2016 season review: Purdue makes big change after 5th straight losing season
It was yet another empty season in West Lafayette for a Purdue program that may be at its nadir. The record books will show the Boilermakers had a losing record for a fifth season in a row and the eighth time in the last nine years.
Bowl games? They are distant memories. Where have you gone, Joe Tiller? Danny Hope tried and failed (22-27 overall; 13-19 Big Ten). Darrell Hazell tried and miserably failed (9-33; 3-24).
The Boilermaker brass hopes it has gotten it right this time with the appointment of Western Kentucky’s Jeff Brohm. The hire is being widely praised, as Brohm’s flashy offense will provide a needed identity and dovetails with Purdue’s quarterback-driven heritage. The pages of the horrific Hazell era can’t be turned quickly enough. It was the personification of ineptness, four lost years that have left Purdue with the most talent-poor roster in the Big Ten and a dispirited fan base that has abandoned Ross-Ade Stadium.
There is only one way to go: Up. But Brohm has a mammoth task. Job No. 1: Improve line play on both sides of the ball. Purdue could neither run (last in the Big Ten, 96.2 ypg) nor stop the run (second to last in the Big Ten, 238.4 ypg) in 2016. Unless that changes, the Boilers have no chance to move up the pecking order in the West. Job No. 2: Cut down turnovers. Purdue is last in the Big Ten in turnover margin with a minus 17, giving away the ball 33 times. Brohm is going to earn his money trying to flip this script.
Record: 3-9 overall; 1-8 Big Ten/7th West
High point: A 34-31 OT win at Illinois on Oct. 5 provided a glimmer of hope a week after the Boilermakers got eviscerated at Maryland, 50-7. Luck was on Purdue’s side in Champaign, as the Fighting Illini missed a potential game-winning 41-yard field goal on the last play of regulation. Then, Illinois lost a fumble on its first overtime possession. That set up Purdue’s J.D. Dellinger to win the game with a 28-yard field goal. And the freshman drilled it after missing three of his five field-goal attempts on the season. The Boilers stood 3-2 and had a modicum of momentum. But any hope was swiftly smashed the next week in a 49-35 Homecoming loss to Iowa after which finally and mercifully Darrell Hazell was fired. WR coach Gerad Parker took over on an interim basis. But it wouldn’t have mattered if Bill Belichick and Nick Saban had taken the reins as co-head coaches. The Boilermakers were hopelessly overmatched and the losses—often embarrassing–kept stacking up.
Low point: There have been too many to recount for too many years in West Lafayette. The 2016 season was chock full of more misery. But losing the Old Oaken Bucket to Indiana for a fourth season in a row was the ultimate indignity. Unbelievably, Purdue hadn’t lost four times in succession to the Hoosiers since 1944-47. This showed the depths to which this program had sunk, as the 26-24 loss in Bloomington on Nov. 26 was the seventh in a row to end yet another miserable season on Purdue’s red brick campus. It was a fitting conclusion to one of the worst four-year eras in the last 50 years in the Big Ten. Can’t finish this section without mentioning the 62-24 obliteration suffered vs. Penn State on Oct. 29, the most points ever scored by an opponent in Ross-Ade Stadium. Dubious.
Offensive MVP: QB David Blough. He often took a licking, but kept on ticking … and chucking the ball. With Purdue having nary a semblance of a ground game, Blough had to generate offense with his right arm. And, he was equal parts good and bad. The sophomore leads the Big Ten in passing, averaging 279.3 yards and hitting 57 percent of the league-high 295 attempts. The 6-1, 200-pound Blough tossed a Big Ten-best 25 TD passes but also has a league-high 21 picks. In fact, no one in America has thrown more interceptions.
Defensive MVP: E Evan Panfil. He is a 6-5, 270-pound senior who paced the team with 12 TFLs and five sacks and showed up each Saturday playing hard. But, does anyone really deserve this honor? The Boilermakers are last in the Big Ten in scoring defense (38.3 ppg); 13th in total defense (445.8 ypg), 13th in rush defense (238.4 ypg), last in pass-efficiency defense. And Purdue is 12th in sacks (1.8 pg). We could go on, but you get the point. Just awful.