Note: This is part of a series dating to last season. Fans of the Badgers, Nittany Lions, Hawkeyes, CornhuskersWolverines, Hoosiers and Buckeyes have already had the chance to read their sob stories.

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Purdue has suffered a lot of heartbreakers, the latest one Thursday night to visiting Penn State.

Its fans, as a matter of fact, would argue it’s happened to the Boilermakers more often than to most programs. And maybe it has.

Let’s take a look at 6, dating back to the start of the Joe Tiller Era in 1997.

‘Eggs in a basket’

Not that this Sept. 6, 2015 game turned out to matter — after its season-opening loss at Marshall, Purdue won only 2 games — but the hilarity of it puts it on our list. It captures the disastrous Darrell Hazell Era in a nutshell. Or, in this case, in an egg shell.

Despite having only 4 wins in his first 2 seasons at Purdue, Hazell thought the Boilermakers were primed for a big jump in ’15. But he knew they’d need a good start, with the opener being in Huntington. How important did Hazell deem the game? Well, he told his team — and then the media — that Purdue was putting “all its eggs in a basket” against the Herd. At practice, he even had players literally put eggs into a basket, signifying that Purdue was all-in to beat Marshall.

Although it was perhaps a noble thought, what would happen if the Boilermakers lost? It seemed apparent that Purdue was a team low on confidence, in itself and its coach. If it lost, Hazell might lose the players forever. And predictably, that’s exactly what happened.

On the Boilermakers’ first snap of the game, quarterback Austin Appleby threw a pick-6, solidifying the groans of an already skeptical fan base. The Herd won 41-31, and Purdue’s eggs were smashed. Hazell was fired in the middle of the next season, after the Boilermakers had only 9 wins in his 3.5 years. Yikes.

Chasing points

Less than 20 minutes into its New Year’s Day Outback Bowl vs. Georgia — the first game of the year 2000 — the Boilermakers led 25-0. But Purdue should have been up by more, and that failure assisted in allowing the Bulldogs to rally for a 28-25 overtime win.

It was a mind-numbing loss to end Tiller’s third season in West Lafayette. Mistakes were made. After Travis Dorsch missed an extra point early in the game, Tiller started “chasing points,” seeking to make up for the lost one. But twice Purdue failed to convert two-point conversions, and twice Dorsch missed field goals.

Had Purdue put one more point on the board, the margin might have been too much for Georgia to overcome in regulation. Instead, the Bulldogs rallied to beat Drew Brees, who lost despite throwing for nearly 400 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Close in the ’Shoe

There’s probably no game that pained Tiller more than Purdue’s loss at Ohio State in 2003.

Perhaps his best Boilermakers squad, 11th-ranked Purdue rolled into the Horseshoe looking to avenge a narrow loss to the eventual national champions in Ross-Ade Stadium a year earlier. Purdue was good, led by an outstanding defense and quarterback Kyle Orton.

It had lost its opener to Bowling Green, but recovered to win 8 of its next 9 before heading to OSU. The defense held the Buckeyes without a touchdown (OSU scored a defensive TD), yet Ohio State still pulled out a 16-13 win in overtime. In OT, Purdue PK Ben Jones missed a 37-yarder that would have continued the game, after he had missed previously in the third quarter of a tie game.

It was Purdue’s 6th straight loss in Columbus, and its best chance at a win. It didn’t help that a year previous, Purdue led OSU 6-3 at home, before Craig Krenzel hit Michael Jenkins on a 37-yard fourth-down touchdown pass with less than 2 minutes left for a 10-6 Buckeyes’ victory.

Back-to-back heartbreakers vs. OSU is hard to stomach.

Not champs

Before the ’05 season, the Orlando Sentinel thought Purdue was worthy of the No. 1 spot in its preseason poll. Although illogical, the pick wasn’t completely without reason: Purdue was returning the bulk of its team that had climbed into the top 5 the season before, prior to Orton’s injury. Orton was off to the NFL, but experienced backup Brandon Kirsch was taking over, with many expecting Purdue not to miss a beat.

Many were wrong.

Kirsch struggled to grasp Purdue’s option offense — Tiller had installed it during the previous spring, hoping to take advantage of Kirsch’s running prowess — and the Boilermakers sputtered. It didn’t help that the defense quickly also turned into a mess.

The bottom dropped out at Minnesota on Sept. 24, 2005, when the Boilermakers gave up 572 yards in a 42-35, double-OT loss to the Gophers. A frustrated Kirsch apparently told a Minneapolis TV station after the game that Purdue’s season was over, because it wouldn’t be able to live up to the national hype. It was the first of 6 straight loses, as Purdue missed a bowl game for the first time in the Tiller Era.

A tight end?

On Sept. 16, 2000, injuries forced Notre Dame to send a tight end, Gary Godsey, out to play quarterback against Drew Brees, a future NFL Super Bowl MVP and Hall of Famer, and the Boilermakers.

And the Fighting Irish won.

It was a maddening loss for Purdue, extending a winless streak in South Bend that dated to the mid-70s. The 23-21 loss capped a bizarre game for Purdue, with Tiller’s Boilermakers rushing the ball almost twice as often as passing. Brees had only 22 pass attempts without a touchdown and with an interception, a costly late pick over the middle.

Godsey was excellent on the final ND drive, setting up kicker Nick Setta for the game-winner. It took 4 more seasons for Purdue to get that coveted win in Notre Dame Stadium.

The Fumble

Most Purdue fans want nothing to do with reliving “The Fumble.”

Behind Heisman Trophy candidate Orton, No. 5 Purdue was 5-0 when No. 10 Wisconsin came to West Lafayette for Homecoming in 2004. ESPN’s “College Gameday” was in attendance, with plans to stay for the Boilermakers’ game vs. Michigan the next week.

Assuming, of course, Purdue beat Wisconsin.

It didn’t. And Purdue fans can picture exactly where they were when the game fell apart, because many point to that moment as a turning point, when the program was on the verge of national prominence only to see it get fumbled away.

Looking to ice a late lead, Orton took the football on a naked bootleg and appeared to have the distance for a first down. But he was upended by a couple Badgers, who knocked the ball loose. Scott Starks picked it up and raced to the end zone with 2:36 to play for a 20-17 lead.

Purdue lost after it had led 17-7 with less than 8 minutes to play, its final touchdown being a scramble by Orton, after which the Ross-Ade PA announcer exclaimed to the crowd, “Touchdown Heisman Trophy candidate Kyle Orton.”


Purdue was defeated. And Orton had been hurt, too, leading the Boilermakers into a downward spiral that saw them lose 4 straight. Some might argue Purdue has never recovered.