How the Boilermakers fared in 2002: (7-6 overall, 4-4 Big Ten)
Notre Dame 24, Purdue 17
Purdue 28, Western Michigan 24
Wake Forest 24, Purdue 21
Purdue 28, Minnesota 15
Iowa 31, Purdue 28
Illinois 38, Purdue 31
Michigan 23, Purdue 21
Purdue 42, Northwestern 13
Ohio State 10, Purdue 6
Purdue 45, Michigan State 42
Purdue 34, Indiana 10
Purdue 34, Washington 24
Sept. 6 v. Bowling Green
Sept. 13 v. Wake Forest
Sept. 20 v. Arizona
Sept. 27 v. Notre Dame
Oct. 4 v. Illinois
Oct. 11 v. Penn State
Oct. 18 at Wisconsin
Oct. 25 at Michigan
Nov. 1 v. Northwestern
Nov. 8 v. Iowa
Nov. 15 at Ohio State
Nov. 22 at Indiana
Starters returning: 18—7 offense, 9 defense, punter, place kicker
Coach Joe Tiller: In his seventh year at Purdue and 13th season as a collegiate head coach (Purdue, Wyoming) Tiller is 85-58-1. He carries a 46-28 overall record at Purdue, and is 30-18 in Big Ten games.
Versus Wisconsin: The Badgers lead the all-time series 36-28-8. The last three meetings from 1998-2000, featured high drama. Wisconsin fell, 30-24, in overtime, two seasons ago. During the Rose Bowl campaigns of '98 and '99, however, Wisconsin withstood passing barrages from Drew Brees and benefited from Jamar Fletcher interception returns for touchdown, winning 31-24 and 28-21, respectively.
Boilermakers 2002 in brief:
Purdue deserved so much better last season. It seems odd to say for a team with six losses, but this team was tantalizingly close to competing for the Big Ten title. In six losses, the Boilermakers were a total of 26 points off the pace, never losing by more than seven in any game. They led the Big Ten in total offense (452.23 yards per game, seventh nationally) and total defense (317.15, 20th), no small feat in a vaunted football conference that happened to possess last year's national champion. So how did they lose four conference games, albeit by a total of 16 points? Most notably, turnovers. Purdue gave up 34 of them, and 24 takeaways could not save the Boilermakers from one of the worst turnover ratios in the nation. And how different could the season have been if the Purdue had connected on more field goal attempts? Kicker Berin Lacevic connected on 10 of 19 attempts, only hitting 4 of 12 from 30 yards or beyond.
Tiller's spread offense produced another high-octane passing attack and possessed uncanny balance—nearly 200 yards per game and 26 touchdowns on the ground. The defense was similarly balanced—solid against the run and pass.
Sophomore Kyle Orton received the majority of the snaps and starts at quarterback last season and threw for 2,257 yards, 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions. True freshman Brandon Kirsch played in eight games, starting four, and threw for 1,067 yards, eight touchdowns and five picks. He also ran for 423 yards and three touchdowns.
Receiver John Standeford set a team record with 1,307 yards and tied another with 13 touchdowns. Taylor Stubblefield tallied 789 yards on 77 catches in just 10 games. Joey Harris provided the bulk of the running prowess with 1,115 yards and eight touchdowns. Short-yardage specialist Jerod Void had 45 carries for 156 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Looking ahead to 2003:
Purdue returns nearly every starter to a team that seemed so very close to contention last season. This is a senior-laden team loaded with talent. The top contributors all return at the skill positions on offense and the defense loses just two starters.
Purdue's offense should be electrifying, with one caveat. The offensive line loses three starters and has very little depth. Still, with one of the best receiving corps in the nation, two very able young quarterbacks, a stable of running backs and one of the best offensive minds in football putting it all together , it is hard to imagine anything short of excellence from this unit.
The Boilermakers defense lacks star power and likely does not strike fear in opposing offenses, but it probably should. Led by free safety Stuart Schweigert, Purdue's defense has the talent and experience to repeat as the top ranked unit in the league.
Punter Brent Slaton returns after a respectable 2002 campaign. Lacevic also returns, but is currently listed No. 2 at kicker behind sophomore Ben Jones, a transfer from Butler. Purdue needs one of its kickers to sure up the position in order to help turn those narrow losses to victories.
The schedule is unkind. The Boilermakers should be 3-0 when Notre Dame comes to visit on Sept. 27. After that showdown Purdue will start its conference campaign, hosting Illinois and Penn State before traveling to Wisconsin and Michigan. The Boilermakers also have to travel to Columbus to take on the defending national champs.
Still, this is a veteran unit that has been through the battles before. Despite a daunting schedule, a remodeled offensive line and suspect kicking game, the Boilermakers should be considered one of the favorites to win the Big Ten title.