Bussing back from Purdue's 44-10 loss at Illinois Saturday, offensive coordinator Gary Nord sent freshman Sean Robinson a message.
Robinson had just completed 7-of-20 passes for 52 yards in a one-sided loss, a game Purdue expected to have previous starter Rob Henry for, at least in some capacity. Henry played, but couldn't pass, leaving the QB position in a true freshman's hands.
"I texted (Robinson) on the way back on the bus and said, 'I've been coaching 30 years, and coaching quarterbacks 27 years, and you're the first freshman I've ever played,'" Nord said. "It wasn't by accident, because if you play a freshman at the quarterback spot, you're playing them before they're ready.
"Our intentions going in were to redshirt him, but at this time of the season and where we are, we thought he'd give us our best chance to win last week and we feel like he'll give us our best chance to win this week."
That's been the general assumption this week, that Robinson is most likely to play under center against Wisconsin this weekend, though everything remains subject to change at a position in utter tumult, due to injuries and other circumstances.
Coach Danny Hope called Robinson Purdue's "No. 1 quarterback" earlier in the week.
Henry is recovering from the gruesome finger injury he suffered at Ohio State; wide receiver and emergency QB option Justin Siller isn't yet recovered from a sprained foot.
"He's still a little gimpy and I don't think he's going to be able to get too much (work) this week," Nord said of Siller, who warmed up at Illinois in case of yet another emergency at the position. "They said 4-8 weeks and this will be his fourth week, so he's right on the front end of the window where they expected him back, and he still hasn't done any running. Putting him out there without practicing would be the wrong thing to do I think."
Robinson entered the season, in practical terms, fifth or even sixth on the depth chart at QB. But starter Robert Marve is out with an injured knee; Caleb TerBush is ineligible; and Henry is extremely limited if not out altogether.
Siller and fellow receiver Keith Smith, who also might have moved to QB under these circumstances, are each injured, too.
That pulled Robinson out of redshirt midseason and thrust him onto the field.
His throws were generally inaccurate in Champaign.
"I think the first part of it was nerves and then the second part of it, and this was the toughest part, was that he threw one ball and overthrew it, and then the score was 14-0," Nord said of the one third-and-long throw Robinson attempted in the first quarter. "He ran one play as a quarterback, made one bad throw, and all of a sudden, it was 14-0 and we were going into the wind.
"We deferred (after winning the coin toss) on purpose to try to get the wind at his back and get him some easier throws to settle him down. We knew it would be tough for him going back home, playing for the first time as a freshman. We didn't get a chance to take advantage of the wind. Then when it's 14-0 and they see a freshman quarterback in there, it's like shark bait and they're coming after him. They brought everything they could bring at him. It couldn't have been harder for him than it was Saturday."
At Illinois, Purdue was counting on Henry to be able to be effective in some capacity; this week, it goes in with no such assumptions.
"We thought Rob Henry was going to get three-fourths of (the game plan)," Nord said, "and (Robinson) was going to get a quarter of it. That quarter will definitely double. He'll have twice as much in his game plan this week as he did last week."