The Purdue Boilermakers of the Late 1960’s

It was a different time and a different place. The unrest of the 1960’s was in full force.

College football was far different as well. There were no hurry up offenses. If a Quarterback threw for over a 1,000 yards that was considered a wide open passing offense. Most teams were 3 yards and a cloud of dust and establishing the run really meant just that.

In 1967, no Running Back had ever rushed for 1,000 yards in a season for 3 years in a row. Chris

Gilbert, of Texas, was about to change that in 1968 and become the very first.

That would all change with the arrival of Archie Griffin and Tony Dorsett in the 1970’s. Griffin, of Ohio State, would win two Heisman Trophies and break the all time career rushing record. That record lasted all of one season as Dorsett broke it while winning his own Heisman and the national championship.

Racism was alive and well as it is today and maybe forever, but it was much worse in the 1960’s. The first SEC game featuring a black player came in 1967 when Ole Miss traveled to Kentucky to take on the Wildcats and their Defensive End Nat Northington.

The Big 10 and the Pacific Coast teams that are now the Pac 12 had been using black players for years, even decades. It would still be another 5 seasons before the SEC was totally integrated.

This is not a put down of the SEC, just a statement of the way it was.

To even illustrate more how the game has changed, Purdue was one of the best football programs in the country and they had some of the best players.

Purdue football was good again in spurts in more modern eras. With Jim Young as coach, they had 3 good seasons topped by a 10-2 record in 1979. But, that didn’t last and Young resigned after a disappointing 5-6 record in 1981.

In 1997, along came Joe Tiller. He made the Purdue Boilermakers a fun team to watch and had Quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Kyle Horton. They were competitive, but never really contenders for national titles.

Tiller retired in 2008 after a 4-8 season and it’s been pretty bleak at Purdue since then.

As a youth back in 1967, the Purdue Boilermakers were one of the best teams in the country.


In 1967, the Boilermakers had to replace future Pro Football Hall of Fame Quarterback Bob Griese. They were like a well oiled machine back in those years with Jack Mollenkopf as head coach and they plugged in sophomore Mike Phipps at Quarterback and hardly missed a beat.

It also helped that they had Heisman candidate Leroy Keyes at Running Back.  More about Keyes

They beat SWC champion Texas A%M on the road in game one and they entered the Poll at the 10th spot.

The Boilermakers chief rival has always been Notre Dame and the Irish were ranked #1 going into the 1967 season mostly based on what they accomplished in 1966 and the players they had returning. The 10th rated Boilermakers beat Notre Dame 28-21 and they climbed to the number 4 ranking.

They beat Northwestern and dropped to number 2.

Then, they beat the Ohio State Buckeyes convincingly, 41-6, in Columbus which really got them noticed and they found themselves ranked 2nd in the latest Polls.

Then came unranked Oregon State. The Beavers had possibly their best team of all time which became known as the Giant Killers Read more about Giant Killers

Oregon State stunned the 2nd ranked Boilermakers 14-22.

No worries for Purdue as this was not a conference game and they still had a shot at the Rose Bowl. The Boilermakers won 4 straight including a convincing win over another Big 10 challenger, Minnesota.

After they beat Michigan State in game 9, they had beaten each of the previous seasons’ national champions, the Fighting Irish and the Spartans.

The win over Michigan State set them up for a showdown with their other biggest rival, Indiana. This was not your typical Hoosier football team. They were 8-1 coming in and they needed to beat Purdue to earn their first ever Rose Bowl berth. The Boilermakers only had to beat Indiana to gain their own Rose Bowl berth.

Indiana stunned the 3rd ranked Boilermakers sending the Big 10 into a three way tie between the

Hoosiers, Purdue and Minnesota.

Indiana got the bid because they had never been. The poor Boilermakers and the Gophers of Minnesota had to stay home because of silly rules in those years allowing only the Big 10 champion to go to a bowl game. Indiana finished the regular season at 9-1 and lost in the Rose Bowl to national champions USC and OJ Simpson. Read more about Hoosiers of 1967

Purdue finished the 1967 season in something of a disappointment and an 8-2 record and rated 9th in the final Polls.

The Boilermakers started the 1968 season as the top ranked team because of the return of so many players.

Mike Phipps returned for his junior season after throwing for 1,800 yards as a sophomore. The Boilers returned 2 outstanding Running Backs in Leroy Keyes and Perry Williams who combined for 1,732 yards rushing and 24 Touchdowns.

They started their season as expected whipping Virginia 44-6, then the hated Irish of Notre Dame, 37-22. Their 3rd game was more of the same with a 43-6 beat down of Northwestern.

But, they lost in game 4 against the 4th ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, 0-13. The Buckeyes were if interested in super sophs read here

loaded with their Super Sophomores and they went on to win the national championship in 1968.

The Boilermakers weren’t dead in the water just yet and they had some more fight in them as they won 3 games in a row.

Then, 5th ranked Purdue was surprised by unranked Minnesota, losing 13-27.

They beat Michigan State and Indiana to finish up the season at 8-2 and ranked 10th.

Quarterback Mike Phipps did not have a great season. But, Leroy Keyes did and he finished second in the Heisman race behind O.J. Simpson of USC.

Two way player Leroy Keyes was picked with the third selection of the 1st round in the 1969 NFL Draft, and his backfield sidekick Perry Williams was picked in the 4th round by the Green Bay Packers.

Even though they lost their talented Running Backs, they still had Quarterback Mike Phipps.
Purdue began the 1969 season ranked 18th in the country. They beat the 9th rated Fighting Irish yet again, 28-14. Then, they beat they beat 17th ranked Stanford 36-35 in what must have been an incredible game.

3-0 Purdue dropped to 8th in the Polls before Stanford, and then were ranked 9th when they traveled to the Big House and were uspet by the Michigan Wolverines and their brand new coach. He was just some guy named Bo Schembechler.

They beat 4 average teams in a row before having to face the defending national champions, Ohio State.

Top ranked Ohio State just smacked them 14 – 42.

They finished with a decisive win over Indiana and finished another 8-2 season.

Mike Phipps had a great season and he was drafted with the 3rd pick of the 1st round of the draft by the Cleveland Browns.

After the 1969 season, Purdue coach Jack Mollenkopf retired and that was pretty much it for Purdue as a championship contender for a while.

Mollenkopf was the best Purdue coach of all time posting an 84-39-9 record.

The Boilermakers slumped to 4-6 the first year he was gone. But, that was probably not relevant as the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Michigan Wolverines were right in the middle of their 10 Year War and they went to the Rose Bowl every season.

3 thoughts on “The Purdue Boilermakers of the Late 1960’s

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