The worst season of Purdue football in the last 20 years (or ever) drew to an ignominious close on Saturday when our Boilermakers surrendered the Old Oaken Bucket to the loathsome Hoosiers. Indiana scored their highest point total in series history. At least the awful IU defense allowed Purdue to score 30 points, the most the good guys have scored in a game all season.
In fact, you could talk me into saying the offense played pretty well. Yes, Indiana has a historically bad defense (they now own the Big Ten record for opponent yards per game), but this team has struggled against bad defenses. It’s nice to see Danny Etling and the receiver corps get it together. If the offensive line can learn how to play football, there’s hope for the Purdue offense in 2014.
The defense is another story. Despite Ricardo Allen’s two interceptions, IU was never in any danger of being kept off the field. If I were a Purdue opponent, I’d take a knee on first and second down knowing that the defense will allow as many yards as I want on third down. Indiana was 16 of 18 on third down conversions on Saturday. As Darrell Hazell and his staff hit the recruiting trail in the next two weeks, we have to hope they can find some guys ready to be four-year starters on defense.
The special teams did their thing on Saturday, though Cody Webster could have punted the ball to Kokomo and it wouldn’t have made much difference. Webster was Purdue’s best and most consistent weapon all season. The rest of the team needs to improve dramatically in his absence; we can’t count on having another kicker of his caliber. Paul Griggs made his first field goal since late September (though with only 12 attempts on the season, you can’t read much into that). His missed extra point, though insignificant, was disturbing. In his defense, he hasn’t been given too many opportunities there, either. Griggs has not shown himself to be a very consistent kicker; if the offense does a better job of moving the ball next year, expect him to face competition.
And now for the coaches. Darrell Hazell’s $2 million seems pretty generous right now, but few coaches have great success in their first year. It’s clearly not the result anyone wanted, and I suspect that’s due in part to getting little buy-in from the seniors. The young guys got the playing time because they were the ones putting in the effort. It’s up to the coaches to find recruits that will give them something to work with, and they’d better do it quickly because fans are already mumbling. Right now, the class is only half the size that Hazell wants and is ranked last in the Big Ten. We may know all we need about the 2014 team’s performance by signing day.