The last time we saw Purdue on the field fans got a reminder of how far Jeff Brohm still has to take this team after a 63-14 drubbing at the hands of a down Auburn team. As fans we aren’t strangers to these kind of losses but with spring practices underway there’s a different kind of excitement surrounding the black and gold at Ross Ade Stadium.
Growing up a Purdue fan during the Joe Tiller era was such a treat and all you knew was winning and bowl berths. Even being born in 89 I remember expecting a bowl game each year, the huge Rose Bowl berth and how excited everyone was about those teams. And who doesn’t remember the fumble and the echo that carries for the football program when it seemed like the team was never the same.
Tiller is the all time winningest coach at Purdue with 85 wins. I was working at an apparel store during the 2008 season as the countdown was on to see that record set. I watched the Oregon game on the computer while we were waiting to see if we could put the shirts out only to suffer heartbreak losing to the #16 Ducks in 2OTs. Then the next week when he finally set the mark by beating Central Michigan when Kory Sheets sealed it.
Drew Brees, Dorien Bryant, Sheets, Jaycen Taylor, Keith Smith, Ryan Kerrigan all some of my favorite players to wear the black and gold, and the dominating end to Tiller’s tenure with the blowout 62-10 win against IU. Five bowl games before Tiller and from 97-08 he only had two losing seasons with 10 bowl games and five wins. What was going to happen with Tiller gone.
I was underwhelmed when Danny Hope was named the replacement and that’s how his tenure went, but he did just enough to give you hope each season. From the head scratching timeout late that gave Notre Dame a chance to score the winning touchdown to the massive upset of Ohio State it was up and down the entire time, but I still believed that last season. Even the coach said they would win the Big Ten and then Shoelace and Montee Ball got on track in back to back weeks in combined 82-27 wins. I left that rainy Wisconsin game early. The writing was on the wall and you knew the team wasn’t going to do anything.
Then Darrell Hazell got hired, fresh off a double digit winning season at Kent State. He had ties to the Tressel Ohio State programs. Someone that had success leading a team and said all the right things. One brick higher brought legitimate rejuvenation to West Lafayette. Then the team went 1-11 in his first season. Okay well he had to reshape the program, but then things never got any better. No more than three wins in a season and only nine in four years despite losing his job before the fourth season finished, and let’s not forget how frustrating Morgan Burke was as an AD. I liked Hazell, have his autograph and even had a nice conversation with im down in Indy at the mall, but he couldn’t lead this team anywhere.
Mike Bobinski was brought in to replace Burke, an actual football guy. That’s a great start but who will he get as a coach? P. J. Fleck to Western Michigan to a New Year’s Six Bowl, will he come to West Lafayette. Instead Purdue got Brohm who masted some extremely powerful offenses at Western Kentucky and was on Bobby Petrino’s staffs. This looks like a good hire and it has been.
Brohm has gone 13-13 in his first two seasons and 1-1 in bowl games but this is an entirely different feeling then the last back-to-back bowl games that happened at the end of the Hope tenure. There’s the obvious 3-0 against ranked teams in 2018, and there’s comparisons to the Hope seasons with the inability to put the whole season together especially after the blowout loss to Minnesota, but this is different. How about going to bowl games with the terrible Hazell recruiting classes and now securing a top 25 class and getting players that Michigan, Penn State, Texas and Alabama wanted? How about a true freshman getting Heisman consideration?
Jeff Brohm is 13-13 in two seasons while leading the Boilermakers but this isn’t a team that’s just scrapping through to get to bowl eligibility, this is a team on the rise and building something special. Hope couldn’t keep his team playing steady, Hazell couldn’t recruit or win at all and Purdue slipped back to what it was before Tiller. There was a low ceiling for both those teams and fans could see it, but with Jeff Brohm our imaginations can run wild. This is a Tilleresque hire and resurgence for the Boilers and the reason why two off seasons have seen Brohm tied to other jobs. West Lafayette has found its next Joe Tiller.