After the UND game, my brother said he was getting sick of Coach Haze's happy talk. I tried to defend it, saying that he was trying to keep the fragile psyche of the team in tact in hopes of progress being made. BUT after the thrashing at the hands of Bucky, Hazell admitted that the team took a step back. If that's true, this week's game was another in the same direction…off of a cliff.
If Darrell Hazell turns our Boilers around in a season or two, we can look back to today as a momentous one though.
It's the day in which the program hit the bottom (hopefully) as it was a a homecoming game that was notably-embarrassing…but it became the day when we started looking forward.
Purdue moved the ball pretty well versus the beleaguered Husky defense, but did everything possible to make sure that none of that yardage mattered.
A pick-6, a kickoff returned for a TD, lapses by the defense, crappy tackling (again), awful penalties at key times; yeah, this one had it all!
If you haven't gotten to go to RA this season, here's what you missed- v. ISU: disappointment. v. UND: hope. v. NIU: sarcasm.
The fanbase seemed clearly a bit jaded…tons of people in the nice seats (I got mine from my pal Chad; thanks again, boss) were there, but few were hopeful for this one. I think the last few weeks felt too similar to the Danny Hope era for Purdue fans to stay the course this week…and early on, as this one got away from the good guys, the fans reflected the poor play with frustration.
Perhaps listening to a MAC opponent's fans chant time and again after multiple touchdowns…in our house…bothered us. Or maybe watching the defense get sliced like a Thanksgiving turkey got under our skin. It could have been watching a Senior QB make Freshman mistakes in the wake of the coach telling us that his problems were the fault of the OLine…who knows. The confluence of these factors on a Homecoming Saturday made the afternoon tough to swallow.
As we talked about earlier, Danny Etling's time in relief of Henry came with mixed emotions for multiple reasons:
First, of course, many of us were hoping for a redshirt season for the highly-touted true Frosh QB…and you all know how much we like Appleby around here. Next, he was far-from-perfect in his first half of play as a college QB…BUT, the velocity he puts on the ball, his energy and the fact that he was playing high school ball just a year ago made all of his mistakes much more palatable than what we were seeing from Henry.
Plus, as Shoop and Hazell told us that Henry was clearly the right guy to be starting this season, I think we couldn't help but doubt their ability to assess talent as we watched Henry run the offense in a slow pace with no vertical threat zero excitement or pop. Everything developed slowly, the offense was never in rhythm and the only play that worked consistently was the jailbreak screen; that's not good, obviously.
But today, Etling led Purdue on a drive or two in which Purdue marched quickly down the field and for the first time in a few seasons, the 1, 2, 3, 4 FIRST DOWN chant was more than just an antique that we kept around for nostalgia. Sure, he made a ton of mistakes, but at this point, I can take mistakes, if there's a reason for it.
What I don't have much time for is watching Seniors, on either side of the ball playing bad football, making big mistakes as Purdue is getting its nose bloodied week-in, week-out. Seriously, a bunch of true Freshman can have similar results and learn a thing or two in the process.
Before I say this next statement, keep in mind, I'm just a caveman with a website…I don't know much other than what I've seen in the games and practices that I've attended…but Henry needs to be a DB. I know I suggested slot last week, but I'd rather have Freshman and Sophomores playing receiver right now as they get on the same page of the new offense and a new QB…on the other side of the ball though, injuries have depleted an already-thin defensive backfield…and Henry's athleticism shouldn't go to waste. Hey, I'm just spit-balling. One thing is clear: it's time to look forward. The substitution of Etling for Henry might be the moment in which the coaching staff started doing it as well.
So, we're five games into a season in which the W-L record is exactly what I thought it'd be when I gazed into my cloudy crystal ball back in August…But I really didn't see beatdowns like this one coming. That fragile psyche of this team that I talked earlier is probably teetering or has already tipped…a bye week might help the coaches get the players focused on the essential work that needs to get done now; and there's plenty of it.
In my opinion, the best case scenario for the good guys over the next three games is 1-2…but 0-3 seems pretty likely. Progress would be seeing a slightly healthier defense that can tackle consistently, special teams units that don't give up the big play and an offense that can score more than garbage points and on the first drive.
Like you, I'll be tuning in and going to the games that I can because I have a disease…and there's only one cure for my disease, and it's not more cowbell.