That was a bad loss. An absolutely terrible loss. It can not be overstated, quite honestly. Northern Illinois had only beaten a Big Ten team once in their history, and that was a poor Wisconsin team two decades ago. They start many sophomores. This game was in West Lafayette. I could go on and on with the reasons, but you know them all. It's well-established: Purdue should not have lost this game. End of story.
Where do we go from here? I'm not trying to be dramatic, but I think we all agreed at the start of the season, you absolutely need to win the following games: Toledo, Northern Illinois and IU. Those are absolute must-wins. If you cannot win those games, a legendarily bad season could be afoot.
I know many of you adjusted your expectations after the Toledo game. And then they did us all proud out in Oregon. Despite those games, I never changed my expectations. Yes, the team is better than I thought they would be. But I also know how inexperienced they are at the skill positions, which means it's most likely to be one of those seasons where they maybe win some games they shouldn't (or, as in Eugene, stay in games they shouldn't) and then, on the flip side, lose some games they absolutely should not. This was a painful example of the latter.
This is not to take anything away from Northern Illinois. They executed their game plan, did not let some bad breaks get them down, and their coaching staff made some gutsy play calls. All things that need to happen when you're a road underdog. Good for them. In a weird way, I'm happy for their loyalists, because I know how much this win means to them.
What bothers me is the rumblings we're hearing. Boilerdowd was at the game, on the field, and in the press room after the game. The players seemed worn down. There was bad body language. And then a reader sent in the below screen shot of Keith Carlos' Facebook page from yesterday afternoon:
Frankly, I don't have a problem with Carlos wanting the ball more. That's fine. He's a wide receiver. And he should have gotten the ball more. Joey Elliott had a bad game and Purdue did absolutely zero to stretch the field. And Northern Illinois saw that and exploited it. Again, good coaching and good execution.
But this isn't about who had a bad game. Yes, Elliott was not good. But nobody was. Bolden looked ordinary. We saw little of anything from Taylor. The receivers accomplished nothing in terms of yards after catch. And the coaching staff was unimpressive. This was the kind of game where the opportunity exists to make halftime adjustments and wake the hell up. It did not happen.
And now there is grumbling. As Boilerdowd pointed out, Werner's dad wants all to know his son was not the one who ran into the kicker. And that's fine, but my point is -- who cares? Either "We are ONE" and we win as a team and lose as a team... or we're not. I don't care that it was his dad and not him -- the thoughts are there. So we shouldn't blame Werner and we should blame George Brigandi? Maybe we should blame the coaching staff for not being crystal clear about what should happen in that situation and what should not happen. Or maybe we should just not worry about who did what and what needs to be done better. Everything needs to be done better, from the coaching staff to the players... everyone needs to execute better.
I don't know if they were hung over from the Oregon game or if Coach Hope's explanation is accurate. It doesn't matter. This loss cannot happen and truly can set the program back.
In less than a week, our Boilermakers host Notre Dame. It's a Saturday night, it's nationally-televised and it -- as I've said for a while -- can mean a whole lot. Going in at 2-1 or 3-0 would have been truly awesome and, frustratingly, feels like it could have (or should have) been possible. However, I think going it at 1-2 now makes it mean even more.
Wallow for today, boys and girls... (and I mean players, fans, students, alumni -- all of us). But tomorrow, let's begin to focus on Notre Dame. And decide if we are ONE or not. If we are, let's attack together. If we're not, we might as well fold the tent now.
Yes, it is that big a week.
(Thanks to "The Great Psazz" for the Facebook screen grab.)