I am as guilty as anyone else.
This entire offseason has been a bad one for Purdue football. All we have heard is how awful this team is and how Darrell Hazell is coaching for his job. I have perpetuated this by constantly making snide remarks in articles, on Twitter, and on Facebook. It continued yesterday when the SBNation college football preview mega preview came out and had some of the following:
Tier 7: :(
97. Troy (103)
98. Georgia State (105)
99. Florida Atlantic (100)
100. SMU (98)
101. Purdue (88)
102. Fresno State (94)
103. Kent State (104)
104. UNLV (114)
105. Oregon State (86)
106. Florida International (113)
107. UL-Lafayette (106)
108. Buffalo (109)
109. Rice (119)
110. Ball State (101)
111. Idaho (108)
112. Old Dominion (111)
113. Tulane (122)
114. Miami (Ohio) (107)
115. South Alabama (115)
Tier 7 is a mid-major crossroads for the most part. Some are rising from deep depths, and some are replacing them in those depths.
There is Purdue, all the way down at 101st out of 128 teams, ahead of only Kansas and Oregon State as a major conference team.
Purdue ... will field a team.
Why You Should Root for Pretty much Every College Football Team
"Why should you root for Purdue? Because we need some good news. We're handcuffed with a lame duck AD, a bad coach, and an administration that refuses to invest in football. We need something good before basketball season starts.
"At least we have a good volleyball team."
Yes, it is bleak. Yes, we will probably be disappointed because every sign from every expert out there says this team will be lucky to win 3-4 games.
But we are not experts.
Certainly, I am not an expert. I am just a fan blessed to have created this site and gain an audience that puts up with my inane rantings (and cherish the articles written by the other writers here). I write as a fan, not as a media personality, and as a fan I am still going to games this fall with some wide-eyes optimism that maybe everyone is wrong and this team will surprise some people. With that in mind, here are some reasons to believe in Purdue football 2016:
Believe because John Shoop is gone
One of the top comments from both the quarterbacks and the receivers is how much better they are grasping the offense under new offensive coordinator Terry Malone. It is no secret that he has simplified the offense for all involved, and David Blough has raved at how much easier things are. You even saw part of it in the spring game. For once, the offense looked like it might move the ball and play to some of its strengths. The needlessly complicated and stalling Shoopfense is gone. With improved offense you won’t have a defense wilting on the field after multiple three-and-outs. A fresher defense gets more stops, and a n offense that can stay on the field lets them rest. Yes, the Purdue offense gave up a ton of yards last year, but how much was a result of an offense that kept putting them back on the field? How many yards were gained after they were gassed in the third and fourth quarters?
I firmly believe that any success Purdue has this season will illustrate just how awful Shoop was as a coordinator. Look at how many games Purdue was in at halftime with Shoop only for the offense to do nothing and the defense to virtually collapse:
At Cincinnati – down 14-7 at halftime, lost 42-7
Vs. Notre Dame – Led 10-3 at halftime and 17-10 in 4th quarter, lost 31-24
Vs. Wisconsin – trailed 14-10 in second quarter, lost 41-10
At Michigan State – trailed 7-0 after 3 quarters, lost 14-0
At Penn State – trailed 28-21 in 3rd quarter, lost 45-21
At Iowa – trailed 14-7 at halftime, lost 38-14
Vs. Illinois – tied 14-14 at halftime (vs. an AWFUL defense), lost 20-16
Vs. Notre Dame – trailed 17-14 at halftime, lost 30-14
Vs. Iowa – tied 10-10 at halftime, lost 24-10
Vs. Michigan State – trailed 24-17 at halftime, lost 45-31 (on late pick 6)
At Minnesota – led 31-20 at halftime, lost 39-38
At Indiana – led 6-0 at halftime, lost 23-16
At Marshall – led 21-17 at halftime and 31-27 with 10 minutes left, lost 41-31
Vs. Virginia Tech – trailed 24-17 at halftime, lost 51-24
Vs. Bowling Green – tied 21-21 after three quarters, lost 35-28
Vs. Minnesota – trailed 10-6 at halftime, lost 41-13
At Wisconsin – trailed 10-7 at halftime, lost 24-7
At Northwestern– tied 14-14 after three quarters, lost 21-14 (no first downs after missed go ahead FG)
Out of 30 losses that is 17 games where a poor or stalled offense in the second half played a major factor in Purdue losing a game that was competitive at halftime. In several of those games they turned into a blowout because Purdue did nothing. In eight of them Purdue did not score AT ALL in the second half, and in two more they scored a late cosmetic touchdown.
Certainly Terry Malone can do better.
Believe because the schedule is weak
As it stands now, Purdue plays one top 25 team: No. 15 Iowa. The first five games are as easy as you can ask for. In the first five games only Nevada and Cincinnati were FBS level teams that had winning records. Both were 7-6 and both have to come to Ross-Ade Stadium. I know we don’t have some kind of overpowering home field advantage, but it is better to play at home than on the road.
The Cincinnati game will be very telling. Last season hey were a team with a lousy defense that loved to turn the ball over. Still, they have some players and Tommy Tuberville is a good coach. It seems like every season so far under Hazell Purdue has had an early game that was close, but turned late and caused the team to slide into a stupor of lost confidence. In 2013 it was Notre Dame. In 2014 the home loss to Central Michigan was very deflating. Last season the opener at Marshall saw three really good quarters of football, but then Purdue blew it and it seemed like the coaches refused to try anything that worked ever again.
Cincinnati is beatable, and Purdue needs the confidence from winning that game. After that Purdue gets a week off before Nevada at home and two road games at Maryland and Illinois, who are two of the conference’s weaker teams. Right now Purdue as a team, staff, and fanbase needs to simply see some wins to believe they can actually happen. If confidence and momentum are real, tangible things in football this schedule is built to build that and have it snowball. If it can beat the Bearcats it can absolutely win the next three. It is the chance to have one of those “wait a minute, something is different here” moments.
It will be difficult, but not impossible to come out of these first five games at 4-1 or even 5-0. If that happens everyone is going to look at this team differently. Yeah, it will come against easier teams, but Hazell hasn’t proven he can even beat easy teams with any consistency, so that alone would be dramatic improvement.
Believe because of the players
Ultimately, these are the only guys that can get it done. You think they haven’t heard how bad this team is? You think they don’t want to shut everyone, including me, up? I would love to be told to be quiet. I am dying to heap praise on this team again. That’s why this site exists! Yeah, we’ll be guarded after the season opener because it is one of the games Purdue should win under any circumstance. If the Boilers beat Cincy a week later, however, watch out!
This team does have some talented guys on it. Markell Jones is a great running back to build around. DeAngelo Yancey, Domonique Young, and Cameron Posey look like really good senior receivers. Jason King and Jordan Roos can plow the road with a young, but strong Kirk Barron beside them.
On defense everyone in the Big Ten would love to have Ja’Whaun Bentley as their middle linebacker and Jake Replogle as their defensive tackle. The secondary is young (my goodness it is young), but on numbers alone SOMEONE has to be good out of the sheer wealth of freshman defensive backs. Someone is going to be a big surprise, and so far it looks like Navon Mosely. Finally, with Randy Melvin back coaching the defensive line we can expect big improvement there at a unit that absolutely needs big improvement.
Believe because it feels good
As I said above, I am just as guilty as anyone of being down on this team, but it time to cleanse things. A new season is starting. In 11 days the All-American marching Band will be performing I Am An American in advance of kickoff and there will be excitement. We will see football again. Barring a disaster against Eastern Kentucky, Purdue will actually win, too. Touchdowns will be scored, tackles will be made, and on a bright September afternoon we will all feel good again.
And that is where hope springs eternal. Yes, the odds are stacked against this team, but it is a new season and anything can happen. On September 13, 1997 I was a month short of my 18th birthday and I walked into Ross-Ade Stadium with my brother-in-law expecting the worst after Purdue dropped its season opener to Toledo by two touchdowns. Purdue had 12 straight losing seasons at that point, and since I started going to games in 1987 losing, terrible football was all I had known. Facing a ranked Notre Dame team there was no sign that things were going to be any different at all.
Then Rosevelt Colvin sacked Ron Pawlus and Adrian Beasley returned the fumble for a touchdown. That one play seemed to turn around Purdue’s entire fortunes for the next decade.
Believe because no one else will
We’re Purdue fans. We walk alone because we’re not a bandwagon team and we don’t have a ton of history. There is no such thing as a fairweather Purdue fan. We’re all diehards and we’re all just aching to have fun watching football again. contrary to what Ohio State fans think, it is exceedingly easy to be a Buckeye fan. A 12-1 season iwth a Fiesta bowl win last year was a disappointment. That would cause parades in West Lafayette with sonnets written to Darrell Hazell.
It is hard to be a Purdue fan because lets face it, you’re only watching this team now because you’re a fan and you want to believe. We remember plays like the Beasley play (and the bookend Fumble) longer than anyone else. because it is all we have and we’re desperately looking for more.
I am going to Ross-Ade this year seven times hoping to see that “one play” that turns things around because I know it can cause the momentum and confidence that can change so much. Even if it is not likely to happen and we’re probably going to be looking for a new coach in the offseason it is fun to dream about. Now imagine the payoff if it actually happens.