Purdue football: a season to hope for

Written by: Alex Cotterman

I’ve been a Purdue football fan my entire life. In my nearly 17 years on the planet, the Boilermakers have put together just seven winning records and won just three bowl games. To make matters worse, the Boilers haven’t had a winning season in five years.
As a lifelong Purdue fan, I’ve experienced a seemingly endless supply of both false hope and complete and utter disappointment. My Purdue fandom really began to take off when Purdue hired Darrell Hazell following the end of Danny Hopes mediocre tenure. The Hazell era began by Purdue getting thrashed 42-7 by Cincinnati on the road. The only win of the 2013 season was a 20-14 slugfest against a horrendous Indiana State team that only managed a single win themselves that year.
The Hazell era ended unceremoniously in 2016 when he was fired following his eye popping 33rd loss in under four seasons. Purdue football began to look up under interim head coach Gerad Parker. They competed with No. 8 Nebraska on the road in a 27-14 loss. The following week. however, was everything Purdue fans have experienced, but in the most intense way imaginable.
The Boilermakers were playing at home against Penn State, a team who was hot coming off of a massive upset of then No. 2 Ohio State. Purdue came out swinging and the contest was tied at 17 a piece at halftime. Then everything began to fall apart for Purdue. On their first drive of the second half Purdue quarterback David Blough threw an interception deep in his own territory. Touchdown Nittany Lions. The Boilermakers held the Lions to a three-and-out, however Purdue’s punt returner muffed the punt, recovered by Penn State. Touchdown Nittany Lions. And just like that, Purdue was back to same old Purdue. Things would go wrong for this team and they would roll over and die. They didn’t have the grit or perseverance or bit of heart to overcome adversity. The Boilers would go on to allow 45 second half points and lose 62-24 to the eventual Big Ten Champions.
This season is different though. Jeff Brohm has brought in a new culture, a new attitude. Purdue doesn’t have to be the laughing stock of the Big Ten. They don’t have to be a team that hopes for a couple of fluke games to even get into the wins column. They don’t have to quit when things go poorly. In Purdue’s first game, they showed it.
The Boilermakers were by all means outmatched by the No.16 Louisville Cardinals and the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Lamar Jackson. Purdue could have, and under Hazell would have, seen a clear talent gap and allowed Louisville to destroy them and give Jackson another highlight tape. Under Brohm and his new regime however, the Boilermakers played with grit, toughness and heart. They hung with Louisville for 60 minutes, leading them at halftime and had a chance at a game winning drive to topple the goliath that was the Cardinals.
The most impressive part of this loss was how Purdue responded to the adverse things that were happening to them. A questionable at best, an absolutely asinine at worse targeting penalty on Lorenzo Neal allowed the Cardinals to score a touchdown and cut Purdue’s lead to just three points. Just over two minutes later, Purdue quarterback David Blough was intercepted by Cardinals defensive back Lamarques Thomas and returned 61 yards for a touchdown. 25-21 Louisville. This was it. This was Purdue giving up and allowing the floodgates to open. Louisville would surely score another 20 points, while Purdue’s score would stay as still as the Boilermaker statue outside of Ross Ade stadium. Except it wasn’t. Purdue did the unthinkable. They marched the length of the field and scored again, retaking the lead. While Louisville, a team significantly more talented than Purdue, won the game, the Boilermakers showed something they haven’t showed since the days of Joe Tiller. Grit.
The following week rather than playing down to their competition against Ohio, the Boilermakers steamrolled the Wildcats 44-21 while playing clean, assignment sound football. Purdue racked up over 550 yards of total offense and didn’t turn the ball over once. Their defense wasn’t perfect, but only allowed 21 points, the last seven of which came in garbage time.
The point in my writing of this piece is to say, for the first time in a decade, there is legitimate excitement and a seemingly real hope that Purdue may win something meaningful. Maybe it’s a six win season and a bowl game. Maybe in a few seasons the Boilers can compete for the Big Ten West. And maybe the culture can change to where that isn’t just an ambitious goal. It’s an expectation.

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