The Purdue Boilermakers were once at the top of the mountain, considered to be an elite member of the Big Ten Conference. Some of the best players at the professional level started their journey in West Lafayette, Ind.: Drew Brees, Rod Woodson, Bob Griese, Len Dawson and Mike Alstott are just a few from the long list.
Lately however, the Boilermakers have not been the same team of old.
The last time Purdue won a bowl game was in 2011 against Western Michigan in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl – clearly not a bowl game an elite team participates in.
Purdue only played in one BCS Bowl Game during the BCS era – coming up short in 2000 against Washington in the Rose Bowl.
It has been 49 years since the Boilermakers won a bowl game after January 1 (14-13 vs. USC, January 2, 1967).
Last season, Purdue went 3-9 overall, 1-7 in the Big Ten, 1-5 versus Big Ten West teams and 0-4 versus opponents in the Top 25.
Ranking 103rd overall in passing yards (187.4), 73rd overall in rushing yards (157.2), 98th in points scored (23.8) and 99th in points against (31.7), there is a lot to improve moving forward in West Lafayette.
Two years removed from a one-win campaign in 2013, the expectations still remain low, but there is room for strides within the program.
A ton of work needs to happen on both sides of the ball, but head coach Darrell Hazell is right on schedule in regards to bringing a program out of the dark abyss.
Stereotypically, there are three phases when a struggling team hires a new coach to change the atmosphere.
In the first act, usually the team is awful.
Stage two, small, tiny glimmers of hope appear on the field.
So far, the Boilermakers are on pace, making this year a perfect opportunity to gain significant ground of improvement.
Quarterback Austin Appleby sealed the starting job last October, and granted the Ohio native only threw for 1,449 yards and 10 touchdowns, there is much upside for the junior.
If he cuts down his turnovers, and makes better decisions under pressure, Appleby could lead Purdue to a .500 record.
However, the pressure is not solely on Appleby and the offense.
Senior defensive back, Frankie Williams was the only Boilermaker to make the All-Big Ten team last season as a second teamer. His presence contributed 74 tackles, which proved to be third most on the squad.
Along with his aggressive play, Williams hauled in three interceptions, and will captain an inexperienced secondary in 2015.
Last season, Michigan State proved to be too much for the Boilermakers to handle, winning in Purdue’s backyard, 45-31.
Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook torched Purdue’s defense for three touchdowns, and 238 yards through the air, but it was the Spartans’ defense that stood tall at the end of the game, holding off a late rally by the Boilermakers.
This season, Michigan State hosts Purdue, and the Spartans will cruise to an easy victory on Homecoming weekend.