How the Boilermakers fared in 2004: 7-5 overall, 4-4 Big Ten
(Links to USA Today game stories)
Sept. 5 – PURDUE 51, Syracuse 0
Sept. 11 – PURDUE 59, Ball State 7
Sept. 25 – Purdue 38, ILLINOIS 30
Oct. 2 – Purdue 41, NOTRE DAME 16
Oct. 9 – Purdue 20, PENN STATE 13
Oct. 16 – Wisconsin 20, PURDUE 17
Oct. 23 – Michigan 16, PURDUE 14
Oct. 30 – NORTHWESTERN 13, Purdue 10
Nov. 6 – IOWA 23, Purdue 21
Nov. 13 – PURDUE 24, Ohio State 17
Nov. 20 – PURDUE 63, Indiana 24
Dec. 31 – Arizona State 27, Purdue 23 (at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas)
Sept. 10 – AKRON
Sept. 17 – at Arizona
Sept. 24 – at Minnesota
Oct. 1 – NOTRE DAME
Oct. 8 – IOWA
Oct. 15 – NORTHWESTERN
Oct. 22 – at Wisconsin
Oct. 29 – at Penn State
Nov. 5 – MICHIGAN STATE
Nov. 12 – ILLINOIS
Nov. 19 – at Indiana
Starters returning: 20 (7 offense, 11 defense, 1 kicker, 1 punter)
Coach Joe Tiller: Entering his 15th season as a head coach, and ninth at the helm of the Boilermakers, Tiller is 101-67-1 overall (Purdue, Wyoming). He is 62-37 at Purdue, including a 40-24 mark in Big Ten play.
Versus Wisconsin: Remember the Game Changing Play of the Year? Purdue probably does. The last time these teams met, in West Lafayette last season, strong safety Robert Brooks forced Purdue quarterback Kyle Orton to fumble and cornerback Scott Starks picked it up and sprinted 40 yards for a Wisconsin touchdown. The Badgers won the game 20-17 and Purdue ended up losing four straight games after a 5-0 start, while UW improved to 6-0 on the way to a 9-0 start.
The last time the teams met in Madison, in 2003, however, the Boilermakers kicked a last-second field goal to win 26-23. UW holds the lead in the all-time series 37-29-8.
Badger Nation 2004 coverage
Boilermakers 2004 in brief
In the week leading up to Purdue's Oct. 16, 2004 meeting with Wisconsin, the Boilermakers were the toast of the college football world. They were ranked No. 5 in the nation, quarterback Kyle Orton was one of the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy and Purdue's offense was next to unstoppable.
Wisconsin ventured to West Lafayette with the nation's leading defense (198.3 yards per game and 6.5 points per game at the time), while Purdue was No. 3 in total offense at 509 yards per game, and No. 4 in scoring offense at 41.8 points per game.
But just as the Badgers would receive a cold dose of reality with a trip to East Lansing later in the year, Purdue was in the process of learning that its offense was not quite what it was cracked up to be.
The Boilermakers finished the year ranked No. 13 in the nation in total offense and No. 20 in scoring offense. Purdue's production, however, was rather skewed. Granted, many, many teams end up padding their statistics against weaker opponents, but the Boilermakers statistical variation was extreme.
In winning its first four games of the season over Syracuse, Ball State, Illinois and Notre Dame by a combined 136 points (though only topping the Illini by eight), the Boilermakers averaged an incredible 549.3 yards and 47.3 points per game and never turned the ball over.
In a 20-13 win over Penn State, though, Purdue posted a much more human 348 yards and two turnovers. That kicked off a six-game run during which the Boilermakers averaged 341.8 yards and 17.7 points per game.
Before defensive end Erasmus James' injury late in the second quarter, UW dominated the Boilermakers' vaunted attack. And when Scott Starks' fumble return for a touchdown led to a Badger victory, it opened a four-game losing streak for Purdue. In that stretch the Boilermakers averaged a pedestrian 329.8 yards and 15.5 points per game in contests against UW, Michigan, Northwestern and Iowa, and turned the ball over a total of 12 times.
Purdue's offense got back on track in a big way against Indiana, lighting up the Hoosiers for 763 yards, including 590 through the air, in a 63-24 thumping. But all that win did was bring the Boilermakers, who not so long ago had been thinking BCS, back to .500 in league play.
Orton finished the year with 3,090 passing yards, 31 touchdowns and five interceptions while completing 236 of 389 passes. Backup Brandon Kirsch played in six games and started two while Orton nursed injuries, and completed 58 of 94 passes for 711 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions.
Receiver Taylor Stubblefield had an incredible 89 catches for 1,095 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Looking ahead to 2005
Purdue has understandably high expectations. No team has more experience returning than the Boilermakers. They need to replace Orton and Stubblefield, but Purdue still has a fleet of receivers and a capable quarterback in Kirsch. Under his direction, though, the offense will look significantly different, blending Purdue's spread offense with an option running attack.
Purdue returns all 11 starters on defense, though they will miss cornerback Antwaun Rogers, who would have been a four-year starter last season had injuries not stolen half the season from him.
Expect the Boilermakers to again have one of the four best defenses in the Big Ten. The offense should be among the most prolific as well, but needs to be more stable and consistent than it was a year ago. Purdue also needs to improve its kicking game.
Purdue's schedule is very favorable. The Boilermakers do not have to face Michigan and Ohio State, considered the league's most talented teams, and they close the year with Indiana and Illinois, considered the conference's weakest teams. Each of the other six conference games, however, is a potential pratfall.