The Boilers were pounding again today, this time by the worst team that’s pummeled them yet, as Indiana took the Boilers to the woodshed, 56-36 – nearly reversing the score from last year exactly.
Purdue was gashed immediately and often by IU’s Stephen Houston – who had something like 70 yards and two TDs on his first seven carries – and Tre Roberson, who rushed for 154 yards and passed for another 273 plus six touchdowns. Six. Mercy.
The Boilers end their worst football season of their 122 with a 1-11 (0-8) record. It’s difficult to even say “arguably” their worst season, too. This was their first season without a Big Ten win since 1993 and their first one-win season since that same year, two decades ago (when the rivers were pure and fully-coiffed Boilerdowd prowled the halls of Cary Quad as a freshman). And as we’ve noted, that 1993 team at least competed in many of their games. Even in this one, where Purdue scored by far their most points of the season, the Boilers were routed. Make no mistake about that.
It was 35-9 at halftime and I just have to say I hate missed extra points. There are few actions that are actually fairly small in the actual impact that have such a large impact on morale and “vibe.” Missing an extra point meant the Boilers were down 14-6 instead of 14-7 at the time. I know it means nothing in the overall scheme of things and the guys need to pick each other up, but it feels like it lets the air out of the balloon. I expect Griggs to get better and we did see him make some more sizable kicks, such as the 36 yarder later on… like other positions, consistency here would make a difference.
Purdue showed they were either lacking in confidence in Griggs, lacking respect for the IU defense, or simply tired of taking it on the chin all year, as they went for it on 4th and 12 early and converted, leading to that first TD that cut into the quick two TD lead for IU.
But things went south after that, as IU mercilessly sliced up a Purdue defense that had no answers. Boilerdowd and I have often discussed the linebacking corps at Purdue and just how lacking it is. It’s hard to criticize those guys, though, because they do appear to work hard and some of them, like Sean Robinson, are converted from other positions and simply doing everything they are asked. Hard to fault that. And we’re not faulting it – we’re simply saying Coach Hazell and Coach Hudson have their work cut out for them in that area and need to get recruiting. When you consider the football factories like OSU that Purdue shares a conference with, it’s kind of amazing that the Boilers have guys starting at LB that wouldn’t play there at any other Big Ten school, or probably any other BCS conference team in the nation.
The secondary, though, is only slightly better. Ricardo Allen picked off his fifth and sixth of the season in his final collegiate game – good for RA (seriously). Allen said last week that “Drew Brees was right – it’s an honor to be a Boilermaker.” That’s great to hear from the senior.
However, he’ll be gone next year, too, and the secondary is going to need to improve as well. The defense as a whole has a long way to go and a return to relevance will not truly happen without significant leaps forward here.
Tangentially, on the subject of rushing the ball, Purdue not only can’t stop it – they can’t actually do it, either! Not a good combo. Purdue was outrushed today by… are you ready for this? 370 yards (401-31). That is…legendarily bad. Yes, I know it gets out of hand when you’re behind and have to pass to catch up and all that, but still…wow.
Purdue had over 500 yards of offense for the first time all season (while also cracking 30 points for the first time) but also gave up nearly 700. Good gracious. I’m used to those numbers being on the good guys’ side of the ledger. I don’t like being Urkel in this rivalry.
In addition, Landon Feichter (who IU’s play-by-play radio team called “Landon Fletcher”) was tossed for “targeting” in a very questionable call (you can see Landon trying to lead with his shoulder) yet a very clear crown of the helmet to Etling’s face on the second-to-last Purdue snap of the contest went not only without an ejection, but without even a flag! Awesome officiating… and so even-handed! (Danny put it right back in their face with another TD pass, so good for him for getting up after the hard, dirty knock and delivering, despite the outcome already being decided.)
So did anything go well today? Not for quite a while, honestly. The score ballooned to 49-9 in the third quarter and we began worrying that we might see a lousy IU team hang 60 on our Boilers – and perhaps win by 50+, which would just be one more kick in the beans in a season that’s already tested the mettle of our cups.
But then Danny Etling went to work and perhaps most importantly, refused to quit playing hard. Yeah, yeah, yeah… I know they’re supposed to always play hard. I get it. But continuing to prepare, practice and play with heart and focus when the season has long since slipped away is not as easy as it sounds. I was proud of the effort put forth by the offense and I would say to people who imply Purdue players don’t care that you’re not right, in my opinion. Clearly, you’re more than entitled to yours, but I believe Coach Hazell has the guys whose attitudes aren’t where they belong firmly planted on the bench.
Etling began leading Purdue on drives – three consecutive TD drives, to bring the score from 49-9 to 49-30 and suddenly at least a little more respectable, culminating with this thing of beauty to Danny Anthrop:
A 21 point comeback would have been enough for some wins this season – unfortunately it came with the team already down forty.
Tre Roberson sealed the game with his sixth TD pass late, but Danny Etling continued to chuck it, repeatedly hooking up with Danny Anthrop and DeAngelo Yancey. Anthrop had five catches for 151 yards and a TD and Yancey had 11 grabs for 125 and a TD. Mr. Etling wound up having by far his best game of the season, going 33 of 49 for 485 yards and four TDs (against zero picks). Many of you will cynically point out that it was against IU’s defense – and you’d be correct – but he also got to play PSU’s defense, Nebraska’s defense and – mercy – Illinois’ defense and he didn’t come close to these kinds of numbers. Nor did he look as confident in those games, though there were flashes.
I enjoyed seeing Danny grow up a bit in front of us and I liked seeing him continue to command the offense, patting guys on the back, taking control, barking orders, etc. Never forget this is a true freshman thrown into the shark-infested waters of one of the toughest schedules in the nation with a suspect line “protecting” him. Danny Etling is not this team’s problem right now. His ability to zing the ball down the field warms the cockles of my cold, dark heart. Brighter days are ahead.
I know there are some who have already lost patience with Coach Hazell. I’m nowhere near that yet and I feel he deserves time to implement his guys and his system. Danny Hope got four years to figure it out and never did. Now, granted, Darrell Hazell won’t get that long because he’s making big boy money and you absolutely must produce results. I look for next year to be a transitional year and for 2015 to be very good. Many key components on offense are back and I expect them to get a lot better. Whether John Shoop is part of that or not remains to be seen, obviously.
I’ll end our final game post of the season by thanking you all for tuning in to witness our slow, sad decline down the icy slope towards insanity. I’ll also say that we appreciate any and all Purdue athletes who choose to put on the old gold and black (or black and white today) and represent our beloved alma mater. As Ricardo said when he quoted Drew, it’s something to be proud of.
Now it’s time to begin to climb back from the bottom.
Ever grateful, ever true.