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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 28 Digital 3

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 3 12 offensive players' mouths watering. But the shocking part, maybe: It's not what led Purdue to where it is now. Entering an offseason with a winning record for the first time since 2011. Entering an offseason with a bowl championship for the first time since that same 2011 season. Entering an offseason with legitimate momentum for the first time since … probably either of those sea- sons. Purdue's offense was only OK in Brohm's first season, by the coach's own admission, doing just enough for the team to qualify for and win a bowl. Its defense and that re- markable turnaround under co-coordinator and play-caller Nick Holt was the real Xs-and-Os story of the season. But even that defensive performance — one that saw the group allow 70 fewer yards and nearly 18 fewer points per game than 2016 — isn't really why Purdue is here. Though Brohm talked extensively about his offensive approach, mindset and background during that initial press conference on Dec. 5, 2016, he also said something important that day that probably was overlooked then. Something that may have played the biggest role in Pur- due managing nearly as many victories in 2017 — seven — than it had in the previous four seasons under Darrell Hazell and interim coach Gerad Parker (nine). Then, Brohm mentioned three qualities, perhaps hard to measure for some, that guided Brohm's expectations of his first season at Purdue. Three intangibles he consistently preached and consis- tently gauged the team on, win or lose. Play hard. Play smart. Play tough. Other than a disappointing loss at Rutgers in the mid- dle of the season, the Boilermakers consistently delivered in those three categories. After the Rutgers game, Brohm, naturally, lamented Purdue not playing harder, smarter and tougher — and pounding the podium he was standing behind for emphasis with each word. Such response was for a simple reason: He truly believes they matter. "Football is a game where if you coach them up, if you Tom Campbell The dramatic improvements by Purdue's defense were a key on- field piece to the team's success.

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