Such words had to hurt deeply, and this seems an opportune time to remind that if you think you hail from a sane, sensible country, you do not.
With the Wabash smack established, Purdue went back in 1891 and won, 44-0, whereupon the local Daily Argus newspaper ran the headline “Slaughter Of Innocents,” with the subheadline “Wabash Snowed Completely Under By The Burly Boiler Makers from Purdue.” That’s how Purdue, according to Purdue, became the Boilermakers, with a mascot honoring the steam trains built by such meanies.
It’s all worth knowing at this moment, because while the Purdue train often spends years unnoticed, it runs over somebody every now and then, as it just did with No. 2 Ohio State. It just ran over a giant and shook the entire national season and its College Football Playoff landscape. It just provided one of those moments in sports when the eyeballs seem to be lying to the brain but aren’t.
It won, 49-20 — repeat, 49-20, and then repeat, 49-20 — to saddle Urban Meyer’s rarefied Ohio State program with a third gobsmacking rout in its past 23 games and make it look like somebody figured out something about its offense under first-year starting quarterback Dwayne Haskins. A stadium in West Lafayette, Ind. — along Interstate 65 between Indianapolis and Chicago, if you must know — became a place-to-be in the country Saturday night, even hatching the meaningful chant “Cancer sucks” in honor of Purdue’s stricken and wondrous student Tyler Trent, who made it to the game.
Somehow, Ohio State’s trip to West Lafayette became an unspeakable nightmare of smallish men with big hearts and big muscles loose behind the defense. Running back D.J. Knox, 5-foot-7 and 210 pounds, rushed for 128 yards and peppered the fourth quarter with blasting touchdown runs of 42 and 40 yards. Wide receiver Rondale Moore, 5-9 and 170 pounds (yet seen on one video squatting 600), caught 12 passes for 170 yards, the last a 43-yard touchdown in which he emerged startlingly from the embrace of Ohio State defenders.
All this came from a team that’s now 4-3 and that began the season 0-3 with home losses to Northwestern, Eastern Michigan and Missouri before an unexpected upending of Boston College.
“It’s amazing how you can be sitting at 0-3 with some hard losses and find a way to do this,” said Purdue Coach Jeff Brohm, who played quarterback at Louisville under one of the under-sung coaching greats, Howard Schnellenberger. “And it just kind of goes to show you what can happen if you put your mind to it and get a good group of guys that stick together and do things the right way.”
Ohio State entered averaging 46 points per game.
In the first half, it scored three.
“I think sometimes, if you’re playing aggressive and you’re on the attack, it can cause the other team to lose just a tad bit of confidence,” he told reporters. “And I think we gained confidence by the way we were playing.”
As the train kept running over the Buckeyes and the brain tried to catch up, through Purdue’s drives of 98, 80, 73, 76 and 75 yards, and its bold 28 points in the fourth quarter, the season changed. Ohio State (7-1) isn’t the nation’s second-best team, behind Alabama. It just got shooed to the fringes of playoff discussion for now. It just took the kind of romp that cost it last season after its 55-24 misadventure at Iowa.
So while No. 1 Alabama rained 58 points on Tennessee and remained the season’s foremost constant, there was Purdue. And while the Pac-12 Conference whittled itself to just one one-loss team, that being Washington State (6-1) after it zoomed to a 27-0 lead over No. 12 Oregon (5-2) and won, 34-20, still, Purdue.
And while No. 3 Clemson (7-0) played the kind of virtuoso game that epitomizes its era in annihilating unbeaten No. 15 North Carolina State, 41-7, it yielded the floor to Purdue. And while No. 5 LSU kept impressing by throttling No. 22 Mississippi State, 19-3, en route to a home match with Alabama two weeks hence, Purdue.
Purdue even upstaged East Lansing, Mich., where things happened even around 10 a.m.
When pondering how Michigan State’s players walk the length of the field with arms linked before home games, and how they came across Michigan players already warming up in their path, and how a mild kerfuffle ensued, and how Michigan linebacker Devin Bush wound up trying to scuff up the Michigan State logo with his shoes, and how Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh called Michigan State’s accosting of his players “bush league” while noting that Michigan State Coach Mark Dantonio lurked five yards behind his players, and how Dantonio called Harbaugh’s comments “B.S.,” the idea that you hail from a sane, sensible land does go out the door.
That, and the photogenic trip of the Paul Bunyan Trophy back to Ann Arbor, and all the postgame tweets of spite and condescension, even if nobody called anybody a “foundry molder,” ought to pale to something else: Michigan State got 94 yards in No. 6 Michigan’s 21-7 win that took it to 7-1 and 5-0 in the Big Ten (suddenly ahead of Ohio State). That’s 94. Total. It averaged 1.8 yards on its 51 plays.
It’s as if the defense coordinated by a coach who seems to qualify as remarkable, Don Brown, saw itself ranked No. 2 in the country behind Miami in yards allowed per play, 3.81 to 3.93, and got really, really mad about that 0.12 difference.
So if raising a glass to a Michigan defense that looks like it could carry somebody all the way into the playoff, do save a toast for all those Purdue people you know or know about. That means for Rod Woodson, for Leroy Keyes, for Dave Butz (!), for Otis Armstrong . . . for the late Darryl Stingley, the late Joe Tiller, and for all those quarterbacks from Bob Griese to Gary Danielson to Jim Everett to Mike Phipps to don’t forget Drew Brees.
Remember that the program that just altered the national championship picture might lie dormant at times, that its past three Big Ten titles came in 1952, 1967 and 2000, but that it did win a national title in 1931. That’s one of those years when the title got split; the Dickinson System gave the title to Southern California, while historian Parke Davis recognized both Pitt and Purdue (9-1 with six shutouts).
And if you think you hail from a sane, sensible . . .