his four-ish seasons in NJ, and those three wins all came in a four game span in 2017 (which feels like a weird stat). He beat Maryland on Nov 4 that year, he won at Illinois on Oct 14, and, of course, he beat Jeff Brohm. Signature win?
· Vs Nebraska – Should we put this one as a head-scratcher? Purdue seemed to have the guillotine hoisted high above Mike Riley’s head but somehow the Huskers pulled one out. Purdue led 24-12 in the 4th quarter, but it did not end well.
Let’s move on to 2018.
2018 Notable Wins:
· Vs OSU – Let’s be honest here. People pining for other coaches or suggesting Purdue made a bad hire are first off, foolish. Second, consider this night – October 20, 2018, Tyler Trent’s night. Purdue was hosting unbeaten #2 Ohio State. Purdue then lowered the boom on OSU in a way that is rarely done to them. You can’t really argue fluke or luck here. Purdue simply came in ready to dominate and they did. In the prior 14 years, the Boilermakers had been 2-40 against ranked teams. That win made them 2-0 in 2018 (the win over then-#23 BC was cute but doesn’t really make the list because, I mean, it was #23 BC).
· Vs Iowa – Iowa came back to see Purdue in 2018 after the surprising 2017 loss in Iowa City and this time they were ranked 19 and wound up 9-4 in 2018. Purdue was not impressed and won 38-36 in Ross-Ade because, as we all know, nobody comes into Ross-Ade. (This also made Purdue 3-0 against ranked teams in 2018. Not bad, according to my notes.)
· @Nebraska – Scott Frost is here to make the Huskers champions again, I’m told. So that means Purdue going into Lincoln at 1-3 and manhandling the Huskers quite a win, doesn’t it?
· Vs EMU – Look, you really should never lose to a MAC team if you’re a Big Ten program. You definitely shouldn’t lose to one at home. And you absolutely shouldn’t be losing to them if you think you’re heading in the right direction and you have Jeff Brohm and Rondale Moore. This was a bad one and there’s no real way around it.
· @Minnesota – I’ll put this on here because while losing a road game to a Big Ten opponent who winds up winning seven games isn’t awful, Purdue went to Minneapolis at 5-4 (after that hard-luck, 0-3 start remember) and then simply soiled the bed, losing 41-10 and simply looking like they forgot why they went to Minnesota.
It’s early to make a judgment but the loss on the road at Nevada will be a head-scratcher that goes in the same bucket with several of the above. No, they’re not Rutgers and they’re not even EMU (Nevada was a bowl team last year), but not only is that a game you must win if you’re Purdue, it’s even more unforgivable when you build a 24-7 lead at halftime and you’re up 31-17 halfway through the 4th quarter….well, that one isn’t okay.
The Bottom Line…For Now
Jeff Brohm has had some unacceptable losses, even for a rebuilding program, and I think he’d admit that. However, he has also put together some amazing, fun wins that are what got you excited about Purdue football again. And if you need some help seeing the silver lining through the current haze of injuries, let’s think about this.
Chris Ash was recently fired from Rutgers after posting an 8-32 record in four seasons. Darrell Hazell was fired at a similar point after going 9-33. Those are pretty similar records. In addition, I think it’s fair to say – if you can remember back – that Purdue’s situation then was similar to Rutgers right now. They had no recruits to speak of, the cupboard was bare and apathy was rampant. Now….just think about how utterly impossible it is to conceive of a coach walking into Rutgers and taking them to an exciting bowl win next year over a Pac 12 opponent. And then the year after that, destroying the #2 team in the country by four touchdowns. That’s what Jeff Brohm did at Purdue.
Should you be happy with an overall record of 14-16? Of course not. Nobody is saying that should make you all tingly. But to see the guys he’s convincing to come to Purdue and the production he’s gotten out of guys at certain times should encourage you and, at the very least, convince you that Purdue is indeed on the right path.
The story of Jeff Brohm at Purdue isn’t yet written. The typewriter is only warming up.