CINCINNATI -– Seated at the front of a lecture hall turned into a makeshift press conference room, Rob Henry hung his head in disgust.
To Henry’s right, his head coach, Darrell Hazell, tried to explain how his Purdue debut ended in a miserable 42-7 loss to Cincinnati. It all seemed to be eating away at the fifth-year senior quarterback.
When Hazell was asked if he considered benching Henry, who finished the game 18 of 35 for just 161 yards and two interceptions, the head coach answered, “No, not at all.” Still, Henry hung his head.
It was a game built up with great anticipation. For Hazell, it was his introduction as the Boilermakers’ head coach. For Henry, it was his first game as Purdue’s starting quarterback since 2010, his second year on campus. Henry had overcome injuries and earned the right to lead the offense.
It couldn’t have gone any worse.
Henry was wild and sloppy. His throws were consistently off the mark. He struggled to receive the snaps. Twice on fourth-down attempts, his throw ended up in the stands. The entire offense faltered, but the blame game starts with the quarterback. Where was Henry’s disgust after the drubbing?
“Mainly myself,” said Henry after the game.
Somewhere along the three-hour bus ride back to West Lafayette, Henry continued to shoulder the blame—this time making it a bit more public. He tweeted that his performance was “unacceptable” and offered an apology to his fans, friends, family, and just about everybody else imaginable, then he quit Twitter.
But nobody is harder on Rob Henry than Rob Henry. After his dismal showing Saturday’s shellacking, he made that clear. This is a young, rebuilding Boilermaker team. The fifth-year senior is on the field to bring experience and poise to his teammates.
Speaking to the media, Henry admitted that wasn’t easy to do.
“It was frustrating,” Henry said. “Trying to stay positive and trying to stay poised was difficult, especially when you make some of the throws that I did today.”
Henry’s play was weak, but his leadership was lacking—an even greater reason for the Boilermakers’ demise in their opener. It was clear that Henry lost his focus. Never has he made miscues like on Saturday. The calm, collected quarterback brings a trusty arm and reliable feet.
On Saturday, everything snowballed.
This season will be a struggle for the Boilermakers as they work to build for the future. There will be highs, but many more lows. It’s up to Henry to keep his team poised. First, he must keep himself composed.
Any outward frustration from the veteran quarterback will take the team down. It’s his job to be a leader, someone his younger teammates can count on.
For Rob Henry, there’s no time to dwell on Saturday. It’s time to move forward. Purdue needs more from its quarterback.