Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I hope everyone out there has a safe and happy holiday. The posting will likely be scaled back slightly over the next few weeks before Christmas. The recent temp job I accepted is going to need me for some extra hours so that will cut into some of my writing time. I do have press access for the Wake Forest game next week, however, so that should be fun. If anyone finds any worthwhile news during the day feel free to post it via fanshot and I'll get it to the front page as soon as I can. Also, if you feel like doing a post of your own you can do it via Fanpost on the right. I haven't pushed these features too much in the past, but they are great ways to expand the community here. Now on with the football wrap up.
I am not quite sure what to think about this. When seeing some preseason predictions of 2-10, 1-11, 3-9 with maybe a pair of Big Ten wins, the 2009 Purdue football season looks pretty good. When you actually sat down and watched all 12 games, as I did (minus Northwestern) it is hard not to think that 10-2 was possible. That leaves me with mixed feelings. We were much better than advertised, but not as good as we could have been. Ultimately, 5-7 is probably about right based on the amount of inexperience we had on offense. Even then, those players overachieved.
That is what makes this season wrap up so hard. How do I put it in proper perspective? I guess we can look at each game individually.
Toledo W 52-31
This was the only game that one of the guys over at the Rivalry, Esq. Gave us coming into the season. It was with good reason too, as the Boilers were never seriously threatened and Ralph Bolden had a field day. The only major concern was poor tackling and poor coverage over the middle against Toledo's short drop passing attack. The tackling would be hit or miss all year long. Joey Elliott threw three interceptions, but two were tipped balls as we had the foreshadowing of turnovers. All told it was a good opener. We were in control throughout and never let Toledo get within two scores.
At Oregon L 36-38
And you thought the Ducks visit to Ross-Ade was letting one get away. Essentially, we handed Oregon 19 points in their home stadium. I called this as an upset Purdue win while everyone else predicted blowout and I was damn near right. We had a Duck team that would go on to steamroll USC beaten in their own house. An early interception deep in our own territory led to a field goal. Oregon later returned an interception and a bad snap for a score. We also had an extra point blocked, forcing us into a failed two point conversion attempt in the final minute. Still, this team didn't die when giving them those 19 points. We earned the respect of Oregon fans everyone, as they knew they were lucky to escape this one with a win. I know the guys over at Addicted to Quack have been big fans of Purdue all season because of this game. Unfortunately, "We had it," would become a theme for the season.
Northern Illinois L 21-28
Just an ugly game. If we played them 12 more times I would absolutely pick us 12 times. We had zero business losing this game and we know it, especially when Toledo would later beat Northern Illinois. Purdue got outclassed and outplayed in every phase, yet NIU still needed a late fake punt to hold us off. I am fully confident that we would have scored to tie if they had actually punted there. We should have never been in that position in the first place. Two fumbled punts and a penalty for roughing the kicker only allowed seven points, but they allowed NIU to dominate the time of possession. The offense never got on track until late in the third quarter. I said before the season that if we lost this game we had no business going to a bowl and I was right. It is the difference between a bowl and nothing right now. If we played this game today we win by three touchdowns, easy.
Notre Dame L 21-24
Another missed opportunity. After Jaycen Taylor gave us a late 21-17 lead we let Notre Dame drive down the field, converting a 3rd and long and a 4th and goal. The timeout called by Danny Hope before a late 3rd and goal is unforgiveable. Even if they don't spike it they are running plays in the hurry-up. That means they are less likely to convert. I'll give Jimmy Montana credit though. His winning TD pass to Kyle Rudolph was a good one.
Northwestern L 21-27
This is the second worst game next to the Northern Illinois debacle. If we simply take a knee deep in our own territory late in the first half we save 13 points and three turnovers. Even with the mistakes we had a chance t win late but a pair of incompletions inside the 10 cost us the game. I am glad I was in Miami for this one. I thought ESPN's gametracker was stuck on repeat with all the fumbles. At least Northwestern had quite a season after this one.
At Minnesota L 20-35
This game was almost as bad as the Oregon game. Minnesota's offense was horrible all year, agaisnt us they barely tried to pass. One big pass completed to Eric Decker set up a game changing touchdown. From there the floodgates opened with more turnovers. This was capped by a backbreaking blocked field goal returned for a touchdown. It was almost identical to the figgie Chris Summers had blocked in 2007, only Minnesota actually held on to the ball for a score. This is yet another game I wih we could have back. If we could replay every loss I would predict wins in this order, from most likely to least likely:
- Northern Illinois
- Notre Dame
- Michigan State
And of those, the only one I am sure we would lose is Wisconsin. I might pick Oregon, given how hot they can be. In the other five I would pick us right now.
Ohio State W 26-18
Quite simply, this is the biggest win the program has had in nine years since beating the Buckeyes in 2000. This was a better Ohio State team, but that win essentially sent us to the Rose Bowl, so it is bigger. Considering that three of our four Big Ten losses easily could have been wins, This could have sent us to the Rose Bowl as well, giving us a rematch with Oregon. With the way Ohio State has finished the season I am still shocked by this win. Without it, they would still be on a record Big Ten road winning streak. They would also be hoping for a miracle in the last two weeks for an outside shot at the national title. It was one of the most memorable games in Ross-Ade Stadium because it was completely unexpected. It also proved another preseason prediction of mine true: that we would end the losing streak against ranked teams. Ohio State was the only team that was ranked at the time we played them. Compare that to last year, where Oregon, Notre Dame, Penn State, Ohio State, Minnesota, Michigan State, and Iowa were all ranked at game time. If we win a conference championship in the next three years it will be because of this game.
Again, one of the happiest moments ever at Ross-Ade
Illinois W 24-14
This was kind of a boring game in retrospect. Everyone was still buzzing about the OSU upset. Illinois was awful before looking like a real football team the following two weeks. I would call this game the most dull of the season. We built a big lead and sat on it. That's what good teams do. It was nice not to have to hang on until the final seconds in a Big Ten win too.
Wisconsin L 0-37
Wisconsin Jumped Around all over us...
Did we show up in Madison? This was the worst game only surpassed by the NIU debacle. Yes, we were physically dominated in both games. At least you can expect it with Wisconsin. The Badgers played essentially a perfect game and we did not. There were absolutely no positives from this game, which made the next one that much more surprising.
Michigan W 38-36
Boiled Sports called the Ohio State game a sharpie loss. They were wrong. I called this a sharpie loss. I was wrong. The game will mostly be remembered for the simmering Danny Hope-Rich Rodriguez fued at the end, but I will remember it as HOLY CRAP WE JUST WON IN ANN ARBOR!!!! I don't care that it was over the first Michigan team to finish last in the Big Ten in over 45 years. Knowing our history since 1966 I thought we had no chance. It was stunning because we kept making big play after big play. We overcame yet another 14 point deficit to the Wolverines, and now we have a two game winning streak in a series where we have just 14 wins total. An alert reader is sending me a DVD copy of this game. They are awesome for that.
Michigan State L 37-40
This is the game where our bowl hopes officially died. It is probably about four games later than most people expected them to die. The play they died on was Michigan State's long TD pass after we had gone up 11. If the defense can force even a long scoring drive there the game is pretty secure. Instead, we gave up a long TD, had a figgie blocked, gave up another TD, got a figgie to tie, then promptly gave it back with a long kickoff return. This doesn't even account for the fact that we gave them seven points on the game's first play. It's a tough loss, but we had plenty of chances to make sure this one didn't matter in terms of getting to a bowl.
Indiana W 38-21
An important win because we shared the same record with IU coming in for the second straight year, but dominated the game. We showed that despite similar records, there is still a gap between Indiana and Purdue. It is now up to us to make sure it gets larger and not smaller.
There are tons of positives coming out of this year. We finished at .500 in the league after two straight seasons below. We were 4-2 in the last six games after being 1-5 in the previous six. We won a road game for the first time since 2007, and now have a two game road winning streak. We beat a ranked team for the first time since 2003. the next step is combining the two and beating a ranked team on the road. That is something we haven't done since winning at Wisconsin in 2003, and something we didn't do much under Tiller.
Offensively, we lose our quarterback, but we gain an experienced one in Robert Marve. If you go strictly by recruiting rankings, we can line up four star talent next year at guard (Ken Plue), running back (Al-Terek McBurse), receiver (O.J. Ross), Tight End (Jeff Lindsay, though he was a 4-star linebacker), and quarterback (Marve). Defensively we have to replace the entire secondary, but Josh Johnson, Chris Quinn, and Charlton Williams all have some playing experience. I think there is a certain guard on the basketball team that might be interested in a one year gridiron curtain call. At the very least, Kramer could provide much needed depth. It is safe to say he would be a fan favorite as well.
Just to show I am completely delusional, I think a 6-0 start next year is entirely possible. It is possible, maybe even likely, that Charlie Weis will be gone and Jimmy Montana and Golden Tate will both go pro. That evens the playing field in the season opener quite a bit. We have no excuse whatsoever for losing to Ball State, Western Illinois, and Toledo in the non-conference season. In conference play I believe we can beat Minnesota, Northwestern (our first two Big Ten games), Michigan (ignore this if they field a defense next year), and Indiana. Three of those games are at home, so they need to be wins (a sidebar, it absolutely sucks we beat the league champ, but still went 3-4 at Ross-Ade. WTF?). That leaves Ohio State (tough at home), Wisconsin (They tend to dominate us physically), Michigan State (toss-up road game), and Illinois (a wild card with their sheer talent) as tricky games. Notice three of those four are on the road. Michigan State should be better, while no one know what to expect from Illinois anymore. The Illini could just as easily win the entire Big Ten as they could finish dead last.
So what should we expect? In a down Big Ten everyone is looking to improve. I think we showed the most improvement over anyone as the season went along. If we keep it going into next year, I expect at least an 8 win season. We will return to a bowl unless we crap the bed in one of those three easy non-conference games. With a few breaks we might even challenge for the Big Ten title.
Yes, I have lost my mind.