It was a beautiful day for baseball yesterday, so I spent the day at Wrigley Field enjoying a Budweiser and Derek Lee's 5th inning grand slam. It was a good day to be alive, and it was a good weekend for Purdue as well.
Baseball takes two of three from Indiana - If you can't win the Big Ten the next best thing is to prevent your bitter rival from doing so. Both Purdue and Indiana are not known as baseball powers even by Big Ten standards. The Hoosiers were in a fight for a rare conference baseball crown until Purdue took the first and third games of this weekend's series at Lambert Field. It was Indiana's first Big Ten series loss of the season.
Purdue's long-dormant offense (at least in Big Ten play) finally provided starter Matt Bischoff some support in a 15-8 victory during game 1 on Saturday. Brandon Haveman and Alex Jaffee each had home runs. Bischoff gave up seven runs in six innings but was bailed out by a six run eighth inning. Kevin Cahill ended up with the win by pitching three innings of relief.
Game two was a different story. Indiana built a 6-1 lead before Purdue stormed back to tie it with five runs in the bottom of the seventh. Jerrud Soubourin gave Indiana a 7-6 win with a solo home run in the eighth. After a doubleheader split on Saturday Purdue seriously damaged the Hoosiers' title hopes with a 5-2 win on Sunday. Matt Morgan gave up just one run in 7 2/3 innings pitched to pick up the victory. Sean Collins notched his first save of the season while Haveman added a huge 2-run double in the bottom of the eighth.
As a result, Indiana falls to 2.5 games behind first place Illinois in the conference standings with six to play. The Hoosiers are in 4th place while Illinois, Ohio State, and Minnesota are all within a game of each other. Those three schools each clinched one of the six Big Ten Tournament bids. Purdue's weekend also moved them into the sixth and final spot. At 20-22 overall and 7-10 conference play Purdue sits just a half game ahead of defending champ Michigan for the last spot. Michigan State (21-24, 11-7) swept Penn State this weekend to take a commanding hold of fifth place. The Spartans will host the Boilers this coming weekend for three games.
Softball gets rained out, but has solid week - The women's softball team suffered three rainouts this past week, but split a pair of mid week conference games with Illinois to move to 27-18 overall and 10-8 in the Big Ten. Only two games remain this weekend at Indiana before the NCAA unveils its field of 64 on Sunday. The Hoosiers (10-37, 4-14) are in 10th place in the conference standings. Barring an Indiana sweep on Saturday, Purdue is favored to make it second straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Purdue has a pair of wins over teams currently in the top 10 (UCLA and Northwestern) as well as wins over ranked Texas A&M and Ohio State. The Buckeyes (42-7, 14-2) sit atop the Big Ten standings with Michigan.
CFN predicts no bowl for Boilers - Not only does this esteemed publication think Purdue won't go bowling at all, we're not even mentioned as one of the teams as a possibility for the Motor City Bowl. Purdue is definitely flying under the national radar. What I find especially troubling is that CFN predicts two Big Ten teams will once again reach the BCS, meaning we would have eight bowl obligations to fill. The conference is not going to be that strong. Most national pundits believe that Penn State and Iowa will be the best two teams. Well, Purdue happens to not play those teams. If the Big Ten does get a second BCS team I really like our chances at grabbing one of the lower bowls. It's not much, but I'd rather play in Detroit again than have no bowl at all. We only need to get six wins. That is certainly doable. We have no chance at all if we can't at least beat Northern Illinois, Toledo, and Indiana. That's half of the wins we need right there. I like our chances against Illinois and Northwestern at home. Minnesota and Michigan are games we can win on the road as well
Finally, it has been six years since we have beaten a ranked team. We're due. It has to happen again sometime, right? You know when I think it will happen? I think we will beat a ranked Oregon team in Autzen Stadium. We played them tough at home last season. They have to replace much of their secondary and offensive line. They lost a dynamic running back in Jeremiah Johnson as well. There is also the fact that Eugene, Oregon is the most dangerous place on the planet for a quarterback's ACL. I really feel for Duck fans here, as they keep losing quarterbacks to this injury. I honestly think we'll stick with the running game (which will be better than people think) and pull off a shocker out there. If not, I am still confident we will scrounge together eight wins and grab a bowl slot somewhere.
All-American Marching Band will be in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade - One of the things I will always remember is seeing the AAMB perform I am an American in person at the Rose bowl. That was a special moment for Purdue fans every where, as it was the first time it really seemed real that we were actually playing in a Rose Bowl. The band itself received another similar honor as it will be the first Big Ten band to perform in the parade in November 2010.
Paradise Jam schedule announced - Special thanks to Boilerdowd over at Boiled Sports for finding this today. The Paradise Jam released its schedule and as the favored team Purdue will open the tournament on November 20th at 9:30 against South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits just finished their first full year as a Division I member. I think it is safe to say we will be favored heavily in game one. They were 13-20, 7-11 in Summit League play. They finished the season with an upset of conference power Oral Roberts in the conference tournament and also took conference champ North Dakota State to overtime during the season.
Round two will be against Boston College (who gave us a tough game in New York last year) or St. Joseph's. The final would then be against DePaul, Tennessee, Northern Iowa, or East Carolina. This should be a good little tournament for us, as every game but the opener will be a tough test.
Finally, on the Kory Sheets situation - Before the weekend, GBI posted a story about Kory Sheets' draft day experience. For fans of the guy like me, it was a heartbreaking tale. It is made even worse if the allegations are true that our own coaching staff told teams to stay away from him based on some character issues.
I'm not around the coaching staff. I recently got some very limited access, and that was with an almost entirely new staff for the spring game. The old staff has put numerous guys into the NFL who have had great relationships with them (Drew Brees) and not so great relationships (Bernard Pollard). I have no idea what they say about our players to NFL scouts or what with it carries, but one of the joys about writing in a forum such as this is that I can speak my mind without having to report the party line. If it is indeed true that our own staff sabotaged Kory's draft chances, it is a pretty shitty thing to do.
Did Kory speak his mind? Yes, he did. You know what though? He had fire. He played the season of his life last year for a team that was going nowhere. How can guys like Torri Williams (three arrests) get chance after chance because they are "good kids" while Kory (zero arrests in his five years, plus he graduated in December) gets thrown under the bus like this. How dare they say Kory isn't a hard worker. They guy was our only consistent offensive threat last season. He ran for over 1100 yards and was one of only six guys int he conference to do so. If the Big Ten had not been loaded with excellent running backs he would have been an all-conference performer. It was the best season for a running back ever for a Tiller-coached team. He was third in the league in touchdowns with 17 (16 rushing, one receiving) on the season. You don't accidentally finish with those numbers in this conference, especially when you are your team's only real offense some weeks.
To me, Kory was an example of what we needed more of last year, not something to be belittled. He did not have the benefit of a consistent passing game or rock solid offensive line every week. I am embarrassed by our own coaching staff if this story is true. One of the knocks on Kory was that "He is better than he thinks he is". Well, don't you want someone that is confident in their abilities? For crying out loud, we questioned our own quarterback as being a guy that wasn't very confident and he did get drafted! I never once though Kory stepped over the line.
The play that speaks volumes about his character to me was his long TD run at Northwestern. We flat out sucked that day. A "me first" player would have celebrated like a banshee after that big run even though we were still down a lot (kind of like Ray Edwards and Bernard Pollard celebrating every tackle made 15 yards down field when we're down two touchdowns). Did Kory celebrate? No! He flicked the ball to the turf in a disgusted manner and walked off the field. You could tell he was pissed at the effort put forth by everyone that day from the coaching staff on down. Even our opponents noticed the lack of fire the team had that day, but Kory didn't lack it. He played his ass of, yet he didn't get any help. I don't blame him for being upset, either.
49ers fans are already raving about him. SBNation's 49ers blog, Niners Nation, was gushing with compliments about him, and that is rare for a random free agent pickup. They got themselves a steal, and I really hope Kory can stick with them to show up all those who doubted him. One of the three Purdue jerseys in my closest is a #24 Sheets jersey. I have had it so long the numbers are starting to wear a little, but I still proudly wear it as Kory was one of my favorite players to ever suit up. No one found the end zone more in a single season or a career at Purdue than Kory, and those records will stand for quite awhile.