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What a Waste of Time: A Road Trip to Champaign

I am a masochist when it comes to Purdue football. It is not enough that I spend over $500 (plus a $200 annual JPC donation) on two regular season seats to Ross-Ade Stadium. Since 2001, I have made it to at least one road game every season. Many seasons I have made it to two, and even one season (2006) three. Today was the second roadie of the season, though Notre Dame got me in via credential so I don't know if it counts.  I wasn't able to feel the true fan experience. The only two places I have seen Purdue play multiple times are Indiana and Illinois. Last year was my fourth visit to Bloomington, and today was my fourth visit to Champaign.

As is the tradition here at Hammer & Rails when I got to see the Boilers on the road, I kept a diary of the weekend as events unfolded. Once we get to the game, all entries will be in game time. By now you know the score, so here is how I saw it.

4:40pm Friday - A hectic Friday that prevented me from writing a Profile in Badassery has left me until this point unpacked for the trip. My morning session in court for my part-time job went too long, but I was at least able to vote (including writing in myself for U.S. Senate since I don't like the policies of any of the three candidates). Then my best friend from Kokomo visited for lunch. He called me while I was riding the East 38th St. route bus home and his ring tone is DMX's My Niggaz. I nearly got capped. By the time we were done catching up it was 4pm and time to get Mrs. T-Mill from work. I hastily go to pack.

5:06pm - Matt Grecco from Stampede Blue and the SBNation: Indiana site wishes me good luck on my equally boring drive. He is headed to South Bend for the Notre Dame game.

5:08pm - Slight delay as Mrs. T-Mill finishes up her FarmVille town. This is why I have avoided ESPN's CollegeTown. I know it would consume me.

5:10pm - And we're off!

5:11pm - I am back in the apartment because I forgot one thing. I had to get a Yuengling for pregame! How could I forget the key to victory? I didn't have one last week and look what happened.

5:25pm - Traffic on West 16th street trying to get to I-74. I can't believe how many seedy strip clubs are near the Speedway. Mrs. T-Mill and I argue who Don Quixote's sidekick was. I saw Sancho Panza. She says Pancho Villa. I tell her he was a Mexican Revolutionary. She doesn't believe me and checks Wikipedia.

5:26pm - Once again, Wikipedia does not fail me. I win. "Is that your little ‘I'm right' dance? I don't see it often."

5:52pm - Required stop at Dunkin's in Brownsburg for the new Gingerbread latte. Not bad, I must say.

5:53pm - A Brownsburg uber-mom with various cheerleading stickers on her massive SUV has a personalized plate of PARIENT. Really?

6:20pm - We nearly don't make it to 6:21, as an 18-wheeler merging onto the highway near Crawfordsville would have taken us out if not for my heroic reflexes.

6:45-7:45pm - A stop at the famous Beef House in Covington just after the team had left. Once done, I feel like I could be rolled out of there. Damn it's good though.

8:30pm - Arrival in Champaign. We visit the mall and see that Spencer's has turned into sex shop so gradually we barely noticed. Did you know you can get a <ahem> plastic companion that looks like Lady Gaga at Spencer's? As high as I was asking Thad Matta about Mark Titus and talking to E'Twaun about being the Red Button, this factoid above is the exact opposite.


Well now...

9:15pm - A much better find. A liquor store on Neil Street in Champaign has mix and match six packs of Microbrews for a dirt cheap $4! This is good beer (Shipyard, Breckenridge Brewery, Capital Brewery, Prairie Path, etc.) too. We make a mental note to raid it again on Saturday because a six pack of Breckenridge Brewery Avalanche (my favorite) is $10 in Indy. We can mix some Avalanche with some other Breck Brew singles for a fraction of the price.

9:25pm - We check into the lovely LaQuinta Inn Champaign, with sagging mattresses as old as I am. Hotwire has failed me after so many successes. A sampling of Shipyard Brewing Summer Ale and Capital Brewing Wisconsin Amber is successful, however. We watch the Heat-Magic, then UConn-West Virginia games. And other stuff before bed. I know, we lead exciting lives north of 30.

7:50am (now Central time) - I'm awake. Need coffee

7:58am - Getting old sucks. My feet creek and groan, protesting being used this early. I need a shave badly. Stupid middle age.

8:23am - Things you wish you could unsee from morning facebooking: Boilerdowd in tights. Yikes.

8:34am - Breakfast secured. Waiting for morning EPL action on ESPN2. What can I say? The World Cup hooked me.

9:43am - Coffee is secured and we're ready to go.

9:54am - You're kidding me with this train, right?

10:11am - After finding a way around the train we're parked in lot 46. Plenty of time to walk to the stadium.

10:15am - Thinking I will assure victory, I take the following picture. Oh how wrong I would be. Yuengling is now reserved for basketball season.


The definition of hubris.

10:22am - "Chasing coffee with beer isn't the best idea, but we need to get to a bowl game," I say. You know the rest.

10:44am - Giggle as Peter Griffin is announced as Illinois' band director. Giggity.

10:53am - Will it be Justin Siller, Henry, or Robinson? As we saw, it didn't matter. (All times now in game time)


At least I had good seats.

15:00 1st - Opening kickoff goes for a touchback. Just like Wisconsin last year.

13:39 1st - Unlike Wisconsin, the defense looks like it came to play. We get a three and out.

13:03 1st - For the last time on the day, things look promising as Rob Henry starts and Gabe Holmes earns his first start. We get the ball at the 40.

12:23 1st - Sean Robinson is in on passing downs. This was the first flaw. We never once made it look like Henry would pass.

11:57 1st - Antavian Edison tips the pass and it is nearly pick sixed. We're now rolling downhill.

11:12 1st - Illinois is also playing musical quarterbacks with Eddie McGee and Nathan Scheelhaase.

8:01 1st - Our D looks okay, but Illinois' ballcarriers look very shifty.

6:40 1st - And the first touchdown is way too easy on the crossing route. Josh Johnson was f our yards behind A.J. Jenkins with no safety help once again on that side of the field. Why Logan Link (especially after his dumbass roughing penalty) is still starting instead of E.J. Johnson (especially when we have a bonfire of redshirts) or Ishmael Aristide is beyond me.

6:34 1st - The onside kick. Well, shit. Credit them, as we did the same thing at Michigan last year.

6:20 1st - "Take that, Toiletmakers!" Well, at least we weren't called Purdon't.


All you need to know about the Illinois fans in my section.

4:37 1st - The aforementioned dumbass roughing penalty by Link. Way to prevent a 3rd and long and keep their drive alive against a tired defense.

2:09 1st - Robert Maci has a nice couple of plays, unfortunately we give up a big 3rd down game and set up 4th down inside the one. Mikel Leshoure scores easily.

0:15 1st - O.J. Ross is apparently lost for the season with a shoulder injury on a kick return. The fool behind me makes fun of him as he is down.

15:00 2nd - Both Rob Henry and Sean Robinson on the same play?

13:09 2nd - Whatever, It's working as we're moving a bit.

11:30 3nd - 3rd and 7 at the 27 here and a big play. We get a completion and a first down to Kyle Adams, but a mysterious pass interference called after the play on Edison pushes us back. A delay of game then negates any chance at points. This, like the punt muff last week, was where the ballgame was lost. If the first down stands and we keep moving to score it is 14-7 with momentum in our favor. Maybe things are different then. After this play, we quit on offense.

10:44 2nd - We need a big play with them backed up to the nine. I am praying for a Ryan Kerrigan sack, strip, and score.

8:37 2nd - We get a stop and Waynelle Gravesande doubles our punt return yards on the season. First down at the 37.

6:38 2nd - Really? A draw to Jared Crank on 4th and 3? That might work on 4th and 1, but no attempt at misdirection or anything? Seriously?

3:48 2nd - Another good Cody Webster punt. He's a great punter for us.

2:53 2nd - Ryan Isaac mentioned as getting a tackle. We have a crapload of defensive tackles playing, so why not burn another redshirt.

0:41 2nd - Officially furious at handing them three points with conservative playcalling, a short punt when we needed to boom one, and they get the ball close to field goal range with a timeout. We're lucky there weren't 10 more seconds on the clock or it would have been a touchdown. On a day with a ton of bad play calls, this was the most moronic.

15:00 3rd - Somehow, I still think we have a chance. Al-Terek McBurse looks good on a return, but I wonder why we're not even trying him on offense.

13:40 3rd - Keith Carlos makes an absolutely dumb cutback that costs him a first down. We must punt again.

9:47 3rd - It's third and long, so naturally the slant over the middle is open for 13 yards. This sets up the wide open TD pass to Leshoure.

8:37 3rd - Ridiculous fumble by McBurse. I get up to leave, but change my mind...

7:15 3rd - That's it. I'm done as Evan Wilson allegedly scores. I am leaving as they announce he was short by a foot. It doesn't matter. The Illinois fans in our section are at least gracious as I tell them they had a great game. Others are like, "We've been there," as we walk back to the car.

This is where the only positives of the day happen. We get Jamba Juice from the Illinois Union, find the last Garcia's Pizza on the planet (taking care of a decade long craving), and get more cheap microbrews from the Friday night liquor store. In an effort to change luck, we buy a Powerball ticket and amazingly home in Indy by 5:30.


The day's salvation.

Now, on to some thoughts.

I have been a Danny Hope defender for some time. He had things going very well in the second half of last season. This season has been tough with a laundry list of injuries that grew longer with O.J. Ross and Kavin Pamphile now out after today. There is no doubt that this is a difficult situation. That said, We have looked completely unprepared in every single game this year except Northwestern and Minnesota. I would feel bad about the injuries, but in the one game where we were completely healthy minus Ralph Bolden we were incredibly bland on offense against Notre Dame. I'm sorry, but even a banged up Purdue team should be able to move at will against a horrible Toledo offense. That should have been a win but we looked as unprepared as today.

You have to give credit to Illinois. they were very business-like. We contained Leshoure, but they found ways to beat us. They were patient and didn't do anything extraordinary, but they were still light years better than us. It's easy to win when you just don't make mistakes and take what is given to you.

Why play Rob Henry, at least at quarterback, when he was never a threat to throw once? What purpose does it serve? He ran effectively and we had some success when Robinson was at quarterback with Henry back there, but with Henry taking snaps you knew it was a running play. That makes it very, very easy to defend. Even though McBurse fumbled, he had a big gain on his other carry (after I left). He is a four-star running back. You already wasted his redshirt last year for one good kickoff return. Why is he barely getting carries?

I don't have a huge problem with the defense today. The offense gave them nothing to work with and they are now in a position where they have to be absolutely perfect, yet even that may not be enough.

I honestly don't know where we go from here. We have no chance at beating Wisconsin or Michigan State. I've seen nothing in the past two weeks that makes me think we can do enough against Michigan to get a win. I don't even know if we can beat Indiana.

We have lost any fire we had last year after the Ohio State upset. I know we're limited by the players available, but we had no imagination in playcalling before all the injuries mounted. Why not take a risk now and then? What do we have to lose? At least keep teams honest with something different. No sweeps are working. The only successful plays we have are when we run straight ahead between the tackles. We don't have the speed available to make sweeps work, but we keep running them. The coaching staff is responsible for this. I know they are going to get a free pass this year because of the injuries and will be back next year, but have they completely quit? This was a winnable game, yet we never played like we thought it was winnable. After what we saw last year against OSU, Oregon, etc., that is simply shocking.

Boiled Sports asked if this season was done. They might be right. We certainly act like it right now in every respect.