About a month ago, I, for one, was skeptical that the Boilers would win another game this year. I thought the tent had been folded up and put away neatly in the shed until next season. After the gut-wrencher loss to Ohio State, the Boilers failed to show up in Minneapolis and were downright embarrassed. After that game, Robert Marve -- when asked questions about his team -- just said, "You just gotta go out there and play, man." The undertone we heard was "Let's stop talking about this stuff and just go play better."
The Boilermakers struggled the next week vs Penn State at home, only further cementing their mediocre-at-best season status and likely Coach Hope's fate in front of mere hundreds at Ross-Ade. Many teams, including teams in positions like Purdue was in, would have truly folded it up at that point. As I said, I didn't think they'd necessarily win again.
It's a true testament to the players and especially the seniors that the Boilermakers have won three in a row to become bowl-eligible, culminating in today's guilty pleasure 56-35 win over the Hoosiers. I say guilty pleasure because that was not a "good" game in terms of good football teams playing good football, but it was fun. Shootouts often are and this one had huge swings of three touchdowns at a clip.
Robert Marve and Akeem Shavers had career days on Senior Day, with Marve passing for a 69% completion percentage (imagine how good it would have been if Purdue receivers weren't wearing cement gloves in the second quarter) on 20/29 passing, for a tidy 348 yards and four TDs.
The two-QB system even sort of "worked" today, as Rob Henry passed for a TD and rushed for one. ("See??!!" Gary Nord is shouting right now, before his percocet sandwich).
Shavers carved up the Hoosier defense for 225 total yards -- 126 on the ground and a TD and two catches for 99 yards and two TDs. He also had scoring runs of 71 and 58 yards called back on penalties. Mercy. Not a bad last game in Ross-Ade. Too bad more fans weren't on hand to see it.
Other notable performances included Frankie Williams' impressive interception of Cameron Coffman's long downfield pass and on the other side of the field, junior Stephen Houston rushed for 158 yards and three TDs. The guy was hard to stop.
Speaking of IU, I know the knock on their D all season has been their porous run stopping, but their secondary is positively dreadful as well. I'd love to crow about Purdue rolling up all these points (and I will) but that secondary can't stop anybody. It's not like it was laserlike touchdown passes threading needles all day. The Boilers caught passes in the flat or even at the line of scrimmage (Gary Bush from Henry comes to mind) and then just ran through, around and over the IU defenders. One guy who got particularly worked over was #37, Mark Murphy, a safety for the Hoosiers.
On Brandon Cottom's 14 yard TD for the first Boiler score, he kind of ran right past Murphy, who made a weak arm-tackle attempt and wound up splayed out on the field watching Cottom rumble into the end zone. And then on Akeem Shavers' 73 yard TD catch-and-run (his first of three straight in the final 10:40 of the game), Murphy had a clear line on Shavers and should certainly have been able to take down the smaller running back. Then Shavers grabbed Murphy by the face and threw up to the ground and this happened:
|Mark Murphy (37) is thinking "My girlfriend saw that."|
What I don't get is how this team stayed with some of the teams they stayed with this year. I think the fact that Kevin Wilson cobbled a 4-7 season out of these guys (remember, an improvement from one win last year) really is quite an accomplishment. Everyone seems to agree they're going in the right direction, including me, but he has got to get some defenders in there (or a coach who can coach these guys up) who can stop...something. Pass, run, whatever. Because that defense was abominable. (No, I'm not saying Purdue's is phenomenal, before you say something about that.)
Another guy I should mention here is Cody Webster since punters rarely get coverage. This guy has been more of an asset than I think people realize. Cody averages over 45 yards per punt today, notching 275 yards on six kicks. He's only a junior, so next year this will be an asset again and he'll be kicking on Sundays in two years. Good for him.
Crosby Wright, another favorite here at BS, had a game himself. Despite Crosby having two big penalties that resulted in huge gains being brought back (we had to bust your balls, Crosby), Wright had a manly catch and run while carrying IU defenders for over 15 yards in the third quarter. It looked like he dragged three defenders into the end zone but was ruled down a the 1 and Rob Henry punched it in. Crosby had three catches for 81 yards, his best yardage output of the season. Unfortunately, he never made it into the end zone this season, but caught balls in every game but two.
Back on Robert Marve, I don't think we can say enough about this guy. I know he's had a troubled past in some ways but if you believe in second chances and that young guys sometimes make poor decisions and then straighten themselves out, then you should also love this guy. There are few examples in recent Purdue history of guys who just wanted to be a Boilermaker and be out on that field with his teammates more than Robert Marve. Much like Rob Hummel, this is a guy who could lament his spot in life and his three ACL injuries and how things just have not worked out for him they way they could have, but then you see his dad during the game saying that Robert is so "blessed" to be a Boilermaker and you can see how happy the whole family is that he's playing football in the black and gold. If you're like us, it just makes you proud of him. And thankful to him, because those are the guys we love to see in Purdue uniforms.
As for his play on the field, we also couldn't be happier that he had his career day on Senior Day. But the play many of us will surely remember for a while was after he threw a hard luck interception that rattled around among a few players and was snagged by junior cornerback, Greg Heban of the Hoosiers. Heban took off the other way and had the running head start on Marve, who was closer to the center of the field while Heban was streaking down the hashmarks. Marve turned on the jets and reminded us all that he's still one of the best athletes on the Purdue roster. Marve took the correct angle and -- on a torn ACL, remember -- caught Heban and, as I said to b-dowd after the game, made a tackle with better form than many of Purdue's defensive players of the past five years. Now that's a guy who wants to play football for the Boilers. How many QBs would have shown that hustle? And don't tell me many, because we've all seen guys coast out of the frame and give up on the play. The tackle occurred 70 yards after the interception. It still resulted in an IU TD, but that's not the point here. Robert Marve made us proud during his time at Purdue, especially this season. Marve-lous, indeed. Thank you, Robert.
* * *
As we mentioned on Friday, we heard from a number of sources within the athletic department that Coach Hope is done. While we've always liked him as a person, we've never felt he was a very good coach. We've tried to stay off the "Fire Hope!" bandwagon as we never like to call for a guy's job and we don't know what good it does. Plus, he has been the coach, so until he isn't, we always felt we should do our best to stay objective and not personal. However, Danny Hope has made it personal in recent weeks, referring to those who question this team and how it could possibly have looked so bad as "losers" and people of "low character."
Today, as the game ended, he was seen on the field with his wife who was already in tears. I suppose it's a nice thing that the Hopes enjoyed their time in West Lafayette so much that they're upset that it's ending. Of course, it could also be that they're projecting a bit and blaming everyone else for the fact that Danny is likely on the way out. Sally Hope even started the postgame presser, as per Gold and Black, by lecturing the press who "couldn't wait" for Purdue to lose. Give me a break. That's just poor form. The media in West Lafayette is far from being like a rabid dog.
|This kind of embarrasses me as a Purdue fan.|
Hope said that it was an "extremely successful season" because they came back from the 3-6 start, and was also put up on his players shoulders. That's nice and all, but let's not celebrate a coach who went 22-27 too much, okay?
It's worth repeating that we would have liked to see this season, with this schedule and this roster of talent, play out under better coaching. There were many times when we found ourselves wondering what things would have been like with Marve in there or better play calling. How different is this season if Marve stays in the game to start the second half against Notre Dame? How about if Purdue is able to get one more first down and run out the clock against Ohio State? Every season has its "what ifs," of course, but some of the ones this year could have significantly altered the trajectory of the football program. Naturally, we'll never know. What we do know, though, is that the Hope/Nord approach has not worked for the past four years.
That said, we hope the seniors get a nice destination for the bowl game and come to play. Crosby Wright was quoted after the game as saying the following:
"I don't know how to describe it. It's tremendous. It's incredible. It's the best feeling of my life. Me and my fellow seniors, we've got one final game to play as Purdue Boilermakers."
Those are the quotes that are fun to hear. Yes, we wish it was a more meaningful bowl game, but regardless of where it is, we'll be watching and pulling for these guys.
That will never change. We hope other things do, though.