This is the first article in the Postmortem series, which will recap each team's 2014 season. As (almost) always, we are starting with the worst team and ending with the best. As seems to be the case recently, Purdue is the worst so they go first.
Purdue: First with a man on the moon, first with a postmortem article because their football team was the worst!
Looking back, it seemed like Purdue's season could be divided into three parts, so that's what I did. I hope you enjoy reading it more than I did writing it. If you're more of a "the past is in the past" type of person, skip to the last section where I project the future of Purdue football.
Part I: Not a good start
In the first part of the season, the offense struggled and the defense gave up a bunch of yards to a couple of MAC teams. It was certainly not surprising that Purdue had trouble holding a lead against Western Michigan in the first game of the season. It was kind of surprising that they had a lead at all. The Boilers did not beat a FBS team in 2013, so a 43-34 victory over the Rowboaters was a good way to end that streak.
After that win, Purdue looked awful in a blowout loss to Central Michigan. QB Danny Etling threw two picks, including one that was returned for a TD. It wasn't only a bad performance by the offense; the defense gave up over 150 yards rushing to CMU's Thomas Rawls. The Chips ran away with it, winning 38-17.
Just as fans were expecting the worst and calling for a QB change, Etling played a solid first half against Notre Dame. ND pulled away for a 30-14 win in the second half, but Etling's first half performance against a decent defense earned him a couple more games as the starter.
After a win against FCS Southern Illinois, Iowa came to West Lafayette and totally shut down the Purdue "offense."Purdue only managed to score 10 points, and 7 of those came as a result of Frankie William's interception return. Etling managed only 61 passing yards on 26 attempts. The defense looked competent in this one at least.
Part 2: An okay middle
Austin Appleby took over for Etling for the Illinois game, and it was a breath of fresh air. Etling almost never looked to run; Appleby took off for a 62 yarder at one point during this one. A lot of this might have been due to playing an Illini team that was struggling at the time, but the Purdue offense actually looked good in a game. The Boilers mainly kept the ball on the ground. Akeem Hunt ran for 177 yards and the team rushed for 349(!). Appleby also threw for over 200 passing yards, including 99 to Danny Anthrop. Purdue held on for a 38-17 win to capture their first B1G win since 2012.
After the big win, the Boilers played pretty well in their next two games. Purdue managed 31 points against the vaunted Spartan defense, and looked like a competent team. Against Minnesota, Purdue led for most of the game before losing 39-38. The passing offense sputtered in the fourth quarter, but, hey, the Gophers were pretty good, so things were looking up.
After Minnesota, Nebraska was up next. Despite the 35-14 score, the Boiler defense played pretty well. Landon Feichter had two interceptions and the Huskers didn't even gain 300 yards. Although Purdue had more total yards than UNL, the Boiler offense struggled, going 2/16 on third downs. What was even worse than the loss was that Danny Anthrop, who had been the go-to WR and playmaker, tore his ACL.
Part 3: A bad end
After a so-so performance in the Nebraska game, it was back to terrible football for Purdue. After losing Anthrop, his favorite target, Appleby looked like Etling had earlier in the season. Purdue was dominated by both Wisconsin and a mediocre Northwestern team.
Things weren't looking too good going into the Bucket game, but Indiana had been terrible since their QB was injured earlier in the season. It didn't matter, as Purdue still lost to Indiana. It was a terrible way to end a terrible season.
I am a pessimistic person by nature. I am not sure if I am pessimistic because I am a Purdue fan, or if the pessimism was genetic. Even though I am a pessimistic Purdue fan, it is hard to argue with math. And the math says that Purdue fans will have plenty to cheer about over the coming years. Since advanced stats are all the rage these days, I decided to graph out a projection based on the results of the last two seasons.
As you can see, based on the two-win improvement from 2013 to 2014, my projections show Purdue winning 15 games in 2020! So don't worry Boiler fans, a 15-0 season is just a few years away.
Check back tomorrow for the Indiana postmortem. It might not be quite as depressing as this one.