If you are interested in hearing about the details of Purdue's passing attack or run blocking or breakdowns in their defensive scheme, I would first like to know why? It's the middle of basketball season. What kind of absolute degenerate wants to read about Purdue football right now? Secondly, I apologize because that sort of information will likely only be referenced accidentally in this article.
This is more of a Purdue football vibes post mortem. That feels fitting in this era of the transfer portal, as players aren't really sticking around much longer than 1 season. So more important than identifying which players [insert SEC school here] should try to poach, I'll wind through my own take on the journey that was 2023 Purdue football. On a personal note, it also more closely resembles my preferred approach to investigations at work. Sure, I can and often do spend weeks collecting and sorting through evidence, conducting testing, and consulting with experts. It's much more ssatisfying when I'm able to just call a duck, a duck. You stay out of this conversation Oregon! I don't have to acknowledge you for a few more months.
I promise I won't talk about punting or kicking because unlike Kirk, I'm not interested in shoving my fingers in the eyes of football fans and calling it entertainment. The Iowa OC hire was pretty funny though.
Here we go. After the 2022 Purdue football season, the Boilermakers lost their head coach: Jeff Brohm. He was a pretty good head coach and a really good offensive coordinator even if he struggled with certain aspects of running a program (like hiring qualified coaches or understanding that defense was a thing).
New and inexperienced head coach Ryan Walters stepped in. Unfortunately for Walters he faced a loaded schedule for a B1G West team. Three competitive non con games and OSU + Michigan as crossovers. You'll note that the lower rungs of the former East division that take annual bloody beatings from OSU + Michigan have typically scheduled three dog shit non conference games to make up for the fact that they have to play those two and give themselves a chance at 6 wins. Such is life in a 9 game conference schedule when you already have a couple of guaranteed losses and it's about to get worse...
Oh sorry, I think I blacked out. Where where we? Oh yes, talking about the mauling of Purdue football in 2023. In addition to getting a truly awful schedule when it comes to trying to build momentum for a 1st year head coach, Purdue had half their roster turn over. Because in the era of NIL payments where players are supposedly paid for their name, image, and likeness on advertising (and totally not just paid by wealthy fans) and the era of the transfer portal (which is definitely not contributing to lower academic results on average), rosters turn over when there is a coaching change. Look, I'm happy the players are getting paid but can we stop saying this is NIL money? Or celebrating the transfer portal? Or pretending that the haves and have nots should be in the same conference for football? There's a more thought out version of this line of thinking that deserves an article after basketball season ends with another March disappointment but here I am getting side tracked away from the topic at hand again.
Back to the 2023 Purdue season. The schedule set up was difficult for a first year coach. The roster had a bunch of holes that were plastered over with transfers and some members of the defense playing completely out of their natural position. A NFL starting QB had to be replaced (not that most people thought that's what AOC was). Despite that, I had thought the staff did a decent (but not great) job of preparing for the season and put the over/under at 5.5 games preseason. That included the assumption that Northwestern would be awful on the football field which turned out to not be the case.
Non Conference Results
- W over Virginia Tech
- L to Fresno State and Syracuse
Purdue failed to contain the mobility of Syracuse's QB and the Fresno State QB picked apart the secondary. It was okay to lose one of these but not both if a bowl bid was going to happen in year 1. Above all else, it was clear the defense was still learning the scheme early on. It's possible that the Hokies could have made this an 0-3 non-con, but they played the wrong QB and didn't figure that out until 9 hours after kickoff.
Games I Don't Need To Talk About
- Michigan, Ohio State, f wisconsin
Might as well talk about these two very similar programs and fanbases at the same time. After all I'm pretty sure the games against Red Iowa and Yellow Nebraska went the same way. I didn't expect either of these road games to be victories this season and as injuries started to pile up on a thin depth chart, the inexperience of the coaching staff was highlighted at times. There was always going to be growing pains with such a young staff, you just hope they come in close wins.
The Purdue Cannon Remains at Home
Despite some apparent bad blood between Illinois Twitter and Walters, the opposing staffs didn't appear to have any issues with one another and the Boilermakers came out on top by a lot as Walters showed he was the defensive guy in Champaign last season.
I took nephew #3 to this one for his first Purdue football game. He got a Purdue T-shirt which he now wears all the time, loved the trip, loved the campus, and is now a big Boilermakers fan (especially in basketball though as he's a bit of a front runner - I'm working on that). We also got to experience a victory as Purdue ran the ball down the Gophers' throats. Say what you will about this Purdue squad's Oline, but they got better as the season went on.
Northwestern was both better than expected and Purdue was without QB Hudson Card as the season long nagging injury got the best of him the week before. The backup options weren't ready and Northwestern was able to stack the box against the run.
Bucket Stays Home
Add another P-link to that chain. Carr returned after missing the week before to add his name to the list of Boilermakers that have kicked the Hoosiers while they are down.
- It's possible that Purdue fans underestimated the size of the rebuild needed. The program wasn't nearly as healthy as the 2022 8 win total would indicate (as should have been evident in the bowl game blowout loss).
- The coaching staff is still learning. A lot of guys were in roles for the first time or in the case of the OC in a role where their players aren't more physical than the opponent. The learning curve can be painful to watch and I'm not sure Harrell ever figured out running delayed handoffs on 3rd/4th and short is a bad idea against Big Ten defensive lines.
- The team never rolled over and quit. Even at 2-7 the roster kept going and scratched out 2 more wins.
- Had Purdue played Iowa's non-con schedule they would have been 6-6 and everyone is happy. Or any other B1G West non-con slate, they likely finish 5-7. Instead they finish with the same conference record as Illinois, Nebraska, and Minnesota (while 2 of those also had easier East crossover draws) and the perception among national media is that Purdue was the worst of the bunch. For those reading in between the lines, that means there are reasons for optimism for Purdue stacking up with the rest of the West moving forward.
- Unfortunately the West is dead and with it there no longer remains a viable path to conference relevancy for Purdue and probably 5-6 others in the B1G.
- The nephew wants to go to a Purdue basketball game now. May have to sell a kidney or go to a road game. Would be kind of funny to take him to Purdue at Michigan considering how big an OSU fan his dad is.
Reasons for optimism moving forward
- Recruiting is going well both in the portal and in the HS ranks
- Young players stepped up and looked good in spurts
- Oline in season development actually occurred
- Outgoing transfers this offseason were mostly limited to Brohm's recruits
Reasons for pessimism moving forward
- Offensive play calling
- Player retainment in this era
- Mockobee fumbles
- Defensive formation with a single high safety 25 yards deep
- Seth Doege has moved on to be OC at Marshall. I liked Doege better than Harrell and the two were working together a lot on the offense.
- Does any of it matter until OSU, Michigan, PSU, USC, UCLA, Washington, and Oregon leave the rest of us behind to join ND, UNC, Clemson, FSU, and half the SEC in NFL lite? The West is dead. Pour one out for our beloved, departed division and let's watch some hoops.
Now that I've finished writing this on my phone (never again) at a hotel deep in the territory of Purdue's bitter post season rivals, I realize there was probably some sort of format the rest of the writers did theirs in. Oh well. Post your favorite train gifs in the comments and I'll try to guess whether you enjoyed or disliked the 2023 season. Or answer the poll question.
How did Purdue do in 2023?
This poll is closed
I am sad
I hate Purdue and am happy. I also like to eat cheese.