Rob Henry's heroics didn't surprise Purdue

You couldn't have scripted a better way for Rob Henry to prove himself as Purdue's new field general.

A road game in Big Ten play at night. A fourth-quarter deficit. A touchdown required. Only 8:13 left in the game.

By the way, it happened to be Henry's first career start at quarterback for the Boilermakers after taking over for the injured Robert Marve.

What happened next? Henry calmly led Purdue down the field, as the offense marched 68 yards in 14 plays. The drive culminated with a Dan Dierking touchdown run that lifted Purdue to a 20-17 win against Northwestern.

Henry completed 3 of 5 passes for 22 yards and had four carries for 19 yards, including a 10-yard gain on third-and-3. Minutes after the touchdown, Henry finished things off by drawing a personal foul penalty on Northwestern's Quentin Davie, allowing Purdue to run out the clock.

The performance would be notable for any first-time starter, much less a guy who seemed to have no chance of playing months ago. But Henry's heroics didn't surprise coach Danny Hope. Not even a little.

"Nothing that we didn’t already believe," Hope said. "He's a guy that the players have always believed in. So I wasn’t surprised with the success that he had or with the effectiveness that he ran our offense.

"We expected it going in and he did a great job with it."

Henry lives by the lesson that you never stay the same as a player; you either get better or get worse. He undoubtedly got a lot better last week in Evanston, and so did the Boilers, who were reeling after a 2-2 start and rash of key injuries.

"It was great," said Henry, who happens to wear the same jersey number (15) as former Boilers star Drew Brees. "We went a little hurry-up offense there on that last drive. Coach [Gary] Nord called great plays and we got the right fronts and coverages for the plays that were called. ... It was a great experience, a great win for us."

Interestingly enough, Henry's low rung on the depth chart this spring has helped him acclimate to the games. Marve was still limited by a surgically repaired knee, and Purdue didn't want to risk an injury to backup Caleb Terbush.

Consequently, Henry was the only quarterback who went "live" in drills.

"Even though he had less reps than the others," Hope said, "he executed the offense very well under duress."

Henry's athleticism jumped out to Hope during recruiting, and the Ocala, Fla., native put up impressive numbers at Purdue's camp for prep prospects. The 6-foot-2, 198-pound Henry rushed for 350 yards and six touchdowns as a high school senior and also participated in both basketball and track.

But Henry's strong measurables didn't hook Hope as much as what he had from the neck up.

"As we got to know him, we really fell in love with the intangibles he has," Hope said. "He's an excellent person, very logical thinker, he's really, really smart, he has a lot of pride about him, he's extremely loyal.

"He's a winner."

He showed it at Northwestern, and his performance helped the Boilers get back on track.