October 16, 2004.
The moment that this picture was taken is the high water mark of Purdue football. Kyle Orton high-stepped into the South End Zone to give the No. 5 Boilermakers a 17-7 lead with 8 minutes left against top 10 Wisconsin. West Lafayette was raucous. Purdue was about to go to 6-0 with its toughest games left at home in Michigan and Ohio State. Forget a Big Ten title, we were actually, legitimately dreaming of winning a National Title and Heisman Trophy.
Yes, Purdue Football
I was there in section 128 with my soon-to-be fiance. We were ecstatic and there was event he possibility of a delayed wedding because we would travel to the Miami-Purdue national title game that, at the time, was not far-fetched as the Hurricanes were ranked No. 3.
We all know what can happen next. We can blame Joe Tiller and Brock Spack for going "prevent" with a defense that had given up only 7 points in 52 minutes. We can blame Kyle Smith for dropping the game clinching interception that hit him right in the 7 on his chest. We can even blame Ben Jones for missing the later game-tying field goal after a frantic drive into Wisconsin territory. What gets the blame is this:
Ugh, still painful.
2:45 left, right at the Purdue 40 yard line. If Orton slides the game is practically over as Purdue can bleed clock.
Why didn't he slide?
Rarely can you point to one single moment and say "Yes, right there is where it all went wrong", but this is it. Surrender cobras everywhere. While last week's collapse against Little Rock was agonizingly played out over two overtimes and about 45 minutes of real time this was merely 7 seconds from the moment of contact to the moment Scott Starks gets into the end zone. Just 9 years later Purdue would hit rock bottom with a 1-11 season where its lone win came via a late escape against a 1-11 FCS team. It has barely been above rock bottom since, and each season felt like a slow decline until then:
2005: 5-6 (After starting the season as a dark-horse national title contender it included a 6-game losing streak)
2006: 8-5 (But hey, we got to play at Hawaii!)
2007: 8-5 (Bowl win! but we lost the Bucket)
2008: 4-8 (Got the Bucket back, but a dismal Tiller sendoff)
2009: 5-7 (Hey! This Hope guy may be alright because we lost a ton of close games! Nevermind they were mostly due to his errors)
2010: 4-8 (But everyone tore their ACLs)
2011: 7-6 (Pizza bowl extensions for everyone!)
2012: 6-7 (Hope was clearly mediocre. Let's swing big for that Hazell guy! one winning season at Kent State is like 10 Super Bowls!)
2013: 1-11 (Well, it takes time to rip everything down and rebuild after 16 years of Tiller-Hope)
2014: 3-9 (We won a conference game! Appleby settled the QB issue! We at least looked better!)
2015: 2-10 (... I... um... We have some great new uniforms!)
So, after that painful 500 word introduction we get to our point. Purdue football has officially driven us insane, based on the e-mail I received here:
I enjoy reading Hammer and Rails...great stuff and good work.
I've got an idea......how about we arrange a meeting at the site of the fumble and hold a ceremony. Ideally Kyle Orton can attend and Everette Stephens can bring a basketball and show us how to dribble it off your foot consistently, We could bury a small Purdue football exactly on the spot and pray for forgiveness and redemption. I bet we could get hundreds, hell, maybe thousands, of Boilermaker faithful to attend.
Something has to be done.
Let me know if you set it up, I'm sure I can get several attendees.
The reader even said he has a fraternity brother working in physical facilities that might be able to help us pull it off and we should get some engineers to some sort of GPS/laser measurement system to pin point the spot. It is all completely and utterly batshit insane.
I am also not totally against it.
I mean, think about it. Can it really make things worse? What are people going to do, laugh at us? Newsflash: THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL WORLD ALREADY IS! We have a virtual lameduck coach, terrible recruiting, and we're attempting to roll it back with much of the same team from last season and new assistants all over the place. We have a university President completely uninterested in doing what is necessary to be competitive in modern college football and an athletic director that is basically a PR firm saying Hazell was not retained due to his large buyout and that "measurable progress was made" in 2015 (because everyone fires both coordinators when progress is being made).
At the very least this ceremonial act gets college football talking about Purdue aside from which team will beat the crap out of us this week.
Yep, I have gone totally insane too, and we can blame Purdue football.