GBI Magazine

Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 28 Digital 6

Gold and Black is a multi-platform media company that covers Purdue athletics like no one else.

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 9 of 91

GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 6 10 W hen Purdue let the Foster Farms Bowl slip away in the second half against Arizona, then rallied to win the Foster Farms Bowl anyway, it was a fitting microcosm of a season that bordered on surreal. By a lot of standards, 7-6 is the face of mediocrity. By prior Purdue standards, this was the greatest 7-6 the program has seen or will ever see. Meaningful success was not a flavor tasted often around West Lafayette for the better part of the decade prior to Jeff Brohm and his staff's maiden voyage at Purdue. The Boilermakers started strong, plateaued, then finished stronger than they started, and I don't know which of the bookends was more impressive. Purdue won seven games. It easily could have won nine. And in so doing, it defied conventional logic. We said before the season it might have to win with offense, given its coaching staff's reputation, its experi- ence on that side of the ball, and its, uh, suspect recent track record on defense. It won with defense instead, a novelty of the highest order for a program that for so long may as well have waved a white flag against oppo- nents' running games, any opponent's running game. We said before the season it would have to avoid injury, because there simply weren't enough winning players. Didn't happen. Linebacker, the strength of the team, was hit hard, and quarterback, the face of the team, was hit worse, stricken by two season-ending injuries, or least what should have been two season-ending injuries. If you're the sort to see heroism in something as inconsequen- tial as sports, then Elijah Sindelar's ACL-less saving of Purdue's season might qualify. Purdue won in spite of it, and it's kept winning, in all forms. For a fleeting moment at the beginning of the final week of June, Purdue's 2019 commitment list topped's Big Ten class rankings following a break- neck-paced run of verbal commitments, triggered by the momentum generated on the field in 2017 in Year 1 un- der its new coaches. Thanks in large part to the will of a senior class that, after years spent as a punchline, punched back, Brohm and his staff delivered on most every vision they communicated to recruits. Purdue won right away, not as much as it aspires to, maybe not always the way it's building to, but it won, and it won fun. Big plays to win games, many of them by Anthony Mahoungou, who made more game-deciding plays in a season than any Boilermaker I can remember who didn't wear No. 15. The Boilermakers won with aggressiveness and pres- sure and creativity, leading the nation, I'd have to think, in post routes run 20 yards down the field by long-snap- pers and kickoff return men laying face down in the end zone, hiding. And so many flea-flickers that the line be- tween trick play and base offense was blurred beyond recognition. It was a hell of a ride, a wave that has kept carrying Purdue through the off-season. From Purdue keeping Brohm despite a push from Tennessee, to key players healing from injury incident-free, to commitments — and good ones, at that — piling up so fast they all run together, it's a great time for Purdue football. But after 18 months in which everything — every- thing — has gone, within reason, as hoped, Purdue has a problem. I've written this before, but it's a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless, that the goal posts have moved, expectations have changed and percep- tions have shifted. What's the greater of the challenges: Building mo- mentum, or sustaining it? We'll see these next few months. There are reasonable scenarios that could have Pur- due strengthening as a program, on and off the field, without having more wins to show for it. Precious momentum is at stake. No pressure. But that pressure is fine for a program on the uptick, and it is a great deal better than the alternative. j Neubert can be contacted at Next Challenge From Editor Brian Neubert

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of GBI Magazine - Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 28 Digital 6