Life after Joe Tiller hasn’t exactly been fun for the Purdue Boilermakers nation. Since Tiller left the program for retirement following the 2008 season, Purdue football has made a mess of things. So much so that it has failed to produce a winning record in a regular season of football since the Tiller era.
The 2014 season wasn’t the rock bottom of year one of the Darrell Hazell era, but many believe it wasn’t much better. Still, it was hard to ignore that this team was more in the image of Hazell than it was in year one.
Does that mean things are looking up heading in to 2015? Let’s take a look back at 2014 and see if we can glean anything for this upcoming season from it.
Let’s start with the positive and for a team finishing a season 3-9 there likely isn’t a lot of it. Still, this was a two-win improvement from the season before and baby steps aren’t a bad thing.
Even more important, one of those three wins came in Big Ten play. Purdue’s 38-27 win at Illinois was the programs first Big Ten win in over a season of conference play. When you’re starting at the bottom of the barrel and working your way out, any win is a positive result.
Getting a win over a team with a good offense and putting up 38 points on an opponent for the first time in conference play in a while was also a positive….
…but, Hazell’s team plays in the Big Ten West and that means the scales tip towards many more winnable football games on the schedule. Unfortunately, the win over Illinois would be the only one Purdue had in B1G competition in 2014.
Instead of progressing forward and building off the win, Purdue went on to drop the next six contest in conference play. There was a glimmer of hope in the wake of the win against Illinois, as Purdue gave Michigan State a game before losing 45-31 and then following it up with a one-point loss to Minnesota the next week.
That had to give the program, the fans and the players some hope, but it was smacked right back down in the next three weeks. Purdue failed to score more than 16 points in games against Nebraska, Wisconsin and even Northwestern in the next three weeks.
After getting some momentum going, Purdue stalled and that was simply bad news for a program desperate for anything positive to happen.
Losing to your hated in-state rival is never fun, but its become the norm early in the Darrell Hazell era. The 2014 loss was perhaps the most troubling of the bunch, if for no other reason than Indiana had zero to play for and had nothing to speak of at quarterback.
If ever there was a time for Purdue to re-establish itself in the state, that 2014 game was it. However, the Boilermakers managed to squander a 13-3 lead near the midway point of the third quarter and allow Indiana to take a 20-3 advantage the rest of the way in a 26-13 loss in the battle for the Old Oaken Bucket.
Why is that so ugly? It’s because the Boilermakers made Indiana’s freshman quarterback, Zander Diamont to look competent in the passing game (15 of 25 for 119 yards was good for him in 2014) and for him to seal the deal with a one-yard touchdown run with 27 seconds left to steal victory from a 16-16 tie ballgame.
Failing to win a game that was there for the taking and already in your possession was a downright ugly way to end the 2014 season. It also was indicative of how this team played throughout the year.
Simply put, Purdue still is a few pieces short of a team capable of getting back to winning football and patience is running thin in Purdue fandom.