I know that many of you readers are also devotees of the other great Purdue blog out there, Boiled Sports. During last night's handsome hour podcast I called in to chat with J Money and Boilerdowd. Aside from (probably rightfully) making fun of the fact I attended last night's WNBA Finals game in Indianapolis, Boilerdowd proposed an interesting question at the end of the chat. It is a question I want to touch on today: Where would we be if Tiller were still coaching this team?
Here is my answer: We would be in the exact same position we are in right now with a 1-4 record, with possibly a 2-3 record because Tiller very rarely lost to the MAC. I know he had two losses (Toledo 1997 and Bowling Green 2003) to the MAC during his tenure, but both of those teams were legitimate top 25 teams from the lesser conference. Northern Illinois is not that type of team. Yes they are good, but they are the type of MAC team that Tiller feasted upon during his tenure.
I do think that with Tiller we may not have been as close in games as we have been, but the bottom line is still our record. The record would be roughly the same and it doesn't mean anything whether you lose by one or by 50. They are still losses. This is why I do not blame Danny Hope for these losses, nor will I throw him under the bus as some have.
Danny Hope has not fumbled punts away to the other team. Danny Hope has not thrown critical interceptions. Danny Hope did not cause our running game to fail in weeks it has failed. There are some things that are his responsibility. The timeout against Notre Dame is an example, but that still did not decide the game. Failing to stop Notre Dame on fourth down did.
I am still a firm believer in execution deciding games. Great execution with great players can overcome a ton of mistakes. In reality, football is a simple game. If you don't have the ball, tackle the guy that does. If it is in the air, knock it down or intercept it. If you have the ball, don't get tackled and secure the ball. In the passing game, just catch it. When you break the game down on that level, it is that simple.
Right now, we do not have great execution and it is arguable that we have great players. I believe we have some very good players, but we are still a step behind many of our opponents. Even then, we have been right there in games with allegedly subpar talent. That means the difference has been that execution, and we have not done that.
I am willing to give Danny Hope the benefit of the doubt for now because we do have great athletes coming in. We have showed signs that the execution can be right there. A win this week at Minnesota would get a lot of people back in his corner. I still think he is a good coach because we have yet to be truly beaten by a team. We have only beaten ourselves. Over time, the players will learn what it takes to turn these close losses into wins. I firmly believe that we need just one breakthrough win in order to improve the program. When it comes, it will almost be like flicking a switch.
As fans, we have to wait for that breakthrough. Our next chance is in nine days when Ohio State comes to town.