With a 62-10 embarrassment of the hapless Indiana Hoosiers at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Indiana today, the Purdue Boilermakers (4-8, 2-6) sent departing head coach Joe Tiller out in the best of styles.
In a game that could easily be described as hilarious, and not just satisfying, even for a Boilermaker fan base used to taking delight in the ineptitude of the Hoosiers, and that saw Indiana (3-9, 1-7) at one point failing to field a kickoff in the first half (the unintentional onside kick is a rare treat), Tiller's team looked briefly like the "basketball on grass" Boilers that Tiller brought to life at Purdue upon his arrival in 1997.
Your author has written critically of Tiller's lack of close-game prowess and at times ultra-conservative style, a sad and disappointing change from the gutsy style of his early tenure, but it cannot be understated what Tiller has meant to the Boilermaker program.
Tiller took a team that had been the very definition of a perennial doormat for decades, and turned them around immediately, with a fast-flowing spread offense that has since become the standard for many major conference teams.
Sadly, as the novelty of the spread wore off, and the rest of the Big Ten learned to run it, and also to defend it, Tiller's battles became more and more frustrating for the fans, watching teams that were normally stacked with talent continually come up short when it mattered.
It is unfortunate that Tiller's legacy will be stained by a pathetic record against ranked teams, and an equally sad record in games decided by seven points or less since the Brees era, but this is what we are left with when considering the last 12 years of Purdue football.
Lest we focus too much on the negative at a time when we should be tipping our hats and thanking the coach, keep in mind that four win seasons were once not a disappointment, but an expectation. Twelve years, 10 bowl games, one Rose Bowl trip and a Big Ten title later, incoming Coach Danny Hope has high expectations, and a lot to live up to, and for that, Coach Tiller, we thank you.
Your faithful author's first season as a college football fan was the 2000 Rose Bowl year, and the many incredible moments, from the huge comeback against Michigan, to the 64-yard Brees-to-Morales touchdown pass that put Purdue in charge of their own destiny and beat Ohio State for the first time since 1988, and the many other moments that had 63,000 people holding their breath, it has been an incredible, if sometimes frustrating, ride, and the Hope era begins with just that—hope.
Hope you enjoyed yourself, Joe. Thank you, goodbye, and good luck.