Purdue's injury situation has been well-documented.
Playing without quarterback Robert Marve, running back Ralph Bolden and receivers Keith Smith and Justin Siller didn't offer a lot of optimism to those outside of Purdue's locker room.
But for those inside the program, Saturday's win over previously unbeaten Northwestern wasn't a surprise. The Boilermakers, 1-0 in Big Ten play, host Minnesota on Saturday. The Golden Gophers have lost five straight games.
"You know the great thing is, there's this saying in the Bible: 'As a man thinks in his heart, so does he become,' " Purdue coach Danny Hope said. "We didn't sit around and fall apart because of injuries or start not believing in ourselves.
"We did what we believed in, we did what we thought was in our heart. We know that we can win. We know that we can beat a good football team. There's been some rough sledding and there's still going to be some more rough sledding. There will be some more skeptics and doubters and we'll prove you wrong again some more down the road."
Using the legs of quarterback Rob Henry and improved play from the defense and special teams, the Boilermakers prevented their season from slowly slipping away. For now, there's a renewed sense of energy.
"I believe we've made great progress in every phase of our program the past two years," Hope said. "We've worked a bazillion hours and it's just a matter of time until we're one of the great football teams in the country."
--Defensive tackle Kawann Short earned co-Big Ten Conference Special Teams Player of the Week after blocking Northwestern's Stefan Demos' 41-yard field goal with 8:13 to play. The block set up Purdue's game-winning touchdown drive.
The sophomore told special teams coach J.B. Gibboney that he should rush from the middle instead of the outside.
"I was in the middle and Justin (Kitchens) was on the outside," Short said. "We got a good push and we went way back, and I stuck my left hand up and it caught the middle of my left hand."
As Demos and the Wildcats lined up for a potential game-tying field goal from 45 yards, Short believes the block was going through the senior's mind.
"He maybe didn't want to kick it to the same spot and he boosted it over a little bit more and tried to curve it," said Short, who finished with eight tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and one sack. "He probably just rushed it, but I'm not a kicker."
The block was Short's second this season. He blocked an extra point against Ball State on Sept. 18.
Short also knocked down a pass for the fourth straight game, increasing his season total to five.
--Northwestern was averaging 450 total yards in their last four games prior to facing the Boilermakers. Purdue limited the Wildcats to 389 total yards, including 177 after halftime.
"I think we just realized that we needed to play harder and get off the field on third down because that's been our bug-a-boo all season," said defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, who had four tackles. "It was huge for us to start getting stops on third downs in the second half."
The Wildcats were 4-for-4 on third downs during the opening drive of the second half, which culminated with Persa's 5-yard touchdown run and a 17-10 lead. Otherwise, Purdue held Northwestern to 4 of 14 on third down.
--Although Northwestern's Dan Persa became the first opposing quarterback to throw for more than 300 yards since Toledo's Aaron Opelt had 423 yards in last year's season opener, he was sacked five times.
"We did a great job of pressuring him throughout the game and the amount of pressure and hits increased and greatly impacted the game," Purdue coach Danny Hope said.
The Boilermakers rank fourth nationally in sacks. Purdue has registered at least three sacks and eight tackles for loss in all five games.
SERIES HISTORY: Minnesota leads Purdue 33-30-3(last meeting, 2009, 35-20 Minnesota).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Boilermakers continue to run the ball effectively, gaining at least 200 yards in their fourth straight game.
Led by Rob Henry, who became the first Purdue quarterback to lead the team in rushing in three straight games in the modern area, the Boilermakers have churned out positive yardage. Now, they face Minnesota, which has one of the worst run defenses in the nation. The passing game still needs work.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Purdue's defense stepped up its play following the bye week,limiting Northwestern's high-powered offense. The starting linebackers -- Jason Werner, Dwayne Beckford and Joe Holland -- accounted for 31 tackles in helping the Boilermakers slow down rushing attack. Purdue has become of the top units in the nation in sacks and tackles for loss, but being more consistent is the key moving forward.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Minnesota at Purdue, Oct. 16 -- It's Homecoming at Ross-Ade Stadium. The Boilermakers are seeking their first 2-0 start in Big Ten play since 2004. The Golden Gophers have lost five straight after a season-opening victory. Coach Tim Brewster is clearly on the hot seat and needs a victory.
KEYS TO THE GAME: As long as the Boilermakers continue to run the ball effectively, they shouldn't have many problems against Minnesota. The Gophers feature one of the nation's worst run defenses. Meanwhile, Minnesota does run the ball effectively and Purdue's defense will have to show more improvement in this area.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Rob Henry -- His first career start was solid, rushing for 132 yards on 16 carries. The redshirt freshman engineered a game-winning 14-play drive late in the fourth quarter to carry the Boilermakers past Northwestern. However, Henry threw for just 67 yards.
RB Dan Dierking - He benefited from Henry's zone read plays, scoring the winning touchdown against Northwestern on a 7-yard run. Now healthy, Dierking should provide a boost to the offense.
LB Joe Holland -- Made a team-high 12 tackles last week and also contributed on special teams. Will be important trying to slow down Minnesota's run game.
--QB Robert Marve is out for the season after suffering a torn ACL against Toledo.
--WR Keith Smith suffered a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee and is out for the season.
--WR Justin Siller (foot) is expected to miss two to four weeks.
--DT Brandon Taylor saw his first action since Sept. 11 against Western Illinois.
--RB Keith Carlos has moved to No. 2 on the depth chart. He had a career-long 51-yard run last week.
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