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Week 3 reactions (Taking your beating like a man).

On a most schizophrenic Saturday I have been able to witness both ends of the spectrum within my household, and for good measure it is the absolute opposite of what I am used to. My beloved Boilers continue to show improvement, as they handled things very, very well against Ball State today. While my adopted team, whom I saw for the first time in person, went out and laid a collective egg in what was a huge game for them, the type of game that they normally step up and win. I'll hit on both here, beginning with Purdue.

I was not there today and I only got to hear about half the game on the radio, but from what I have ready and from the highlights I have seen, I must say I feel better. Not great, but better. We seem to be improving from week to week gradually, rather than in leaps and bounds. That is to be expected though, and I will take it. No matter which way you slice it, we are still a very, very young team, and I am encouraged that they are showing improvement, rather than none at all. That is what these game against lesser competition are for, to get wins when we may not be as sharp as we need to be later. It's a marathon, not a sprint, to borrow an old cliché.
Painter had a solid day, cracking the 400-yard mark for the first time. He's still just a sophomore though, and we're going to have to learn to live with a couple of ill-advised interceptions. We gave up scores following them today, but responded to the early score and the late one did not matter. When you consider that 15 of their 28 points came with less than 8 minutes to go and we were ahead comfortably, and that is a very good sign.

Defensively, we are maturing greatly. Once again, we bent but did not break early and got a stop with Vinson's pick at the goal line. It is very telling how we are learning to stiffen up and get stops at critical junctures such as that. The last two TD's were throwaway TD's that served only to make the score closer. When you consider we were facing a solid, veteran quarterback who had played well of late, that is not too bad. This game served its purpose and got us the win we needed, as well as a huge dose of confidence.

And what else can I say about the play of Kory Sheets. I know I have not spoken of him too much so far, but he is putting up the kind of campaign that we have only dreamed of from a running back. He is already halfway to Alstott's TD record, and at his current pace he could have it by the end of the season. He has been a solid, consistent cog for us and as long as he stays healthy, we are going to have the privilege to watch him keep doing his thing.

I am also very pleased with Curtis Painter's play, specifically in the way he spread the ball around today. This is going to be critical to our success this season, and I like that Ball State was expecting us to run the ball, and we ended up having a banner day throwing it. Dustin Keller proved to be a dangerous weapon, and Selwyn Lymon had a solid day in finally getting involved in the offense. As Painter continues to develop with four solid weapons to throw two as well as a solid running back, this offense is only going to get more and more dangerous.

Most importantly, this team is gaining confidence. A confidence that many of our teams in the past five years have not had due to losing so many close games. We are learning how to win in a variety of ways against that are ripe for experimenting on. Ball State was a worthy opponent and we did exactly what we needed to do against them. In our bowl eligibility countdown, we have three down, and four to go, with perhaps our most critical swing game next. When you consider we have gone from only leading a bad 1-AA team by 5 with 20 minutes left to leading 38-13 and being comfortably in front of a team that we had reason to worry about.

It is all about improvement over time with these guys, and I am pleased we are doing just that. As long as we show more and more improvement each week, this season will be fine. Now it is Big Ten time, and since Illinois, Northwestern, and IU are later on the schedule, we have the next best opponent to improve against in Minnesota. The Gophers played no one today and won large as expected. They got blown out by their only opponent with a pulse, so it's important for us to focus, play our game, and get the job done.

On the other end of the spectrum, there is the game I attended today. I must say, the walk to the stadium was one of the most fun experiences I have ever had, as we got in a group of more than 100 Hurricane fans that chanted and yelled the whole way. WE came in loud, proud, and en masse and many of the Louisville fans had the "What the hell is going on," look on their faces. We were proud, cocky, and generally acted like we owned the place.
Hurricane fans are a rare breed, as their five national titles in the past 25 years tend to add tot heir already natural swagger. The fans have at least as much swagger as the team, and it was refreshing to be part of such a confident atmosphere as opposed to the "what will happen next" attitude most Purdue fans have. And for about 10 minutes of the game, it was the same in the stadium.

Then the fumble happened.

The fumble was not nearly as drastic as Orton's fumble two years ago, but it was just as profound. Miami was already up 7-0, the defense had been dominate on two drives, forcing a punt and a fumble, and the Canes were on the 8-yard line about to go in for a crowd-quieting 14-0 early led on the road. They lost a fumble and, essentially, it was over from there. Two drive for missed field goals and 31 unanswered points later we were walking out of the stadium to the taunts of Louisville fans everywhere.

A quick sidebar: I have been several Big 10 stadiums following Purdue, and I have never run into fans as rude as Lousiville's. I know part of it was a byproduct of the attitude Miami had for coming in, but for a program that has accomplished less on a national scale than IU has over time, they sure are full of themselves. Some fans like the ones that in front of and behind us were gracious at least, but we were in the middle of the Miami section and there were tons of Louisville fans who had purchased tickets from Miami fans, ergo they did not have season tickets, and they were derisive, yelling in peoples face, and were generally insulting. On our way back to our car we ran into more taunts and insults, to the point where we had to be silent and walk quickly just to get the hell out of there. It is one of the few times where I left a game early for my own safety. It was that bad.

Back to my analysis. Once that fumble happened, Miami turned into Purdue of the past few years and folded. They came out with the appropriate swagger and dominated the early going, but clammed up at the first site of adversity, which was stunning. I will give Louisville credit as it is a very good team, but Miami played a terrible game for the last 50 minutes. Now the Canes find themselves in the unenviable position of being 1-2, and while the two losses have been to good teams, Miami has not looked good in either loss. It was impressive to see them in person, however. I still think Purdue could learn a lesson just from Miami's attitude.
Louisville fought hard. Its defense came to play and really settled down after the first ten minutes, while it's offense was relentless and simply kept attacking down field. If you attack enough times, it will eventually work, and that is what happened. Sure they have lost Bush for the year and now Brohm for 4-6 weeks, but they have a one game season left with West Virginia alone.

There will be changes soon for the Canes. Coker is not a bad guy as a coach, but in a program with such high expectations playing badly in your last four losses and generally looking unprepared against beatable opponents is not a good thing. The Canes have come in with their attitude each time against Georgia Tech, LSU, Florida State, and Louisville and has been flat out embarrassed each time. Once again Miami's offensive line was a question mark, and I wonder how good it would be with Purdue's line.

So we sit here after three weeks and Purdue is 3-0, as was expected against inferior opponents, but my wife's Canes are 1-2 and searching for all kinds of answers. Who knew that at this point in the season Purdue would have more of an upside and still be technically alive for the national title (by no means am I expecting it) and Miami's season is effectively over with its "title or nothing" expectations.

So that was my Saturday. I will touch on the rest of "Separation Saturday,", as we are required by ESPN to call it, in the rest of my weekend in review. I will say this, however, I want to nominate Lloyd Carr for sainthood, and God Bless everyone at the University of Michigan.