TCF Bank Stadium is a gem of a stadium and Minneapolis is an incredibly underrated city. Perhaps that is why I am in a better mood than a should be. I witnessed a fanbase absolutely elated to beat anyone, let alone Purdue today, and some of it may have rubbed off on me. I have finally reached the breaking point with Purdue football that I don't care nearly as much as I did. They are way too inconsistent to ever count on them for anything, and maybe that is the program as a whole.
I find myself empathizing with Danny Hope. One of the first things he said in the postgame was that he had no idea why this team was inconsistent. I can agree with him on that. It is inexplicable, but today the pass defense, which had played somewhat well on the edges, suddenly could not defend routes up the sideline. For a half we made Philip Nelson look like Peyton Manning bombing away down the sidelines. I mean sure, third and long over the middle is our trademark failure in the passing game, but now Minnesota, a team not known for big plays this year, is hitting go routes down the sidelines?
As embattled as he has become as a coach, at some point you do have to feel for the guy when new issues, like the big play passes today, crop up. It's almost like if one thing gets fixed three more go wrong. for Purdue football, everything that can go wrong is going wrong of late, and it goes even beyond the Nordfense and the coaching staff problems. When guys like Nelson and A.J. Barker are having career days against you it is a sign that not much is going right. Hope will get the blame, however, because he is ultimately the one in charge. he may not be 100% responsible (Hope wasn't blowing coverage on Barker and MarQueis Gray) but he is still the public face of the program.
We could not have asked for a better start. We had a three and out, a shanked punt, a 40-yard run by Akeem Shavers, and an early 7-0 lead on a Caleb TerBush pass to Brandon Cottom. It was perfect, really. But there is where the inconsistencies began. After starting by running the ball well we pretty much went away from Shavers. Why? We would run for 183 yards on the day, so we would have some success, but much of it came after we tried for drive after drive to force passes.
The defense was not helped by the offense after the opening drive. They couldn't get rest and they couldn't get off the field as Minnesota scored on seven straight possessions while Purdue went back into it do nothing offense. As Minnesota was busy scoring at will (inexplicable from a team that was averaging 13 points per game in Big Ten play) Purdue managed four first downs after its opening possession before Robert Marve entered the game.
This is how bad it was:
1. Minnesota fans were openly mocking themselves up 44-7, saying they did not know what to do with that big of a lead.
2. They asked if Purdue was New Hampshire, their FCS opponent this year.
3. I received pity from those around me.
4. The one section of Purdue fans in the upper west end zone was heard more when Marve entered the game than when Cottom scored to put us in front 7-0.
I really don't know what else can be said about this game. It is absolutely laughable to suggest that TerBush is a better quarterback than Marve even with Marve's injury. The same is true with Henry. TerBush's one scoring drive came from Shavers breaking a big play (which was outside the system, explaining why we stopped handing off to him) and he pretty much sealed the game by throwing a pass Michael Carter's way after he had knocked two in a row down. The result: a back-breaking pick six that sealed the game at a point where any miracle comeback had to come then.
There isn't anything you can predict about this team anymore. We've played two of the best teams in the country on their home field within a combined three points in regulation and probably should have won both games, but we just got blown out by a true freshman quarterback making his second career start. We have a "more efficient" quarterback who was 5 of 18 passing, but a guy playing on a damaged ACL was 11 of 19 for 97 yards and two touchdowns. Though his numbers are better in every game metric, TerBush is the starter because of practice.
Even more frustrating, Marve came in with his team trailing by 37 points and he was playing with a fire that TerBush simply lacks. This team rallies around him in the huddle for some reason. He may have been down 37, but dammit, he was not going to go out quietly. After he had TD passes to Dolapo Macarthy and Antavian Edison I knew we were still down 23, but I couldn't help but think, "Hey, miracles happen and they often start innocuously like this." Sure, the chance was incredibly small that he was going to lead one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the sport, but just the way he came onto the field and ignited a spark that had been missing all day made you think about a miracle comeback for a moment. Had his third drive not ended on downs after a dropped pass, who knows?
I really can't say much else. It was a day that started about as well as possible, but unraveled so quickly that I was left shaking my head. We've seen that happened twice in the last three weeks.
Would it surprise me if this team played well and somehow beat a good Penn State team next week? No. Would it surprise me if it then went to Iowa and Illinois, who look awful on offense, and gave up 40 points to each? No.
What I do know is that Purdue football is at an all-time low. The diehards like me are few and far between. We need to win three of four games and hope there are only seven Big Ten bowl eligible teams just to avoid a trip to Detroit again. We could be outnumbered by opposing fans in our own stadium next week. It's just bad.