Today’s script was the same as it has been under Gerad Parker. I say under Gerad Parker, because against Iowa, Cincinnati, and Maryland, when Hazell was still coaching, Purdue got its ass kicked from the first play. Parker has at least had his team ready to play for a good portion of the first half, if not the first half entirely. Today was more of the same. For about 20 minutes, the defense was not just good, it was almost dominant against the run. Purdue surrendered less than 40 yards in the first quarter and even had an early 3-0 lead thanks to a J.D. Dellinger field goal in windy conditions. With a third of the game gone Purdue was leading and, since more than a few series had been played, it looked like Purdue might even be able to compete for a while.
Then a single play changed it.
On 3rd and 12 at the Wisconsin 43 Bart Houston saw the oncoming blitz and dumped off a screen to Dare Ogunbowale. It went for 34 yards and kept the drive alive instead of forcing a punt. Three plays later, on 3rd and 8, the same two hooked up for another 18 yard screen to the Purdue 3. Alec Ingold would score from a yard out, T.J. Watt would intercept the next play from scrimmage and return it for a touchdown, and just like that, the rout was on.
It really changes that quickly for Purdue. On one play it looks like it might have a big 3rd down sack to keep momentum going in its direction defensively. Maybe a monumental upset might happen. The next, Wisconsin is scoring 35 points in less than 8 minutes. Purdue looked night and day different after that initial screen. Once the charm and momentum was gone Wisconsin arrived and played like, Wisconsin. Their depth, like in the previous four games for Purdue opponents, was stark compared to our own. A Purdue offense that was moving the ball on its opening drive was quickly snuffed. A Purdue defense that looked surprisingly strong in the opening 15 minutes giving up less than 40 total yards and forcing two punts, was gashed for multiple scores. Also, the issue of turnovers in the form of three David Blough interceptions made Purdue play dearly.
It was what we expected, really. Everyone expected Wisconsin to win by a lot, and aside from the first 20 minutes, everything went according to script. Blough did hit on a nice 75-yard TD to DeAngelo Yancey and the senior receiver finished with 155 yards and two scores, but Purdue really did not do a lot on offense after that first drive. Again, Purdue could not run, and once Wisconsin figured out our blocking Blough was under constant pressure.
Defensively, it was more of the same. At least Purdue was often in a more committed 4-3, with Jake Replogle having a monster first half. After the Badgers figured everything out, however, it was over. Wisconsin had the luxury of patience, and it paid off with that quick, 8-minute flurry. In truth, the Badgers only played hard for those minutes. They didn’t really have to do anything in the other 52.
Sitting in the windy, cold, empty stadium, the very few Purdue fans in attendance supported the team, but even then, what happened felt inevitable. Our once proud program saw fewer people in the stands today than were at Mackey Arena Monday night, and it was worse in the second half. Less than 100 students stuck around for the last 30 minutes. It was that bad. We also know who is 100% at fault, especially if this impending football hire in the next 2 weeks goes in a positive direction.
The season will end in 7 days. Our seniors, who have worked tirelessly with very little to show for it over the last four years, are on the brink of leaving Purdue with single digit wins and having never won the Bucket. It is the worst four-year stretch for the program in decades. Purdue last lost four consecutive Bucket games from 1944-47, but still went 19-18-1 overall. For a similar lengthy stretch of futility Purdue won only eight games from 1939-42, but it was only playing eight game seasons compared to 12 now and responded in 1943 by going 9-0 and getting robbed of a National Title.
This poor senior class won only a single Big Ten home game (1-15 overall), was 7-21 overall at home (just 3-21 vs. FBS opponents), and if not for the charity of Illinois, would be even worse.
They still have one chance at a small measure of redemption, and that comes in beating Indiana. The Hoosiers are good, but very flawed. They turn the ball over a lot, are still inconsistent on offense, and tend to play to their competition by keeping even bad teams like Rutgers around. They are playing for a bowl game against Purdue and their longest winning streak over us in 69 years, but Purdue has shown enough, even if it was just for a half, that it could have a chance if it finds away to put together the elusive 4 quarter game.
Plus, it is for the Bucket. Before 2013 it was unquestionably OUR Bucket for 15 years. We just let them have it a few times. Now it has been in exile for three years. Our seniors don’t want to go down as an Indiana-level class in having never won it. All we have left is pride and the chance to end this entire era one feel-good note.
Let’s get behind these boys, everyone. It is Bucket week.