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August 16, 2013

Boilermaker Baptism: Jim Young

As we count down the days (15 if you are scoring at home) to Purdue's season opener at Cincinnati and the beginning of the Darrell Hazell Era, we take a quick look at first-year performances of the Boilermakers' most recent nine head football coaches. This dates back to Jack Mollenkopf in 1956 and ends with Danny Hope in 2009.

Today we look at Jim Young, who led the Boilermaker program from 1977-81. Young, who came to Purdue from Arizona after serving as Bo Schembechler's right-hand man at Michigan, was not an instant success at Purdue but laid a strong foundation from the moment he was hired in West Lafayette.

Young, a native on Van Wert, Ohio, was a member of Ohio State's 1954 national championship team before transferring to Bowling Green, where he graduated. Hired at Purdue at age 41, Young brought a Midwestern work ethic with a little West Coast flair to his offense. He had been successful in quickly turning the Wildcats' program around.

The skinny about Young's rookie year
A quick glance at Young's 5-6 record might lead one to believe that the new coach was just treading water in the first season. But that couldn't have been further from the truth. Young, and his aggressive, talented, youthful staff, returned disciplined, hard-hitting football back to West Lafayette, and it also returned the forward pass as a weapon in the Boilermakers' offensive arsenal. The year before, the Boilermakers had not had a touchdown pass the entire season. But with freshman quarterback Mark Herrmann, it only took his first game to snap the streak.

Defensively, the Boilermakers had some holes in '77, but they had some youthful talent led by sophomore Keena Turner and a tough senior linebacker in Fred Arrington.

How did the culture change under Young?
Young sent a clear message to his team that the bar would be raised under his watch. In effect, he dismissed standout defensive lineman Cleveland (Pittsburgh) Crosby (actually Crosby quit) and built his team around a strong, swarming defense and a vertical passing game led by Herrmann. The freshman quarterback was exciting but also turned the ball over too many times (27 picks) to post the kind of success that he would enjoy the next three seasons.

Top Moment(s)
It might have been the the first three quarters of the Notre Dame game. In that contest, the Boilermakers were dominating the eventual national champs 24-14. But a couple of crucial turnovers and Joe Montana coming off the bench helped the Irish to 17 fourth-quarter points and a 31-24 win.

Also, the Boilermakers' 34-21 win over Iowa was impressive. Purdue was in a middle of a long winning streak over the Hawkeyes at that time, but receiver Reggie Arnold's four touchdown receptions and Young choosing to be one of the first in college football to institute the shotgun formation in the win over Iowa made this one memorable.

Purdue's 22-0 win at Wisconsin was also impressive and a stong indication of the type of defense the Boilermakers would put on the field the following season when the Junk Defense was among the best in the Big Ten.

Low Moment(s)
In addition to the fourth quarter against Notre Dame, Young's team suffered lopsided losses against the teams the Boilermaker boss would conquer in the next two seasons: Ohio State (a 46-0 loss in Columbus) and Michigan (a 40-7 home thrashing). That, and a loss to end the season in Bloomington, gave the Boilermakers plenty of opportunity for revenge in '78.

Lasting Impact
I guess you can ask Montana, because had Arrington not laid out ND quarterback Gary Forystek in one of the most devastating hits ever in Ross-Ade Stadium, Montana might not have gotten his chance to turn the tables. A Hall of Fame career was truly born.

Yet, in all seriousness, the '77 season also bred a group of players - Herrmann, Turner, Pete Quinn, Bart Burrell - who have been very, very loyal to the program and had the wins as collegians to garner the long-term admiration of Purdue fans everywhere. The late 1970s players have been critical to the continuity of the program when the program struggled to win games consistently.

What does it mean for the Hazell Era?
Purdue fans have to hope that history repeats itself 36 years later in as much as a coach with no previous Purdue ties comes into West Lafayette, changes the attitdues of the players, has an innovative offense that is entertaining and sets the table for three straight bowl victories. That is what happened in 1977 and has the chance of happening in 2013.

Check out our recent Baptisms

Alex Agase (1973)
Bob DeMoss (1970)
Jack Mollenkopf (1956)

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