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December 17, 2012
Linebacker Will Lucas ended the season on an upswing, after a middle that saw him lose his job due to uneven performances.
Now, it's hoped that his performance vs. Indiana in the season-finale - Lucas had nine tackles, three for loss, with a forced fumble and a recovery - can carry over into the bowl and his senior season.
"He had a really good game, but he also had a really good week of preparation," interim coach Patrick Higgins said after Monday's practice. "When Will prepares well and his mind is in the right spot, he's a very good football player.
"He had a rough spot in the middle of the season and it showed in its academic work and it showed in his study hall demeanor and it showed on the field and in practice. To me, there's a direct correlation, when you're doing things off the field correctly it's amazing how things on the field fall into place."
Lucas started the first handful of games this season at weakside linebacker, the same as he had all of last year, before losing his job to Sean Robinson. The 5-foot-11, 230-pounder admitted that it was a frustrating time as he struggled to find his place with the Boilermakers.
"I had to take a look in the mirror and get everything re-evaluated," he said.
Lucas admits that he could have handled life away from football better, but didn't share what those were. But he's glad to have recovered at the end of the season.
He said it was a relief that plays were coming his way in the Indiana game, and that he was able to do his part in slowing the Hoosiers.
"I feel confident in my last performance," he said. "I felt like I knew my assignment and had a less more mental mistakes. If I can come out of the game with less mistakes and just doing my job 100 percent of the time, I know I had a good game."
Despite being only a part-time player this season, Lucas still finished with 63 tackles, including 6.5 for loss, with an interception, three forced fumbles and two recoveries. And he'll likely get a chance to win a starting spot back in the spring.
"All you can do is grow," he said, "and keep getting better. I'm optimistic for the upcoming season, but for now I'm focused on the bowl."
Purdue's major prep work for Oklahoma State will wrap up this week, with remaining practices Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and then for two days in West Lafayette following a break for the holiday. Then, the Boilers will have "brush-up" type practices for two days in Dallas before the New Year's Day game.
The Boilers are glad to have finals behind them.
"They came out with the same work ethic today," Higgins said. "The energy was good. They have more time now, so they can come in and study film. They can get ahead in the game plan and things of that nature."
It's that part in the middle that seems to have been the abnormality.
Purdue's starting left guard has recently returned to form, overcoming the lingering effects of a back injury that cost him the second half of the 2011 season. But while he was playing at the beginning of this year, it didn't always look pretty. The 6-foot-6, 302-pound senior looked stiff and immobile at times, but in the last quarter of this season, he's been moving better.
And it's shown in his performances, as Drey has picked up blocks better, both near the line of scrimmage and downfield.
"I've certainly noticed a difference in my game," he said. "I could just tell the difference from my stance. In the first few games, I just looked really stiff in my stance and I didn't really notice it as much at the time, but now looking back on it and seeing how far I've come, this being my senior season, it's crazy how much progress I've made in my senior season. I definitely feel a lot better, and I think the results of my play, my grading out has come as a result of that, too."
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