AL HAMNIK: A fresh, new take on Purdue football

2010-10-12T23:00:00Z 2010-10-14T14:27:54Z AL HAMNIK: A fresh, new take on Purdue footballBy Al Hamnik Times Columnist
October 12, 2010 11:00 pm  • 

You hear it over and over until your ears start ringing like a doorbell.

Be prepared. Study your playbook. Don't become distracted or disinterested. And don't ever pout.

That was Danny Hope's message when Purdue lost star running back Ralph Bolden, star receiver Keith Smith, and then highly-touted quarterback Robert Marve -- all to season-ending injuries.

Help was on the way, according to Hope, considered a pretty good judge of college football talent.

Other players would have to step up, big time.

And then Saturday night, his Boilermakers shocked previously-unbeaten and No. 25-ranked Northwestern, 20-17, at Ryan Field in Evanston.

Introducing third-string quarterback Rob Henry, a redshirt freshman whose first start was a memorable one with 132 yards on 16 carries.

The region also had a hand, literally, in the outcome.

Portage grad Albert Evans recovered Hunter Bates' fumbled punt return in the second quarter to set up Carson Wiggs' 36-yard field goal.

And East Chicago's Kawann Short blocked Stefan Demos' 41-yard field goal try in the second half. That earned the defensive tackle Big Ten co-special teams player of the week honors.

"Northwestern is a very good football team and our team had to step up in many areas in order for us to go up there and win," Hope said during Tuesday's coaches teleconference. "Our guys were excited about the opportunity and arose to the occasion."

Leading the way was the speedy and elusive Henry, a Florida native with Division I size and smarts.

"When we recruited Rob out of high school, we knew he was a great athlete. We had a chance to have him in our camp and he did some magnificent things," Hope said. "As you got to know him, you really fell in love with the intagibles that he has.

"He's an excellent person. A very logical thinker. Really, really smart. He has a lot of pride and is extremely loyal."

Hope and his staff knew Henry was a keeper in spring ball as the only quarterback they went "live" on, since being No. 3 made him expendable.

"Even though he had less reps than the others, he executed the offense very well under duress," Hope said. "He's a guy the players always believed in."

NU coach Pat Fitzgerald had many concerns after being outrushed 232-84 and witnessing a general breakdown by his special teams.

The play of Kawann Short also caught his eye.

"He was active. He looked fresh. I think the bye week really helped Purdue and I'm not trying to make excuses," Fitzgerald said. "I thought he had played as active as I've seen him on tape all year."

Be prepared. Hit that playbook. We're talking to the rest of the league now.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at

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