MERRILLVILLE – It's never too early for Purdue fans to become anxious for football season and with the way that the 2011 season ended, Boilermaker coach Danny Hope is among those ready for training camp already.
“A lot of good things came from this past season,” Hope said.
In early November Purdue had dropped a pair of road games at Michigan and Wisconsin – and in convincing fashion. The Boilermakers were 4-5 at the time, and in Hope's case, he had guided the program to a lackluster 13-20 record in his two-plus seasons. All that loomed ahead was a game with Ohio State, so at the time, few in West Lafayette were making any post-season plans.
Well, the Boiler Nation can recite the rest, as Purdue quarterback Robert Marve got hot against the Buckeyes and Hope knocked off Ohio State for the second time in his short career. The Boilermakers dropped their next game against Iowa, but ended their regular season with a win in Bloomington, which gave them an opportunity that Hope believes is critical for the success of any program and that is to not just participate in a bowl game, but prepare for one.
“We got the extra bowl practices, which is huge for our team,” Hope said. “It's almost like a spring practice opportunity.”
Purdue beat Western Michigan in the Little Caesars Bowl, which gave it three wins in its final four games. That success reverberates within the program this summer.
“Winning fuels the soul of our football team in a lot of ways,” Hope said of the bowl victory. “The bowl experience was great.”
Playing past the Oaken Bucket Game was a new experience for the Boilermaker players. Purdue had not participated in a bowl game since 2007.
“We had a blast,” Hope said. “(The players) say that they are a bowl-hungrier football team as a result of it.”
That hunger should be satisfied again this coming season. Hope has 18 offensive players from his two-deep roster a year ago returning, including his top three (yes, you read that correctly) quarterbacks (Caleb TerBush, Robert Marve and Rob Henry), as well as his three most productive runners (Ralph Bolden, Akeem Shavers and Akeem Hunt) and best receiver (Antavian Edison).
On the defensive side of the ball, 15 experienced Boilermakers return, including All-American candidate Kawann Short.
“I'm really excited to get Kawann back to complete his degree and play his senior year,” Hope said. “We'll be a lot better football team as a result of it.”