The Darrell Hazell Era is not off to a very good start.
Purdue has won just four games in the past two seasons, with only one of those wins coming against a Big Ten opponent. That translates to a 1-15 conference record in two seasons. And that is not good.
Heading into Year 3, it’s as tough as ever for Purdue fans to get excited about their team’s prospects. It looks like another season dwelling in the league’s cellar is on tap for the Boilermakers, if you look at the schedule. Most everyone has projected Purdue to again finish last in the Big Ten West.
"Any time you've had the seasons we've had, you have to expect that,” wide receiver Danny Anthrop said last month during Big Ten Media Days. “It'd be kind of tough to see where else they'd put us because we haven't shown what we're capable of. You just kind of have to not really worry about that and just keep working towards what we want to do.”
Purdue actually wasn’t that far from winning some of those conference games a season ago. The loss to Minnesota came by just a point, and Purdue was in many of those games for a good long while until letting the opponent pull away at the end.
But silver linings aside, 2015 games against Wisconsin, Nebraska, Minnesota, Northwestern, Iowa and Michigan State don’t look like winnable ones. And the non-conference portion of the schedule contains a tough season-opening road trip to Marshall — a 13-1 team a season ago — and games against bowl teams Virginia Tech and Bowling Green.
So what will be different this season? What will make 2015 different from the two last-place finishes that came before it?
"I feel like any time you don't make your goal, it's going to be disappointing. We've got big goals for this year, and I think just what we have to do is we have to keep our nose to the grindstone,” Anthrop said. “I think this season's going to be exciting for us because we're finally going to get our chance to break out. We've had some hard years the last two years, going through the coaching change. And I feel like we're on our way to earning the season we want to have."
Anthrop is one of the positives, sure. He showed a good deal of promise last season, twice going over 100 receiving yards in a single game, including a season-high 133 yards against Michigan State. He missed the final three games but still finished in the top 15 in the Big Ten with 616 receiving yards.
And though three wins is nothing to crow about, that slight improvement is improvement nonetheless. Three wins is three times as many as the one win from 2013. Purdue was not the lowest-scoring team in the league, ahead of three others. The Boilermakers were ahead of two other teams when it came to stopping opponents from scoring.
Anthrop wouldn’t project wins and losses, and how can he? How can anyone with this team? Predicting another one-win season is just too depressing.
But Anthrop assured that the Boilermakers would be better in 2015. Fortunately, there’s really nowhere to go but up.
"I think that we're capable of a lot more than what we've shown,” Anthrop said. “Wins and losses? I can't tell you that, I don't think anybody can. But I know that we're going to be prepared for that first game at Marshall, and I know it's going to be one heck of a show to watch.”