|Final game not just drop in the Bucket for Tiller|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 21 November 2008 12:19|
He won more than any coach in school history, made bowl trips an annual rite and restored the school's tradition as a cradle of quarterbacks. He proved the spread offense could work in the Midwest's wind, rain and snow and he added a new phrase to the students' vocabulary, ``Boiler Up!''
So forgive the old Cowboy if he gets a little sentimental Saturday against Indiana, especially if he finishes his coaching career by reclaiming the Old Oaken Bucket.
``I had not really allowed myself to think about wrapping this thing up until the band asked me to address them,'' Tiller said. ``Then they started playing, 'Happy Trails to You' and I thought, 'Man, that's about it.' That's the first time, I thought 'Man, Tiller, this is it.'''
After leading the Boilermakers to 10 bowl games in 11 seasons, this final go-around was supposed to be a grand tour.
Some thought Curtis Painter, Tiller's latest quarterback find, could emerge as a Heisman Trophy candidate. There was talk of a run at the Big Ten title. A bowl bid was a foregone conclusion.
It was not to be.
Painter struggled with decision-making and injuries, and the Boilermakers (3-8, 1-6) couldn't get their season righted.
The revised plan now calls for Tiller to finish his 43-year coaching career with one more cherished moment: Taking back the trophy Indiana claimed last season.
``Every time we've won (the Bucket) is my favorite memory,'' Tiller said. ``We've had some good games, some close games, we've struggled and lost a couple of games. We've had some blowouts that really surprised me. But I really respect Indiana.''
It's mutual admiration, coach.
The Hoosiers (3-8, 1-6), like Purdue, now run the spread offense.
But unlike the Boilermakers, Indiana has struggled to emulate Tiller's success. While Tiller manned the Purdue sidelines for 11 seasons, the Hoosiers went through four coaches and turned the traveling trophy into an almost permanent fixture in West Lafayette.
Indiana has beaten Tiller just twice - a 2001 slugfest near the end of coach Cam Cameron's tenure and last year when Austin Starr kicked a 49-yard field goal with 30 seconds left to send Indiana to its first bowl game in 14 years. The kick fulfilled a bowl game goal set by late coach Terry Hoeppner.
The Hoosiers understand how much emotions can become a part of Tiller's farewell game.
``I've known him for close to 25 years,'' Indiana coach Bill Lynch said. ``I say this as a coach in the coaching profession, I think you could go around to a man and they'd all say that Joe Tiller is one of the really good guys. He's a football coach's coach.''
He's also been a player's coach. And those playing for Tiller on his final team remain loyal to him, even with Tiller's successor, Danny Hope, already on Purdue's staff.
``From the time I signed that paper to come here, he was picking on me, telling me 'You can't do this or you can't do that,' knowing that I always loved a challenge,'' defensive tackle Ryan Baker said. ``Basically, I came in as a boy and I'm leaving as a man, and a lot of that has to do with coach Tiller.''
Tiller will leave behind a program that re-emerged on the national scene in 2000, when the Boilermakers reached their first Rose Bowl in more than three decades.
But before he heads back to Wyoming, Tiller wants to add another chapter to his indelible legacy Saturday.
``My wife, she'll be all teary-eyed because she's emotional. She's been very, very attached to this sport and all the young men who have come through here. But it will be tears of joy.''