We're handing out grades to each Big Ten team for its regular-season performance on offense, defense, special teams and overall play. It's Purdue's turn in the grading line, and you know it's not going to be too pretty after a 1-11 season in Darrell Hazell's first year.
There's no way to sugarcoat how bad the' offense was for most of the season. Purdue finished last in the Big Ten in scoring at just 14.9 points per game, last in total offense at only 282.9 yards per game and last in rushing at a paltry 67.1 yards per game. Only one FBS team ran the ball more poorly than John Shoop's offense this season.
The Boilers were shut out twice in Big Ten play, by Michigan State and Ohio State, and failed to score more than two touchdowns eight times. The offensive line got no push in the running game and gave up more sacks (38) than all but six teams in the country. The lone good news for the offense was the emergence of true freshman quarterback Danny Etling, who replaced an ineffective Rob Henry in September and at least showed an ability to get the ball downfield. Etling threw for 1,690 yards and had 10 touchdown passes against seven interceptions. He helped the offense make some small strides late but not enough to avoid an F for the season.
The defense was hamstrung by a continually ineffective offense, but it didn't fare much better. The Boilers allowed 38 points per game and surrendered at least 40 on seven occasions. That included a 55-24 loss to Northern Illinois, a 56-0 blowout at the hands of Ohio State and a 56-36 season-ending setback vs. Indiana.
Purdue was decent against the pass but had few answers for opponents' running games, yielding 235 yards per game on the ground. Ricardo Allen had six interceptions to tie for the league lead, but the defense failed to get much pressure on opposing quarterbacks and was highly susceptible to the big play. The defense couldn't get off the field, either, as it came up with stops on third downs just 43.5 percent of the time, second worst in the FBS.
Special teams: B
Thank goodness for Cody Webster and the return game, or this could be an even more dreadful report card for the Boilermakers. Webster was a Ray Guy Award finalist who led the league in punting while averaging nearly six punts per game. Akeem Hunt was second in the Big Ten in kickoff return average, and Purdue was solid on punt returns. But the Boilers ranked last in the league in kickoff coverage, and Paul Griggs made only half of his 12 field goal attempts.
We expected Purdue to struggle this year because of the transition to a new coach and because of a very challenging schedule. But we did not expect a team that had gone to back-to-back bowls under previous coach Danny Hope to so thoroughly bottom out under Hazell. This was, frankly, one of the worst Big Ten teams of recent memory, one that ranked in the bottom of the FBS in nearly every major statistical category and that needed a late stop to beat Indiana State at home to avoid going winless. Hazell deserves time to turn this around, but Year One deserves a failing grade.
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