Notebook: Ex-players say Purdue rebuild needs time

Bob Wieneke
South Bend Tribune


INDIANAPOLIS – If Purdue fans were looking for reason for hope entering Saturday night’s game against Notre Dame — a game in which the Boilermakers were four-touchdown underdogs — flipping back to 1997 would have been a good start.

Like they were this year, the Boilers were coming off a loss to a Mid-American Conference school — in 1997 it was Toledo, this year Central Michigan.

If Irish fans needed a reminder — and they may not have wanted one — that game resulted in a 28-17 Purdue victory in the first year of the Joe Tiller and Bob Davie eras.

“That’s a game-changer for Purdue football and Joe Tiller,” said Kelly Kitchel, a redshirting freshman on that 1997 team and now a sideline reporter for Purdue’s radio broadcasts.

The Boilermakers could have used a game-changer this season. Purdue played well in Saturday night's Shamrock Series game against Notre Dame at Lucas Oil Stadium before losing, 30-14, to drop to 1-2. Eleventh-ranked ND improved to 3-0.

“Right now they’ve got to figure out how to overcome some of their own obstacles and some of what’s going on confidence-wise,” Kitchel said of his alma mater prior to Saturday night's kickoff. “There’s talent there. So it’s just trying to put everything together.”

For Purdue to put everything together, former Penn High School and Purdue walk-on Frank Duong believes recruiting better will be key.

“Losing to a MAC team never looks good. I still have close ties to Purdue and I always will and from what I hear the coaching staff is doing a great job. It’s gonna take time,” said Duong, who now works in the RV industry in Elkhart and is an assistant coach at Penn. “We’re not in a great recruiting area. We’ve had a good history of turning out professional players in the last 10 years. I think that can be a very good recruiting point for Purdue. But it’s gonna take time just like anything. When you only win one game it’s going to be hard to attract kids who want to come to the school.

“But I hear a lot of great things coming from people I know close to the program about the coaching staff. Coach Hazell is changing the culture, that’s the biggest thing right now. And those things don’t take one or two years, those things take a lot of time.”

“For Purdue it’s an opportunity to play on national television, play against an elite level of competition and have a chance to salvage some stuff in a season — if you’re having a tough season — it’s a good chance to win,” Kitchel said.

Notre Dame and Purdue will not play again until Sept. 19, 2020, in part because of Notre Dame’s commitment to playing ACC teams and because of the Big Ten changing its scheduling. Kitchel understands the reasons why the series is being put on pause, but he also always saw it as an opportunity for the Boilermakers to make an early statement, like they did in 1997.

“You don’t have that opportunity, so that is tough,” Kitchel said. “We’ll survive and keep moving on.”

The last time

Purdue and ND have played in Indianapolis once before, that game coming in 1984 at the dedication game of the Hoosier Dome.

The Boilers entered as three-touchdown underdogs against the Irish, but five ND turnovers helped Purdue post a 23-21 victory over the eighth-ranked Irish.

Local ties

Two local players who played at Catholic schools in the area are now freshmen at Purdue.

Kirk Barron, a center from Marian High, earned a spot on the travel roster but did not play in the first half. Mathew Monserez, a walk-on quarterback from South Bend St. Joseph, did not make the travel roster.

Big, and fast

Purdue boasts two players who stand out among collegiate players.

Guard Corey Clements, according to the Purdue sports information department, is the largest player in FBS football this year at 6-foot-8, 400 pounds. Senior running back Raheem Mostert, according to the Purdue release, is “widely considered” the fastest man in college football. Mostert, a track star at Purdue, ran the 100-meter dash in 10.15 seconds, and was tabbed college football’s fastest player by

Boiler bits

Purdue and ND have played eight times when the Irish were ranked No. 1 in the country. The Boilermakers posted wins over the top-ranked Irish in 1950, 1954, 1965 and 1967. … Purdue ranks seventh in the country in terms of most underclassmen (freshmen, redshirt freshmen, sophomores and redshirt sophomores). Seventy of the 101 players in Purdue’s camp were sophomores or younger.


Purdue's Dolapo McCarthy celebrates after Purdue scored a touchdown during the Notre Dame vs. Purdue football game Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014, at Lucas Oil Stadium. (SBT Photo/SANTIAGO FLORES)