Boilermakers expect to make big jump in 2012
Purdue coach Danny Hope has learned how to cope with the
In 2010, he lost his starting quarterback four games into the
season. Last year, he lost his new starting quarterback one week
before the season-opener.
So when rain washed out most of Friday’s traditional media day
festivities, Hope refused to let the precipitation dampen the mood
for a football team that is suddenly brimming with confidence. He
looked straight into the cameras and kept right on talking.
”I like where we’re at right now, I think we’ve made great
progress in the program,” Hope said. ”A program that produces
championships doesn’t just come in a snap of the fingers.”
That certainly hasn’t been the case for Hope, now in his fourth
season at Purdue.
The Boilermakers finally figured out how to overcome some big
obstacles by rallying late last season, without quarterback Rob
Henry, to end a three-year bowl drought.
That was enough to get Hope a two-year contract extension, and
the Boilermakers celebrated a four days later with a 37-32 victory
over Western Michigan in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. It was only
Purdue’s second bowl win since 2003.
But last year’s success and a combination of other factors have
certainly raised expectations in West Lafayette.
With Ohio State and Penn State both facing postseason bans, only
four teams in the Big Ten’s Leaders Division are eligible for
postseason play including the conference championship game in
The schedule-makers also have given the Boilermakers a big
break. They’ll play five home games in the first six weeks and
won’t travel outside their home state until they visit Ohio State
on Oct. 20.
By then, the future could look as bright as the players’
”We hang our hat on Ross-Ade,” versatile receiver Antavian
Edison said Friday. ”So if we go undefeated at Ross-Ade, we’ll be
in good shape.”
The Purdue coach understands, however, that there’s a lot more
to success than just winning home games.
A rash of injuries, including the torn ACLs that cost
quarterback Robert Marve most of the 2010 season and quarterback
Henry all of the 2011 season, created major obstacles for a program
looking to transition from the beloved Joe Tiller to the colorful
Hope, one of Tiller’s coaching prodigies.
And the Boilermakers still have some major concerns.
Ralph Bolden, the team’s top rusher in 2011, continues to
recover from surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee – his
third such surgery since his senior year in high school. It’s still
unclear when Bolden, a fifth-year senior, will be ready to
Without Bolden, Hope has only four other halfbacks on the
roster. Those four have combined for 152 carries and 876 yards,
including a career-best day for junior college transfer Akeem
Shavers (22 carries, 149 yards) in his bowl-game MVP
There are other options. Edison, a versatile slot receiver,
could see time in the backfield.
Hope also has to choose a starting quarterback from a group that
includes two former starters, Marve and Henry, and the incumbent
”If (the opener) would be tomorrow, it would be Caleb,” Hope
said. ”If all three do well in practice, it would be hard to
reshuffle the deck. But if one quarterback is performing better,
there could be a change on the depth chart.”
If Henry doesn’t win the quarterback job, he, too, could become
a candidate at running back.
But the biggest factor this season may be a new attitude.
Hope has sold his players on getting the program back to
national prominence, and the coach believes this is the
Boilermakers’ best chance yet.
Even if it did rain for only the second time in two decades on
”I think the main thing is starting fast, going out there with
the confidence we’re supposed to have,” Edison said.