Nobody expected an 0-3 start, but there's no reason to panic on Purdue
Two costly personal foul penalties. Two more game-winning field goals.
One overturned touchdown catch.
Those are the things that stand in the way of Purdue and 3-0 record. If all of those things, or just some of them, had gone a different way, a spot in the Associated Press’ top 25 might’ve been on the line on Saturday.
Instead, the Boilermakers limp into this weekend’s matchup against No. 23 Boston College with an 0-3 record. The worst part? They only have themselves to blame.
If Lorenzo Neal doesn’t slam Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin into the ground after the whistle on a third-down stop, Purdue the ball back with a chance for the offense to march down the field and win the game.
If Cornel Jones doesn’t needlessly shove Eastern Michigan quarterback Tyler Wiegers after shutting the door on another third down play, the Boilermakers probably avoid that embarrassing loss.
If Purdue doesn’t dig itself a 17-point hole early in the game against Missouri, maybe Jared Sparks touchdown catch that was swiped off the board after a review wouldn’t have been so costly.
Plenty of “ifs” to reflect on after the first three games. It’s easy to see why the frustration has already returned to West Lafayette even as Jeff Brohm led the Boilers to a winning season and a bowl appearance last year.
The disappointment is understandable. This season marks the first time Purdue has started a season 0-3 in over two decades. As strange as it might seem, not even the Darrell Hazell-led teams began the year this poorly, record-wise anyway.
Don’t allow that discontent slip into panic or worry, though. Even after a winless start to the season, there isn’t any reason to be alarmed. We’re not even close to that point.
Let me throw out these two numbers to explain: nine and 54. Through the first 16 games in West Lafayette, Brohm has lost nine games by a combined 54 points. Double-check my math if you’d like, but that’s six points per loss.
Here’s another number: of those nine losses, seven have been within one possession.
There’s a crowd that has already looked at those numbers — and the three one-score losses this season — and labeled Brohm as the coach who can’t win close games. He’s already been critiqued for his decision-making and play-calling late in games.
Yes, Purdue has struggled to close out games through the first year-and-a-quarter of the Brohm era. But if you need a reminder as to why you shouldn’t be worried about the future of the program — and maybe celebrate the fact that this team is competitive again –here are a few for you:
- 2013: vs. Penn State – loss – 45-21
- 2014: vs. Central Michigan – loss – 38-17
- 2015: vs. Virginia Tech – loss – 51-24
- 2016: vs. Maryland – loss – 50-7
Those were some of the worst losses of the Hazell era at Purdue. The worst part? None of those teams finished those respective seasons with more than seven wins. And those lopsided outcomes weren’t uncommon, either.
So try not to get too angry when I laugh at the knee-jerk reaction after a few careless penalties and a little bad luck cost Purdue the first three games. Fans would’ve killed for those kind of performances on a weekly basis.
Brohm is a victim of his own success. Nobody expected a 46-year-old guy with only three years of head coaching experience to waltz in and immediately fix a program that had won just nine games in the previous four seasons. And there he was with the Boilermakers in San Francisco, holding the trophy after defeating Arizona in the Foster Farms Bowl.
And now, nine months after that moment, fans were hoping Purdue would be undefeated at this point and competing for a spot in the top 25. It just hasn’t worked out that way so far.
Purdue could potentially fall to 0-4 this weekend. Boston College running back AJ Dillon has been compared to former Wisconsin star and Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne. Quarterback Anthony Brown has already thrown for over 600 yards and nine touchdowns while completing nearly 70 percent of his passes.
Much like Missouri, the Eagles’ offense presents a plethora of challenges for the Boilermaker defense.
But even if Purdue drops to 0-4 on Saturday, there’s still no need to touch the panic button. If Brohm was able to reach seven wins with last year’s Purdue team, he’ll certainly have the Boilermakers sniffing around the top 25 and competing in the West sometime soon, even if it isn’t this season.
He’s only eight points away from having done it already.