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Wednesday, October 29, 2008
A season of discontent for Rodriguez, Tiller

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Just to be clear, there's no bad blood, or snake oil, separating Rich Rodriguez and Joe Tiller.

The two Big Ten coaches have discussed the "snake oil" comment Tiller made back on National Signing Day and declared it a non-issue. In case you missed it, when asked about losing verbal commit Roy Roundtree to Michigan, Tiller snapped, "If we had an early signing date, you wouldn't have another outfit with a guy in a wizard hat selling snake oil get a guy at the last minute, but that's what happened."

Rodriguez joked about the comment at Big Ten media day and on Tuesday maintained that he and Tiller are friends, a claim Tiller backs up.

"We had a laugh about it," Tiller said.

The two coaches haven't had much else to laugh about this fall.

Both of their teams enter Saturday's game at Ross-Ade Stadium with 2-6 records. Michigan is on the verge of its first losing season since 1967 and would end its run of 33 consecutive bowl appearances if it doesn't sweep the final four games.

A Purdue loss would ensure just its second bowl-less season in Tiller's 12 years at the school. The Boilermakers have dropped five straight games, one shy of their longest slide under Tiller.

For two coaches with a combined career record of 231-158-3, these types of seasons are somewhat foreign.

"It's not easy," Rodriguez said. "Certainly it's frustrating. I've been spoiled. I haven't been through it for a few years. It was seven, eight years ago that we went through something like this."

Rodriguez went 3-8 his first season at West Virginia in 2001 before compiling a 57-18 mark during the next seven years. Tiller endured a 5-6 campaign in 2005 but has won eight or more games six times at Purdue, where he's the all-time winningest coach.

The 65-year-old will retire after the season and admits he envisioned a fonder farewell.

"I hate leaving the game with the bad taste in my mouth, though I'm not going to base my 43 years in the game of football on one year," Tiller said. "But certainly this isn't what I had in mind."

Purdue has been plagued by injuries at key spots and inconsistent performances on an offense that ranks 10th in the league in scoring (20.2 points per game), ahead of only Michigan (18.9 ppg), and ninth in total yards (355.9 yards per game). Last Saturday, the Boilers had their lowest passing total (109 yards) in Tiller's tenure.

Asked if he could remember a time so tough, Tiller thought back to his first season as a head coach, at Wyoming in 1991. When the Cowboys hit the road for their final game at BYU, they had only 16 healthy players available on defense.

"We haven't reached those depths here at Purdue, but we're approaching that," Tiller said. "I've never had to go take the field with your third-string quarterback [Justin Siller], who actually was moved over from a different position three days earlier. It's uncharted waters for me, something that's different.

"It's the old cliché. If you stay in the game long enough, you'll see everything. I had never seen that before, so I guess maybe it's appropriate that this would occur."

Rodriguez has had his own quarterback issues at Michigan, which ranks last in the league in both scoring and total offense. Both he and Tiller are known for pioneering the spread offense in college football, but neither man has seen much success this fall.

Despite their shared suffering, Rodriguez doesn't expect his pregame chat with Tiller on Saturday to turn into a therapy session.

"Normally, when you talk with the coaches and particularly a coach that you've known for a while like Joe and I, you usually talk about our families, how the families are doing and the health of everybody," Rodriguez said. "You don't get into semantics of the season."