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Remember When You Were Young? Purdue QB Edition

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But who shone like the sun?

Joe Tiller
Joe Tiller looking into the future of Purdue football

Joe Tiller (God rest his soul) had a pretty poor final season in West Lafayette. At the time, it was well accepted that he had one foot out the door - the team had already hired Danny Hope to be his replacement after Hope’s string of decent seasons at Eastern Kentucky. At the time, Purdue was quite used to winning games, every season, usually more than they lost. But his last team finished 4-8 and missed a bowl for just the second time in Tiller’s twelve seasons. Curtis Painter had a rough season, but was still drafted and hung around the league for a while. It was the high point of what coming at the Boilers. Let’s look at the next twelve seasons of Purdue quarterbacks.

2009: Joey Elliott

The Danny Hope era kicked off with a kick to the teeth, as they started 1-5, despite several competitive games. Joey Elliott was a senior, but had very limited snaps after sitting behind Curtis Painter for years. He was serviceable, throwing for over 3000 yards and even getting some yards on the ground. The big highlight of season, though, was game #7.

Terrelle Pryor and the Buckeyes ended up winning the Big Ten and the Rose Bowl. Purdue went 5-7 and missed a bowl. They did get a win over the hapless RichRod Wolverines, as well, which at the time was considered quite the achievement. For Hope’s first season, there were enough close losses and big wins that the future was bright. After all, big time transfer quarterback Robert Marve was ready to start his Purdue career.

2010: Rob Henry, Robert Marve, Sean Robinson

Year 2 of Danny Hope was almost a complete reversal of Year 1. Robert Marve was the starter, a former four star quarterback who transferred in from the U. He brought a bit of baggage, having been arrested and getting suspended for academics and whatnot. His first three starts landed the Boilermakers at 2-1. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL against Toledo, and they eventually lost that game and many more.

The rest of the season was a flip flop between freshmen Rob Henry and Sean Robinson. The game against Ohio State went a little more poorly, as they lost 49-0, and they lost their last six games. Hope in Danny Hope was shaken, but hey, at least they would get their quarterback back. Plus Caleb TerBush, who had been suspended the whole season, might get in the mix.

2011: Caleb TerBush, Robert Marve

With Marve still healing from his ACL tear, Caleb TerBush got the nod. Things didn’t look wildly improved, as they squeaked by Middle Tennessee State in the opener before losing to Rice in their second game. Marve saw some action in game 3, and the rest of the season was one of those platoon deals where Terbush and Marve would both play. This system wasn’t entirely unsuccessful. The team even pulled out another win over the post-Tressel, pre-Meyer OSU team, and they landed in the Little Caesars Bowl and beat Western Michigan.

But they weren’t good. They landed at 80 on the F+, and the passing attack was entirely pedestrian. Tight wins over OSU and Indiana hid the blowout losses to Michigan and Wisconsin. It was enough for Danny Hope to ink a two year extension, as despite being bad at football, they did make a bowl, and they were returning a bunch of guys. Things were finally going to turn a corner for the Boilermakers.

2012: Robert Marve, Caleb TerBush, Rob Henry

Well, as you may recall, the corner never quite got turned. Robert Marve was granted a sixth year from the NCAA, and he was going to be the backup to TerBush. That was the plan, until an hour before the season opener, when Terbush was suspended and Marve got the start. TerBush came back the next week against Notre Dame, but was ineffective and Marve played, and played well, until he tore his ACL, for the third time.

Robert Marve remembering his days with Purdue

Marve was used to playing without ACL’s at this point. He missed all of two games, and after some platoon style football and five straight losses, he got the start in the last four games, and pulled out three wins to get his team a berth in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, where they were dutifully slaughtered by Oklahoma State. The lack of improvement (the team finished 80th on F+ again) meant Danny Hope got sent to that boiler room in the sky. Looking back, Purdue firing a guy who made two consecutive bowl games seems a bit funny. But hope was on the way. The Tressel disciple Darrell Hazell has just gone 11-3 for Kent State in just his second year - he would turn this ship around.

2013: Danny Etling, Rob Henry

Life came fast at Purdue in 2013. Rob Henry was the presumed starter, having been around for years, and freshmen Danny Etling and Austin Appleby figured to compete for the backup spot, which Appleby actually won, at least initially. Henry started the first five games and was mostly ineffective, and the team started 1-4 with blowout losses to Cincinnati, Wisconsin, and Northern Illinois(!).

Enter Danny Etling, who took over and promptly led the Boilers to seven more losses. His first three games, the team combined for 7 points. It was a disaster, the team finished last in passing efficiency in the conference and landed at 114 on the F+. Still, Hazell promised Hope, as he had a young team and intentionally played young guys like Etling to gear them up for next season. Things were bound to improve.

2014: Austin Appleby, Danny Etling

With Danny Etling as an experienced starter, the team actually won its first game against Western Michigan. But double digit losses to Notre Dame, Iowa, and Central Michigan put a capper on the Purdue career of Danny Etling, and Hazell moved to Austin Appleby. He was named the starter and picked up one win against Illinois before hitting six more losses. The team finished 3-9, though they ticked up to 84th on F+.

Danny Etling, by the way, didn’t fall off into oblivion. He transferred to LSU, where he started for a couple years and was not terrible. He parlayed that into a seventh round pick to the Patriots, and has been banging around the league as a reserve/practice squad quarterback, currently for the Seahawks. He does suffer from PTSD from his time with Purdue.

Was there hope for the Boilermakers after 2014? I don’t know, it’s hard to find.

2015: David Blough, Austin Appleby

With Etling gone, Austin Appleby became the presumed starter. Start he did but they lost their opener against Marshall, hardly signaling much improvement. After three games, Hazell gave up on experience and went with youth, giving the nod to redshirt freshman David Blough.

Blough played, and while the did pop off for a 55-45 win against Nebraska, the other games were a drab affair. Perhaps the highlight of the season was losing to eventual playoff participant Michigan State by only 3 points. Blough got hurt in the second to last game, letting Appleby come back in. Appleby went on to transfer to Florida and played in the SEC championship, losing to Alabama 56-14 no doubt reminding him of his time at Purdue.

2016: David Blough

Hazell, aided by a large buyout, lasted one more season for the Boilermakers. Unfortunately, he got caught up in coordinator hell and had two new coordinators trying to turn their bad recruiting classes into something to save the season. It didn’t work. David Blough wasn’t a disaster - he did lead the conference in passing, but his efficiency next to last in the conference and he threw 21 picks.

While they did start the season a relatively good 3-3, that included a 50-7 loss to Maryland. Hazell was mercifully canned halfway through the season to make way for interim coach Gerad Parker, who managed a perfect 0-6 record the rest of the way. It was, well, let me just quote OTE Purdue man babaoreally: “The 2016 Purdue football season was very much like the 2013, 2014, and 2015 seasons. Which is to say, it was pathetic.”

But as he also said “we’re next year people, wait and see.” And Purdue zeroed in on Western Kentucky coach Jeff Brohm to helm the team. A change was going to come.

2017: Elijah Sindelair, David Blough

The Jeff Brohm effect was apparent right off the bat. In their first game, against the Lamar Jackson (and *ahem* Bobby Petrino) led Louisville Cardinals, Purdue displayed something new, which was general competitiveness. While they lost, they made it a good game and they held a lead in the fourth quarter. They suddenly were getting something out of their defense, and even when they were 3-5 in the middle of the season, they were a tough out.

The two quarterback platoon was back with Blough and Sindelair, but instead of both being bad, they were both kind of good. Purdue finished the season at the top in passing yards and second in efficiency. Blough got hurt later in the season allowing Sindelair to play mostly unimpeded the final four games. That included wins over Iowa and Indiana, and a bowl berth in the, checks notes, Foster Farms Bowl, which sounds terrible was resulted in a 38-35 win over Arizona. Purdue, finally, had the look of a good team. They popped up to 34th on the F+, a 76 spot improvement over 2016’s 110th ranked squad. Hope was here.

2018: David Blough, Elijah Sindelair

Hope was not quite as kind as the Boilers were hoping. Sindelair was the heir apparent at quarterback, but he was lost to a season ending injury two games into the season. Blough was a more than able replacement, but after three games Purdue was 0-3, including a loss to Eastern Michigan. Still, all three losses were by a combined 8 points, so luck and football gods could be blamed.

They turned it around - three double digit wins got them back to .500, and freshman Rondale Moore was looking like a legit star. That brought them to game seven, against the eventual B1G and Rose Bowl champion Ohio State Buckeyes.

The evisceration of the Buckeyes kept the hope train alive for the Boilermakers, even as they finished 2-4 down the stretch, including a 14-63 de-pantsing to Auburn in the Music City Bowl. But hey, shit happens, Purdue football was alive and well. Just think towards next season.

2019: Jack Plummer, Aidan O’Connell, Elijah Sindelair

The good news was Sindelair was back. The bad news was that Purdue’s injury (bad) luck held, and after throwing for nearly 1000 yards over his first two games, he battled injury and barely played the rest of the year. That opened the door for Plummer and later O’Connell, who were prolific throwing the ball but inefficient - Purdue dropped to the middle of the pack in efficiency, despite leading the league in passing yards yet again.

With the offense one dimensional and the defense average, Purdue started the season 1-4 and finished 4-8. No bowl game this time, and their F+ dropped to 69th (nice), dropping close to the Danny Hope years. This was a bad turn, no doubt, but with the many injuries (Rondale Moore only played 4 games) there was still hope in the Purdue reservoir.

2020: Jack Plummer, Aidan O’Connell

Sindelair applied for and was granted a sixth year, but decided to call it a career. That left Plummer and O’Connell as the quarterbacks to be, and then COVID decided to throw its hand in the game. They weren’t bad, as the team finished first in yards again, and second in passing efficiency. But they also finished 2-4, a crappy record for a half season of football. We don’t need to relive this year as most of us are trying to block it out of our memory, But does the hope live on for Purdue?

2021: Aidan O’Connell, Jack Plummer, Austin Burton, Michael Alaimo

Here we are again. Experienced quarterbacks return in O’Connell and Plummer. But Brohm (and the fans) clearly weren’t satisfied with that, as they brought in UCLA transfer Austin Burton. On top of that, they have former four star prospect Alaimo, who is looking for playing time. Experience, change, talent - Purdue has plenty of options this year. Hope springs eternal.