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September 27, 2009

No regrets for Hope

After the timeout he called with 37 seconds to play against Notre Dame on Saturday night became a source of spirited debate - to put it diplomatically - Coach Danny Hope came out Sunday beyond prepared to elaborate on his decision, which he said, "had nothing to do with winning or losing."

After the game, a 24-21 loss in which Notre Dame threw the game-winning touchdown on fourth down from the 2 with 25 seconds left, Hope conceded that he'd look back on the decision and perhaps regret it.

Well, he looked back on it and doesn't regret a thing.

"I want to retract my statement from last night. Last night, I wasn't sure it was the right call, but now that I look (back) at it, I'm sure it was the right call, in spite of what a lot of the experts and the critics think.

"You know, it was second-and-goal and they ran it. I was on the headset with Coach (Gary) Nord and any time you get down there, on first- or second-and-goal inside the 5-yard line, the probability of getting a touchdown is pretty good. ... I don't know what the statistics would say, but it's very significant, the chances that when you get down there, you're going to score.

"If that was going to be the case, we needed to get in a position to get a field goal to go into overtime or a touchdown to win. We couldn't do that if there wasn't any time left on the clock. I was on the headset with Coach Nord and said that if they threw a pass, one of two things would happen, that they might get a touchdown or they might throw an incompletion that would stop the clock. But if they ran the ball and it's not a touchdown, the clock's going to keep running, and I don't want to run out of time.

So I got the official's attention (and said) that if they ran the ball and it wasn't a touchdown, that I wanted to call a timeout as soon as I could to save as much time as I could on the clock. I don't have any reservation about that at all."

Notre Dame was prepared to spike the ball on third down to stop the clock.

Coach Charlie Weis said so after the game and QB Jimmy Clausen could be seen gesturing for such just as Purdue stopped the clock.

"I don't believe that if I would have been in their shoes and I had two plays left ... I don't believe I would have killed the clock," Hope continued. "If I had two chances to score, I don't think I would have given one of them away. Maybe that's something they would do, but I wouldn't. I think we can get lined up and call two plays and have a chance to score on both of them. Having a chance to score two times instead of one time sounds to me like twice the chance to score. I don't believe I would have spiked the ball and killed the clock and given ourselves only one chance to score."

As it turned out, Purdue returned the ensuing kickoff to its own 20. A 12-yard sack on first down more or less ended the comeback bid Hope tried to manage the clock for.

"When we called the timeout, they come out and its third down and they throw an incomplete pass," Hope said. "On fourth down, they complete a pass (for the touchdown) and there's 25 seconds left on the clock. Well, if I hadn't called the timeout, as soon as they tackled the ball-carrier (on the kickoff), how much time would have been left for us to manufacture a drive with? Not (much). Maybe five or six seconds and we had a long way to go.

"With (kicker) Carson Wiggs, if we could have gotten it down past midfield, we'd have had a chance to kick a field goal.

"Looking back, if I had to do it all over again, I'd have done it the exact same way, regardless of what the skeptics, cynics or the great experts we listen to on TV or the radio think."

Penalties costly

Penalties became a problem for Purdue, in every phase of the game, against the Irish, as the Boilermakers were flagged 13 times for 103 yards, uncharacteristic for a team that was penalized just 11 times for 69 yards through the first three games combined.

Maybe the costliest: Probably an unsportsmanlike-conduct call on defensive tackle Mike Neal which came after a third-down stop at the Purdue 30.

The officials, perhaps unaware their microphones were on, originally called Neal for "taunting."

"It was a good call," Hope said. "We wanted to win the game and we're an aggressive football team. The fur was flying and it was the heat of the moment. You have to have better composure than that, but it wasn't a cheap shot or anything like that. It was emotional thing and 20 years ago, the fans would have cheered."

The 15-yard penalty turned fourth-and-six at the Purdue 30 into first-and-10 at the 15 and Notre Dame wound up with a field goal a few plays later.

'Electric atmosphere'

The Notre Dame game did not sell out, but the announced crowd of 59,082 did make for an impressive atmosphere for the nationally televised 8 p.m. kickoff.

"It was really an electric atmosphere," Hope said. "I'm really grateful to the fans who showed up and the great showing from the student body.

"It was more electric than when we went to Oregon and you hear all the great things about their fans and their crowd and their place. Well, I think ours stacks up against anybody."

Youngster fills in on offensive line

Redshirt freshman Rick Schmeig started his first game and played every offensive snap at left guard in the absence of senior Zach Reckman, who was suspended by the Big Ten after a late hit at the end of the Northern Illinois game.

Hope's worry headed into the game wasn't with Schmeig holding up at guard, though, but rather at tackle.

Reckman is also the Boilermakers' third tackle, moving over any time Purdue subs out sophomore Dennis Kelly or senior Zach Jones.

"We lost two of our top seven linemen," Hope said of Reckman.

Had a tackle been injured, Hope said he'd have gone with Peters Drey or Monroe Brooks, both of them also redshirt freshmen.

Hope said Reckman will move back into the starting lineup this week.



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