In 2007 College football went crazy. Kansas was the only one loss team in the country, won the Orange Bowl, but was nowhere near the National title game. Appalachian State beat Michigan. Stanford beat USC as a 20 point underdog. Illinois beat No. 1 Ohio State in Columbus. No. 2 teams fell left and right. No matter how you slice it, college football completely lost. It’s. Shit.
In the middle of that, however, Purdue was a pole of calm. Sure, we had our own contribution to the madness since it was the last time our football program has been ranked in the top 25 to date, but Purdue was stable. We did not stage any mind-bending upsets. We did not rise to No. 2 only to come tumbling down. In short, we were the steady Purdue of the time, earning our 10th bowl bid in 11 seasons and winning at least 8 games for the 6th time in 11 years. In short, we were stability personified.
And we haven’t really been close since because our fall started afterward.
So let’s take a look back at that season, which was memorable, but not really:
Purdue 52, Toledo 24
The year began just like it did 10 years before that: in the Glass Bowl at Toledo. The Boilers fell behind 7-0 on an early 35-yard touchdown from DeJuane Collins, but scored 28 of the next 35 points to go in front for good. Overall, Curtis Painter threw for 244 yards on just 14 completions and 4 TDs while Purdue ran for 254 yards. Dorien Bryant also returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Purdue blew out a MAC team on its home field, and feelings were good.
Purdue 52, Eastern Illinois 6
Fun fact: This was the first time Purdue ever appeared on Big Ten Network. Unlike Michigan, we knew how to handle our business against FCS teams too. Painter threw for 348 yards and 6 TDs to move to 10 touchdowns against zero interceptions on the season. Yes, it was against lesser competition, but the Purdue offense looked amazing. Dustin Keller caught two TDs and Purdue was never challenged. Also, who can forget Jake Standeford absolutely obliterating an EIU defender on a block.
Purdue 45, Central Michigan 22
This game actually got fans excited because Central Michigan was a really good team under Dan Lefevour. They would even go on to win the MAC that year. Purdue went up 31-0 at halftime and cruised to an easy win. Painter threw three more TDs and no interceptions while Kory sheets ran for 150 yards and 2 scores. Against the best team in the MAC (which is usually a pretty good team) Purdue looked really good, so maybe something big was happening.
Purdue 45, Minnesota 31
After this game Purdue was averaging 48.5 points per game and Painter had thrown 16 touchdowns to just one interception. Sheets went over 100 yards again, Desmond Tardy returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, and Cliff Avril had an interception for a TD. Purdue was up 17-3 after one and led 24-3 at halftime over a Minnesota team that finished 1-11.
Purdue 33, Notre Dame 19
To date, this is the last time Purdue beat Notre Dame. It was the same Notre Dame team that finished 3-9 and started the year 1-9. Back when this site was Off the Tracks, Notre Dame fan told me before that season that there was no way the Irish would start 0-5 and that I should “do better” as a writer. Purdue was up 23-0 at halftime and Notre Dame got back into it by throwing long bombs to Golden Tate. It was only 26-19 before Dustin Keller got a TD with 5:33 left to clinch it. Chris Summers hit four field goals in this game, three of them inside 30 yards, so Purdue left a lot of points on the field.
#4 Ohio State 23, #23 Purdue 7
This was it. Purdue was 5-0 and ranked No. 23 for the first time all year. It had an offense averaging 40+ points per game, but it was facing its first real test in No. 4 Ohio State. ABC made it a night game, brought in lights, and there was an electric atmosphere. If we were going to put the ghosts of The Fumble behind us and go on to win the Big Ten, this is where it would start.
It was over fast, at least.
Ohio State was up 14-0 with 4:48 left in the first quarter and proceeded to sit on our heads as we flailed about the rest of the game. They would kick three field goals and Purdue would intercept three passes, but it didn’t matter. Purdue managed only 15 first downs, rushed for only 4 yards, and threw for 268. Jeff Lindsay caught a TD pass with 10 seconds left to avoid the shutout, but there would be no upset. Purdue had absolutely no running game and Ohio State basically pushed us around our own field at will for three and a half hours. Purdue has not been in the top 25 since.
Michigan 48, Purdue 21
As fast as Purdue was into the top 25, it was back out the next week. We were still receiving votes when we went to Ann Arbor and remember; Appalachian State had beaten Michigan earlier that season there. I actually went to this game and thought maybe, just maybe, Purdue’s first win in Ann Arbor since 1966 would be coming.
Painter tied the game at 7-7 after a fumble recovery with a 5 yard run. Mike Hart then did the rest. He rushed for over 100 yards in the half and Painter threw for only 112 and two interceptions. Joey Elliott came on and directed two TDs inside the last minute, but that only made things look better as Purdue trailed 48-7 with 10 minutes left.
Purdue 31, Iowa 6
With the Big Ten dreams dead Purdue recovered from its two game losing streak with a strong performance at home. Bryant had a career high 167 yards receiving and the defense didn’t give up a touchdown. Painter also threw for three TDs and Bryant had a pair of TD receptions.
Purdue 35, Northwestern 17
Purdue moved to 7-2 and still had a good shot at a New Year’s Day bowl while Bryant moved into second place all-time on the Big Ten receptions list. Jaycen Taylor ran for 157 yards and 2 TDs in this game. I know I was at this game and the Iowa game, but I have no memory of what actually happened. These were the days when Purdue would win and it wasn’t really memorable for any reason.
Penn State 26, Purdue 19
For the second time in the season Purdue began a game with a kickoff return for a TD. Bryant’s second return for a score gave the Boilers a 7-0 lead after 16 seconds and Purdue led 10-3 after a quarter. Like the Notre Dame game, however, Purdue could only manage field goals instead of touchdowns. Summers was 4 of 4 and Purdue led 16-13 entering the fourth quarter, but gave up two touchdowns. Purdue did get to midfield for a Hail Mary at the end, but couldn’t convert.
Michigan State 48, Purdue 31
This was a weird game. The teams combined for 45 points in the second quarter, then only 3 in the fourth. Michigan State led 31-21 at halftime and 31-24 in the fourth, but a field goal followed by a 20 yard fumble return for a score made it a 17 point lead. Painter threw two interceptions and Purdue lost a fumble while creating no turnovers. It was just an ugly, sloppy game for Purdue.
Indiana 27, Purdue 24
I was at this game too, and it is the only real BTN Classic game they ever seem to play in Indiana’s favor. Needing a win to assure its first bowl game in more than a decade and playing for the memory of Terry Hoeppner, Indiana jumped out to a 24-3 lead midway through the third quarter. Kory Sheets then ran for two scores and a 5-yard pass to Jake Standeford tied the game with 3:39 left. Indiana then moved down the field and Austin Starr’s field goal with 30 seconds left won it. Indiana was in a bowl game, had the Bucket after a five game losing streak, and this is basically the pinnacle of their program for the last 25 years because they finished with a winning record. Purdue fell to 7-5 after a 7-2 start.
Purdue 51, Central Michigan 48
Bowl games are supposed to be fun, and even though this was a rematch from earlier in the year in Detroit, it was a lot of fun. There was no defense allowed as Painter threw for a school record 546 yards and 3 touchdowns. Purdue scored three times in the first quarter just like the first game against CMU, including a 62 yard score to Keller. Sheets made it 34-13 just before halftime, but then Central Michigan showed up. Lefevour threw a 76-yard TD pass to Antonio Brown (only the best receiver in the NFL right now) and CMU erased a three touchdown deficit with 28 third quarter points.
It was 41-41 entering the fourth quarter, but Taylor scored on a 13 yard run midway through. CMU tied it with 1:09 left, but Painter got Purdue in range for Summers, who won the game with a walk-off 40 yard field goal. The teams combined for over 1,000 yards of offense and 12 touchdowns.
So that was 2007. Purdue finished 8-5, but a pretty mundane 8-5 where the best team it beat was either CMU twice, 6-6 Iowa, or 6-6 Northwestern. In the two games against really good teams (Michigan and Ohio State) Purdue was blown out. It lost two tough games to bowl teams in Penn State and Indiana, and it had the odd Michigan State game at home.
That is what stands out though. Purdue was a disappointing 8 win team. We expected more. We knew that team could have won 10 games and was a handful of plays against Penn State and Indiana from doing so. This was the last time we would win 8 games in a season, the last time we would be ranked, and the last time we would beat Notre Dame. We didn’t know it yet, but we were already on the decline into the abyss that would crater with 1-11 in 2013. I still can’t believe that Purdue won 8 games in a season, beat Notre Dame, and won a bowl, yet we were disappointed in the result. We’ve now won 9 games in four years and if you told me that Purdue would go 8-5 in 2017 with a bowl win and no wins over a ranked team I would take it.
Also, let’s look at the talent on this team. Avril is currently a monster in the NFL. Keller had a good career before it was ended by a nasty knee injury. Sheets was briefly in the NFL and was a Grey Cup MVP in the CFL. Bryant had NFL talent, but an injury derailed him. Painter was, technically, a starting quarterback in the NFL. Greg Orton has regularly been on NFL practice squads. Alex Magee on the defense was drafted. Some guy named Ryan Kerrigan was a reserve that played in 12 games with 18 tackles and a sack. Joey Elliott even had a brief CFL turn.
It is hard to believe that this team was so average, but would now be so great compared to what we have seen the last few years. Hopefully we can be disappointed in 8 wins again some day.