Gut Punching-est Hits of the Danny Hope Era

As the fanbase gets less and less tolerant of the Danny Hope era coaching staff, it begins to feel as though all of the Hope era games are gut-punch losses. So I took a look back to see how many of his games are the kinds that make you curse and kick the cat. Turns out...a lot of 'em.

Let's hit the wayback machine.


We should be used to this sort of nonsense by now, because by my count, Danny Hope gave us four straight such games early in his tenure and five overall in a particularly painful 2009. Of course, at the time, we liked how much spirit a team showed that was a year removed from a dismal 4-8 campaign under Joe Tiller. But let's look closer.

9/12/09, Oregon 38, Purdue 36

A year after blowing a 17 point lead at home by playing uber-conservative in the second half against the Duckies, the Boilers headed to Eugene for a late start (in the East) under the lights in front of Oregon's "hippie lettuce fans, who were lucky to be able to find the stadium," as b-dowd hilariously told me via text. The Boilers promptly came out and hit Oregon in the mouth, playing an exciting, back-and-forth game that included Danny Hope doing the hand to the ear "I can't hear you" gesture to the Oregon student section.

The Boilers had a 24-17 lead in the third quarter, then fell behind by a TD and then marched right back down to score on Ralph Bolden's third TD of the game, giving Purdue fans everywhere serious hope. Then the Boilers missed the extra point, gave up another TD, came back to score with a minute to go... but were unable to convert for two and lost.

9/19/09, NIU 28, Purdue 21

Following their heartbreaker at Oregon, the Boilers put on perhaps the most listless performance of Hope's tenure (which is saying a lot) in falling behind -- at home -- 28-7, before Joey Elliott finally comes to and scores two rushing TDs to make the score respectable, if not the result. This is the first of the annual Danny Hope letdown games, in which there is no other explanation than that the team was not adequately prepared to play.

9/26/09, Notre Dame 24, Purdue 21

Purdue is outplayed into the second half and trails 17-7, yet somehow grinds out a couple of scores to take a 21-17 lead on one of Gary Nord's favorite plays (seriously, you'll see this every game). The Boiler crowd is going bananas as a victory under the lights against the Domers (come from behind, no less) seems to be happening. The the Purdue coaching staff goes into its patented play-not-to-lose defense and is picked apart by an injured Pickles Claussen, even going so far as to call a head-scratcher time out when ND was about to have to make a fourth down decision.

Pickles finds his man Kyle Rudolph in the end zone on fourth down with 25 seconds to go to rip the Boilermaker hearts out yet again.

10/3/09, Northwestern 27, Purdue 21

Three minutes into the second quarter, Joey Elliott throws his third TD pass of the game and the Boilers go up 21-3, clearly asserting their dominance and taking out the frustrations of their previous three weeks and two near-misses against quality opponents.

Then the Boilers have their customary pasta halftime meal, go to sleep, and give up 24 unanswered points to the Mildcats.

11/14/09, MSU 40, Purdue 37

With the Boilers needing to win out to have a shot at a bowl game, the players come to play against Sparty. Purdue leads -- again -- at halftime, 20-17, and expands their lead to 11 points (34-23) with under twelve minutes to play in the game.

MSU then goes on a 17-3 run to close the game -- in Ross-Ade -- despite Kirk Cousins going 11/25 for a 44% completion percentage.


The Boilers scaled back their hearbreakers in 2010 by simply being a worse football team and leaving a lot less up in the air. This was not a good year. Sure, injuries played a huge part, but a four-win Boilermakers squad still left these tasty morsels on the table that could have made 2010 a season of optimism in the face of adversity.

9/25/10, Toledo 31, Purdue 20

The Boilers come out apparently still affected by the season-ending knee injury suffered by Keith Smith the week before and look even more dazed after Robert Marve's knee folds and Rob Henry is thrust into the QB role. Purdue, down 17-0 by the second quarter and 24-3 by the midpoint of the third, simply can't recover. Toledo plays a smart, aggressive game and in what is now a trend that continues to this day, the Purdue coaching staff fails to -- or simply cannot -- adjust. The Boilers are again humbled in their home stadium by a MAC team.

11/20/10, MSU 35, Purdue 31

The Boilermakers head into East Lansing against the 9-1 Spartans and hit them in the mouth. Rob Henry leads Purdue to a 28-13 lead after three quarters. Fans of the 4-6 Boilermakers begin to dream of an improbable bowl appearance, as a win here would make them one win away, with only IU at home remaining.

Alas, in a script that is by now common, the Boilermakers can't hold a sizable lead and go into scared mode, losing the fourth quarter 21-3 and the game 35-31. For a second straight season, 75% dominant effort against the Spartans turns into a bowl-hopes-dashing loss.

11/27/10, IU 34, Purdue 31

Stop me if you've heard this before. Purdue steadily climbs to a 21-7 lead in the second quarter against a poor Indiana team. However, the soup and turkey legs in the locker room were delicious as the Boilers sleep through the second half, being outscored 27-10 from the late second quarter onward and losing the Bucket on home soil.


In Danny Hope's best season to date, the Boilers went 7-6, including their bowl victory. There were plenty of games to choose from if you're talking about frustrations, but in terms of the ones that slipped through their fingers, only one hugely egregious one stands out.

9/10/11, Rice 24, Purdue 22

With a rare boisterous road Purdue contingent on hand in Houston, the Boilers piss away the opportunity for a road win and a potential 3-0 start by having a game-winning kick blocked in the final seconds after coughing up yet another lead (17-10). This one stings for a long time as the Boilers prove they are an improving squad with good talent. Winding up with a 7-5 regular season record instead of 6-6 meant the difference between Detroit and somewhere appealling during bowl season.


And then there was last Saturday.

10/20/12, OSU 29, Purdue 22

Purdue surprises everyone with a concerted, aggressive, creative approach to the game plan coupled with spirited, emotional effort from the guys. For three quarters, at least. Then the coaching went into the tank again, from play calling to being overly conservative to time out usage. Basically, they hit all the pain points in letting this one slip away, as Purdue blows an eight point lead with under three minutes to play. Or, in fact, they blow an eight-point lead with 45 seconds to play as that's when OSU got the ball back with no time outs.


The point of all this? That it isn't a one-off occurrence. And it doesn't matter which players are on the field for the Boilermakers...which brings us to the question of what has been the constant in all of this? I think you know the answer to that one.

Coach Hope is 19-25 in his tenure and his teams have given away perhaps ten games that should have been lockdown wins. I don't think it's a stretch to say that. These aren't games where they were long shots and lost by three TDs and would have had to be different humans to win. These were games that were either:

1) Matchups the Boilers were far superior in talent;
2) Games Purdue held commanding leads in that a good team with good coaches should not relinquish; or
3) Games affected by poor coaching, poor adjustments and poor in-game management.

So again, if it feels like this happens all the time to these's because it does.

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