As last night's very brief entry suggests, why on earth did we hand them a timeout at the end? Charlie "Decided Schematic Advantage" Weis had once again made a boneheaded play call to have a run with less than a minute to go, no timeouts, and the runner was tackled well short of the goal line in bounds. This means a hurry up and the clock will continue to run. When teams are forced to hurry like that, mistakes happen. Blockers miss assignments that lead to sacks. The crowd remains frenzied, making play calls difficult. Rushed throws lead to interceptions. All these are advantages to the defense.
Then the ref waved his arms, signaling timeout Purdue.
Are you kidding me?
We have had some completely indefensible moments this season. Last week was one giant indefensible moment. The only thing acceptable in that moment is to not call timeout and blitz the bloody hell out of a wounded quarterback. Win or lose the game swinging, not playing conservatively. Even when we did stop them on 3rd down, I knew we couldn't do it on fourth down. We're Purdue. It does not work out that way for us. The last time we won a close game with a critical late fourth down stop was Wake Forest in 2003. Here is what coach Hope had to say about the timeout:
"I just wanted to have enough time left to run a couple of plays (offensively if Notre Dame scored).I'll look back at the situation and maybe it wasn't a great idea. At that point in the game, I wanted to save a few seconds and hope we could get three or four plays off."
Here is what I hear in that statement:
"See, I had zero confidence in our defense to go out, attack the ball, and get the necessary stop to seal the win, so I wanted some time left on the clock. I knew they were going to score, so I wanted to give us a chance to score again."
The more I see that quote, the more it angers me. It is a cop out. It is giving up because we didn't even try to go after a quarterback who is not that mobile anyway. He was even less mobile with his injury. Every time we went after Clausen and forced him to move around it led to poor throws. We had a chance to go after him on 3rd and 14 on the final drive, didn't and he had enough time to find a receiver for a 15 yard gain. I will credit Clausen. We gave him the time to make throws on that last drive and he made him. But the proof was there on the play before the winning TD. We got after him a little, and he had a throw sail out of the back of the end zone.
Am I going to call for Hope's head because of it? No. Everyone makes mistakes. This was just a large one that possibly cost us the game. It is a learning experience for everyone involved from the players to the coaches. It is a painful one, at that. We can only move on from here and play the remaining eight games one at a time. When I look at our record I see it is 1-3, but I am not ready to give up on the season. Sure, it will be difficult to qualify for a bowl game with five more wins, but are you telling me we cannot beat Northwestern next week? What about Minnesota in two weeks? Illinois and Michigan State certainly look beatable at home. Indiana is looking like a more difficult road game at the moment, but if we simply take things as they come, one at a time, we can start turning these near misses into wins.
Positives from the Notre Dame game:
Joey Elliott - This was Joey's best game so far. Even his interception wasn't a bad one. It netted more yards than a punt would have netted in that situation. The defense even got him the ball back quickly for the go ahead score. This was the Joey Elliott we needed to see. The defense was once again keying on Bolden and the running game, but Elliott got the offense moving again on both second half scoring drives when needed them. Joey also continued to show his elusiveness, evading several blitzes.
Jason Werner - Can we just clone him, please? I only wish he had gone after Clausen on the final play.
Dwayne Beckford - He didn't fill the stat sheet, notching only two tackles, but I really like this kid's energy. He was out there trying to get the crowd up and was active on defense. He is the type of player that will make a big leap next year. The same is true with Antwon Higgs
Joe Holland - I keep naming linebackers here because they really had a great game. That should say something too, as they were hot but we did not use them to get after the last play. Holland was hitting hard and wrapping guys up.
Dwight McLean - That is what we need from a safety playing up against the run. I just wish we could have had one hard hit that jarred the ball loose.
Negatives from the Notre Dame game:
David Pender - If I see Pender dive at a guy's feet one more time I think I am going to lose it. Sack up and hit the guy.
Defending the Wildcat - Why is this so hard? One of two people will be running it: Either the guy getting the snap or the guy in motion. Focus on those two and ignore everyone else. It isn't that hard. Good teams are those that throw the ball out of this formation, but that was never a threat.
The people sitting in front of me - I am sorry, but why are you at the game then? Last night everyone around me was into the game. It was loud. The older couple behind us and the older couple two my left have a great time. They are into the game. They get up and yell. They high five me. They are probably forty years older than us, but they seem to feed off the energy Mrs. T-Mill and I bring to the game.
Then there are the three people in front of us. They mourn being Purdue fans.
First of all, we have the blond trophy wife. She stays seated when everyone else stands, claps politely four times on every good play, and usually leaves the game early. Last night, she said in the first quarter, "can you tone it down? I am trying to enjoy the game." I was not saying any profanities. No one else had a problem with my level of excitement. Everyone else, in fact, liked it. There was a fan at the Northern Illinois game last week two rows down that was much worse. Still, she gets on me, saying she was tired of putting up with it for four years.
Eventually, the two men she was with, who also mourn their fanship, said something. I toned it down some, but I wasn't over the top in the first place. I just politely said, "I am sorry I am supporting my team." Mrs. T-Mill caught wind of this and cheered even louder. I knew I married her for a good reason.
This woman left at halftime.
To this, I ask, why was she even there? It is the biggest rivalry game of the season. It is a night game on national TV. You are worried about how loud the stadium is? She left at halftime to go back to her tailgate. We have a name for people like this. They are called IU fans. After halftime, an associate of theirs with a media pass stopped by and was speaking to the two people left in the group. He apologized that he "didn't know more people to get them closer to the middle of the stadium so they didn't have to put up with this shit anymore."
That, my friends, is your loyal Purdue fan base, where it is more important to sit closer to the middle of the field because the fans don't support the team as much than it is to watch half the game before returning to your tailgate.
I have been a member of the media for 10 years. I have seen there is a time and a place to be quiet and respectful, like in the press box. There is also a time and a place to be in the stands and yell until you have no voice left. I enjoy the advantages of being in the press box with instant stats, the ability to liveblog, and such. This means I give up being a "fan" for the game, but it is worth it. I also enjoy all of you readers that come here because I write from the perspective of a fan. I try to add that flavor from the game to my writing, and I hope it comes off well because ultimately, I am writing from that perspective in an attempt to relate to you. I appreciate fans that show up and support the team just as I do, with everything they have. You make the experience enjoyable to me, just as the other people around us that have as good of a time as us. If you don't like that, then you are not a fan and you should just go home.
This is why I miss basketball season, because the infamous Boilergal that visits here and Boiled Sports regularly sits right next to us. I love her fervent fanship and open pining for Chris Kramer's body. We need more fans like that at football games.
Two words: Beat Northwestern. I don't care if it is the most complete football game we have ever played or a four hours slop fest. Just finish the game with more points than them. This loss stings even more knowing NIU lost to freakin' Idaho at home yesterday.
That brings us back to Why again. Why do I continue to believe? Because this team keeps fighting. That fighting will pay off with wins soon. I saw the seeds continue to germinate this week, and they can definitely sprout and turn into some wins in conference play.