Purdue added more injury to insult Saturday.
Already depleted on offense, the Boilermakers lost receiver O.J. Ross likely for the season with a shoulder injury in a 44-10 loss at Illinois.
Ross was hurt while returning a kickoff in the first quarter. He walked to the locker room, accompanied by athletic trainers, and returned to the sidelines in the second half wearing warm-up gear. The jacket was zipped, so it was tough to tell what kind of brace Ross was wearing, but his left arm was inside the jacket.
Ross has 11 catches for 149 yards and a TD this season and was one of the team’s most exciting players with his speed and elusiveness.
“O.J. is a great player. We’ve relied on him for the past few weeks especially. It’s a big hit for us,” quarterback Rob Henry said.
But it’s not just Purdue’s offense that is short-handed.
Linebacker Jason Werner, who had 19 consecutive games, didn’t play because of an ankle and Achilles injury, coach Danny Hope said. That meant freshman Will Lucas got his first start.
Freshman Ryan Isaac got his redshirt pulled when he was forced into action because a pair of backup defensive tackles (Kevin Pamphile, Justin Kitchens) didn’t make the trip. Hope said Pamphile likely won’t play again this season after re-breaking a foot.
Safety Albert Evans and cornerback Mike Eargle also missed their second consecutive games because of injuries.
* Despite leading 37-10, Illinois coach Ron Zook kept in his starting quarterback and kept throwing the ball late. Nathan Scheelhaase had a 15-yard touchdown pass with 1:36 remaining.
Hope shook Zook’s hand after the game but locked in with a stare down while the coaches were walking off the field. Hope said after the game that he didn’t say anything to Zook.
“I probably wouldn’t have done that, but I’m not going to cry about it,” Hope said. “It’s their choice, their call. But I wouldn’t have done it and didn’t need to, but it’s his call. He’s the coach. If it makes him feel better about him and his team, then call it and chuck it and run it up. It’s all right.”
Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, who had a sack, didn’t seem bothered by Zook’s decision.
“They can do what they want. They were beating us,” he said. “It’s our job to stop them. If we’re not stopping them, I’d throw the ball, too. I don’t take any offense to that really.”
* Purdue ran six plays with both of its quarterbacks on the field at the same time. Rob Henry and Sean Robinson both lined up at quarterback, running back and in the slot. The Boilermakers gained 35 yards on those plays.
Hope said playing two quarterbacks at the same time has always been part of the “master plan,” though he envisioned it being Robert Marve and Henry. Still, Robinson enjoyed the tweak.
“A lot of the read stuff we do, we kind of know what each other are going to do, so that helps a lot,” Robinson said.