At Least We Now Have Hopes To Be Dashed
It’s amazing what a little progress will do for everyone’s mindset. Mere weeks ago, there were many suggesting that Darrell Hazell was in over his head and that John Shoop should be fired immediately (after being punched a few times, I think was the consensus). I wasn’t in the best of moods about things, either, because it just felt like progress was stalled and the direction was, for lack of a better word, aimless. Contributing to this, I think, was the fact that we’ve seen that malaise from this program for years. As we’ve
mentioned, the problems we were seeing early this season were no different from the problems we had been seeing for, frankly, ten years. A lack of focus, poor preparedness, missed tackles, punchless offense when it was needed. It was weird how through three different coaching regimes those things kept cropping up, but there they were.
And now in the past two weeks, we all suddenly have a new outlook. When we asked for “progress,” this is what we were asking for. Win some games that you should have a shot at winning, hold onto leads, come back on teams, challenge good teams…in two weeks, Purdue has done all of that and as b-dowd said, we’re back on board.
After the win over Illinois, there were still plenty of naysayers with the ol’ “But it was just Illinois” nonsense. Let me tell you something – last year’s team absolutely would have lost that game and lost it badly. Purdue trailed multiple times in that game and had some things not go their way (botched fourth down attempt, for example), yet continued marching forward. Road wins in a power conference are not something to ever be dismissed, no matter who it’s against. Sorry, that’s a fact. But for those who refused to acknowledge the significance of that win, are you starting to believe now? Purdue had a legitimate shot to take down MSU on Saturday… and it came after trailing 21-3 and 38-17. There were some pissed off fans (and players) at the way Ross-Ade emptied out after the third quarter, but honestly, when was the last time you can remember a Purdue team having any shot at keeping it interesting when down three touchdowns heading into the fourth quarter against a top ten opponent? Perhaps 2000, when Purdue’s last truly great comeback QB was under center?
Sure, it took some fortunate bounces, such as the one where Mark Dantonio’s brain bounced off the inside of his skull and he went for a fake punt deep in his own territory while up two scores and simply needing to salt the game away. But that’s how football works, isn’t it? Those moments often do pop up in games and it’s up to you as a team to take advantage. Purdue immediately took advantage there, too, as it took almost no time for Akeem Hunt (who has been in beast mode lately) to make the Spartans pay. Again, would last year’s team have quickly scored there? Would they even have stopped the fake punt?
Boilerdowd pointed out that it is now evident that attitudes are changing and it’s finally fully visible. It’s year three for Coach Hazell and if he’s officially begun the turnaround, well, isn’t that more than reasonable? This is a program that was in bad shape at the end of Danny Hope’s time and then went 1-11 last year…and is now knocking on the door of 4 or 5 wins. Did we really expect as quick a turnaround as Hazell had at Kent? Maybe it takes longer to turn around a Big Ten program than it does a MAC one…crazy, right?
Another thing that this progress we’re seeing does is it gives the coaches more slack in the eyes of some fans, I think. I know that when Purdue is putting up 30+ per game, I’m less inclined to suggest the offensive game plan is awful and unimaginative. No, this isn’t a pass for John Shoop, because there are still times when adjustments don’t seem to happen. However, this remains a young team – but it’s a young team making steps forward and only occasionally falling back.
It’s been a while since we had that kicked in the gut feeling at the end of a game against that good of an opponent. When you have no chance, there’s little hope and as a result, the kick in the gut never comes. I’ll tell you this, though – I’ll take a kick in the crotch over endless ass-whippings.