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Embarrassment (Live, on national TV no less)

Purdue football means a lot to me. I simply love going to games, watching games, and the entire experience around it. It takes an awful lot for me to get upset and walk away from a game. The only two recent instances I can think of occurred during the 2003 Michigan game, when I didn't watch most of the second half, and last season's Notre Dame game, when I walked out disgusted at halftime. A bowl game is a rare occasion and even given our recent history, we have at least made the games exciting.

Friday night was an instance of leaving a game early.

For some reason CNN's coverage of the Saddam Hussein execution was more interesting. Hell, at one point I even switched it over to the Pacers-Pistons game. That's a feat because I love basketball, but I hate the NBA during the regular season. Had there been a quilting bee on the History Channel I think I would rather have watched that than this game.

This was an embarrassment. There is no excuse for us playing that poorly in a game that we had more than a month to prepare for. There was no sense of urgency, no passion, and no fire on either side of the ball. I have written about and defended this team for the entire season, and we go out and have our worst bowl performance in Purdue history. I am man enough to admit that I was wrong about this team in all aspects. The flashes we showed against Hawaii were just that, flashes. We are a toothless team that can only beat other toothless teams, and that became apparent tonight when we faced a mediocre team from the ACC and they flat out owned us. There's no getting around it; they owned us from beginning to end.

I don't even know where to begin. They let themselves be a one-dimensional team by running the ball 50 times. Of course, we let them do that to control the clock and let them own the time of possession. When they did have to pass, mostly on third down, receivers were wide open over the middle to get the first down. Hollenbach only had to manage the game and make a few key throws. He did just that and got two touchdowns. Maryland's offense was nothing special, and they controlled the tempo against our piss-poor defense. Yes, that's exactly what it is; piss-poor. They were piss-poor last year. They were piss-poor this year, and unless they magically transform into something new next year with nine players returning they will be piss-poor again.

Were dominated by an offense that statistically was the worst we had faced all season long. They ranked behind Northwestern, Michigan State, Ball State, Miami (OH) and even Indiana State. They held the ball for more than two thirds of the entire game. I don't care how bad our defense is or how one-dimensional our offense is, no team, lest of all one ranked in the 90's offensively, should hold the ball for more than 40 minutes against us. I will give credit to Maryland and their offense. They played the perfect game and we put up little resistance to it. When we needed a stop we could not get the defense off the field. Of course, that is to be expected, as in reality the defense didn't play any worse than they had all season.

On offense the situation was even worse. We have two quality running backs, both of whom moved the ball well when given the ball. We needed to control the clock against a team that did not have a good run defense. So what did we do? WE ABANDONED THE RUNNING GAME COMPLETELY!!!!! It's not like we gave up two touchdowns in the first quarter either. We never even tried to establish a running game. We had 13 rushes, at least three of which were 'rushes' that were sacks but had to technically be counted as rushes. That is 10 designed run plays against the situation I described above. The blame there lies solely on the coaching staff, and I will get more into that later.

Painter had a respectable game. He didn't set the world on fire, and his one interception was a tipped pass that can be attributed to the receiver. He ended up just 13 yards short of the single season passing record for Purdue, which he would easily have had if we held on to the ball for more than 20 minutes. This game isn't about records though, and I was highly disappointed in another aspect of his game. Once again, he seemed focused on two receivers or his back out of the backfield, and they were getting the ball and damn everything else. We have a deep threat in Lymon and a potential All-American tight end in Keller. Both did not get their first catch until the final seven minutes when we were doing nothing more than driving for a respect score. Bryant and Orton were the only receivers out there, and everyone else might as well have gone through the motions. I know the offense didn't have the ball much, but they didn't do a whole lot with it when they did have the ball.

There's not a whole lot to gripe about on special teams, but again, we would have needed the ball to do that. Chris Summers missed a field goal again, so that is nothing new. There weren't any miscues in the punting game, and the kickoff coverage was good on our two kickoffs. When it comes to special teams, we once again have to magically hope things get better for next year, but it's certainly not the only area of the team we're waiting for a magic wand to be waived over.

This latest disaster lies clearly with the coaching staff. It comes not from a lack of preparedness, but from a poor gameplan and refusing to adjust it to the situation at hand. We have a situation that dictates running the football to control the clock, with a quarterback that knows how to successfully run a rush-based offense after last season. So naturally, we don't even try to establish the running game, give the ball up, and keep our terrible defense on the field as much as possible. Again, we rant he ball 10 times in a game that dictated we should have run the ball 30-40 times. Until our coaching staff comes to realize this we will not accomplish anything as a team.

It is frustrating to see that we continue to stick to a certain gameplan on both sides of the ball when all factors indicate we should change. Even tonight there was not the traditional slow start. 21 points in the first half is certainly not unusual for us, and there should even be credit given to the defense for giving up just 3 points in the second half. Still, this was clearly poor execution and failure to adapt to the game as it flowed along. Yes we started a little slowly, but not as slowly as in some past bowl games. At least in this one we got a defensive stop first, and that is progress.

Still, it is way too little progress for this point in the season. I don't know if it is just tonight's game, or the course of a mediocre season finally catching up to me, but this could have been so much more. There is no reason we should get beat by a team like Maryland by 17 points. They just are not that good and their entire conference was a joke this year. On paper, this should have been us winning 24-7, not them.

So where do we go from here? In what should have been a springboard to next season we jumped off the springboard, Wile E. Coyote-style, and smacked directly into the wall in front of us. To add insult to injury, Minnesota came out and was slapping around Texas Tech before imploding late in the Insight Bowl. At least we're off the hook for the 2000 Outback Bowl now.

It's not a good night for the Big Ten at all. I am sure I will have more to write later, but I have a very sick feeling in the pit of my stomach now, and that's after not watching most of the fourth quarter.