Purdue Boilermakers season recap

December, 16, 2008
12/16/08
1:31
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

This wasn't how Joe Tiller envisioned his final season playing out.

The man who restored Purdue football to respectability and took the Boilermakers to 10 bowl games in his first 11 seasons encountered plenty of potholes in his final go-round as head coach. Plagued by an ineffective offense and injuries to key positions, Purdue finished with its highest loss total (8) in the Tiller era and missed the postseason. Though the Boilermakers gave Tiller a fitting sendoff by pounding Indiana 62-10 in the season finale, they hoped their time with the entertaining coach would continue to a bowl game.

Tiller pioneered the use of the spread offense in the Big Ten, so it was unfortunate that Purdue's offense let him down in his final season. Record-setting quarterback Curtis Painter struggled to get going, and the Boilers averaged just 21.3 points in their first 11 games. Purdue continued to put up big passing numbers and running back Kory Sheets turned in a solid senior season, but ineffective red-zone offense, beginning Sept. 13 against Oregon, doomed the unit.

The defensive statistics don't bear it out, but Brock Spack's defense performed admirably for much of the season. Purdue held Ohio State without an offensive touchdown and held six Big Ten teams to 22 points or fewer. Linebacker Anthony Heygood ranked fourth in the Big Ten in tackles (114), and defensive end Ryan Kerrigan ranked seventh in the league in sacks (7).

Offensive MVP -- Running back Kory Sheets

He won't be remembered as a Joe Tiller favorite, but the talkative back had a solid senior season. Sheets ranked fifth in the league in rushing and sixth in all-purpose yards. He also tied Iowa's Shonn Greene for third place on the league's scoring chart (8.5 ppg). Sheets scored multiple touchdowns in six contests, including the game winner Sept. 20 against Central Michigan.

Defensive MVP -- Linebacker Anthony Heygood

The senior was consistently productive, racking up nine or more tackles in eight games and reaching double digits nine times. He led the team in tackles after ranking second last year and recorded an interception and a forced fumble. Kerrigan also deserves a mention after leading Purdue in both tackles for loss (11.5) and sacks (7).

Turning point -- Sept. 13 vs. Oregon

A lot of things might have been different if Purdue had finished off a nationally ranked Oregon squad in Week 3. The Boilers outplayed the Ducks for most of the game but couldn't find the end zone when it mattered, a theme that maintained throughout the season. Though Purdue won the next week against Central Michigan, it went on to lose five straight games to fall out of postseason contention.

What's next

Head coach Danny Hope takes over a team that needs talent upgrades on both sides of the ball. Justin Siller seems ready to step in for Painter at quarterback, but the Boilers must find a running back and a few more capable wide receivers. Purdue would get a major boost if linebacker Jason Werner returns from lingering back problems. Kerrigan and Mike Neal anchor a decent defensive line, but the program likely needs another year to get back on track.

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