By CLIFF BRUNT
I worried that Purdue might get ahead of itself as the national praise rolled in last week.
ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit fired up the Purdue fanbase by declaring the Boilermakers the favorite to reach the Rose Bowl. Perhaps desperately seeking anything good to cling to in a disastrous Big Ten season, many other experts pointed to Purdue as the team to beat in the conference. Of course, Purdue had yet to play a conference game, but the media monster was rolling. (I questioned the wisdom of listening to the big talk in this piece: Purdue had better not overlook Michigan)
I asked Purdue coach Danny Hope if he had addressed his team about the hype, and he was surprisingly candid. Yes, he keeps track of social media and the talking heads. And yes, he discussed it all with his team, well before the Boilermakers got crushed 44-13 by Michigan last Saturday.
“Well, we meet every day when we practice, and I usually have a few minutes to meet with the team,” he said. “Obviously, they have their position coaches and learn the plays and see the film, so I usually have about 15 minutes every day. And we have some housecleaning issues that we have to deal with and then obviously some direction and focus on the game. And I follow the social media and what’s out there and I kind of keep handle on it.
“We knew that when the season began, that people considered us pretenders, and then basically we progressed a little bit and then we became a dark horse, and then contenders and then all of a sudden we became favorites. And we only played three games or so. So we had to take all of that with a grain of salt. And that was addressed throughout the course of the week (before the Michigan game), but you never know what’s in the minds of these young people now days.”
Then, unsolicited, he added the following gem.
“But it was addressed, and I don’t think that they were, you know, fat and sassy or anything as a result of reading their press clippings. I thought we played a very good team and they played better than we did and we’re a very good team and we didn’t play as near as well as we needed to and as a result we got beaten at home by a large margin.”
He’s either a mind reader or he’s been reading ISL. I’ll just assume the latter.
Anyhow, I just thought it all was interesting. It is more difficult than ever to keep your team focused nowadays. We’ll never know for sure why the Boilermakers laid an egg against Michigan. A lot of factors play into such things. But the mere fact that Hope made the “fat and sassy” comment implies that either the thought had crossed his mind, or he knew where I was going.
I wonder if he’ll address the team about people jumping off the train. That too, might be premature.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cliffbrunt_isl.