Last year, one of my favorite parts of the season was when Coach Hope had a caller who was all over him and sounded like he was about to jump ship. This was early in the season, when Purdue had just one win, a whole bunch of question marks, some painful losses and a few losses that everyone thought shoulda been wins. After the caller ranted at the coach for a minute on his radio show, Hope said "Bleed with us" and requested that this disparaged fan should not give up as the team rebuilt and grew. He won a lot of fans that day and pleaded with others that things would get better.
Well, the second half of that season was better, the bar steadily rose as Purdue pulled off a few upsets, took some other teams to the wire and beat the hell out of IU. Coming into this season many, myself included, thought this team would be better than last year...no, not a contender for the BT title, but a team that would compete in most games, and win more than it lost.
Losses of Ralph Bolden, Keith Smith and others hurt badly. The season-ending loss of Robert Marve, psychologically, might have hurt even worse, as the keys to this year's offensive success all were removed from the table.
Now, we're all bleeding with you coach, whether we like it or not.
The fanbase seems to be mixed on what's coming next...but I don't think anyone is optimistic at this point. We saw Purdue get manhandled by a middling club from the MAC on Saturday...and not just on the oft-injured side of the ball...in all phases, Purdue lost that game. And in my opinion, Hope looked confused at times on the sideline- never a good thing.
One of our readers did me a huge favor by comparing what's happening now to what happened at EKU. While I'm not sure things will move at the same rate for Coach Hope and his staff at this level, it seems there are some similarities with the our out-of-conference problems thus far.
The problem the coach might have soon is that not everyone will stay and bleed with the team...I know I don't have anybody else I root for, and there's nothing better to me than being in God's country on a game Saturday when my favorite team's playing well. But empty seats are already increasing...and I really can't blame people too much. Tickets are pretty expensive, and lots of us are still smarting from the ways our jobs have been affected over the past two years.
Coach Hope and Co., my unsolicited advice is pretty simple- give everyone a reason to believe. We all know the offense will be struggling to find its identity over the next few weeks/month. But, this is the time when coaches earn their salaries...it's easy to coach with a bunch of talented, experienced players. It's a tremendous challenge to try to find something, anything that works when lineups are thin and inexperienced.
Much like Smith, Bolden and Marve are all fighting to get healthy, this team must now fight for every point and every yard...the offensive line simply must come together and play physically as running the ball is paramount...and finally, the defense no longer has time to get grow up over the course of the season (specifically in the backfield)...they must become dominant in the next few weeks in order for Purdue to have any success this season. Hopefully, the bleeding will at least slow down soon.