Jeff Brohm turned around Purdue's football program in one year.
He created excitement about what had been a stagnant program, made games entertaining again and watched ticket sales surge. More wins and a bowl bid certainly helped, too.
If the Boilermakers keep it up, there's no telling how far he might take his team in the Big Ten's weaker division. And he's already off to a promising start.
“This is an exciting time to be a Boilermaker,” Brohm said after beating Arizona 38-35 in the Foster Farms Bowl. “Our guys played hard, made the game interesting but they found a way to win. I think that shows the fight in our team. They wanted to find a way to finish this season and they did – in somewhat dramatic fashion.”
Whatever it took, the Boilermakers (7-6, 4-5 Big Ten) did it. Purdue produced its highest victory total, highest conference victory total and first bowl win since 2011.
It finished the season on a three-game winning streak for the first time since 2005.
The Boilermakers reclaimed the Old Oaken Bucket for the first time in five years, preventing rival Indiana from extending its school record-tying win streak in the series or reaching a third consecutive bowl game. Purdue had the nation's best one-year increase in average attendance (13,443 per game) and the school's largest increase since 1952.
But the most crucial victory might have been getting Brohm to return for a second season after he reportedly spoke with Tennessee about its job opening last month. The only official comment from Brohm or Purdue was posted on Twitter.
“Those reports are false!” Brohm wrote after a recruit asked of his intentions in late November.
Now that Brohm and Purdue know what to expect, they can start plotting their 2018 encore.
Quarterback David Blough missed the last four games after dislocating his right ankle. Purdue's other starter, Elijah Sindelar, played most of the final four games with a torn ACL in his left knee. But Sindelar still found a way to win at Iowa, beat the Hoosiers and throw four TD passes including the winning score against Arizona to earn offensive MVP honors.
“He (Sindelar) has played injured, and he just keeps on showing up and working his tail off and delivering in the clutch,” Brohm said. “The way he finished the season has been outstanding.”
The spring practice plan at quarterback still isn't clear though Brohm has time to put it together. Purdue has found depth at running back with Markell Jones, D.J. Knox and Brian Lankford-Johnson but must replace two key receivers who are graduating.
However, Brohm loses six of Boilermakers' top nine tacklers as he revamps a vastly improved defense that became the foundation of the turnaround.
“Our strength on defense is stopping the run, we try to do it every week,” Brohm said.
After leading Western Kentucky to three bowl games in three seasons as a head coach, Brohm extended his personal postseason streak to four in a row despite taking over a program thought would be hard-pressed to win more than three games.
Instead, Brohm and the Boilermakers threw away the conventional playbook, started fresh and delivered a success story that should carry into next season.
“You want to finish strong and you want to win a bowl game,” Brohm said. “This can build momentum toward next year.”