It was announced last Friday, due to a back injury suffered during the week, Purdue offensive coordinator Gary Nord would not be able to coach his team’s game with Iowa the following day.
Wide receivers coach Patrick Higgins was tabbed to call plays in Nord’s stead. Having served as UTEP’s offensive coordinator from 2000-03, Higgins was the natural choice as the only remaining coach with play calling experience.
“I had done it before, and that was a big plus,” Higgins told the Lafayette Journal & Courier. “It’s like riding a bike; you try to get back on.”
The Boilermakers had a productive day offensively, throwing 35 times for 279 yards (8.0 yards per attempt) with two touchdowns and no interceptions and rushing 44 times for 211 yards (4.8 ypc) and a score in a 27-24 win. In fact, Purdue’s 490 yards were the most it has achieved in Big Ten play.
“We were able to get first downs,” Higgins said. “That was the main thing we emphasized before the game and during the game — get a first down. Anytime Iowa had some success, we were able to come back the next series and get a couple of first downs.”
Although the staff looks forward to Nord’s return, the door is still open for Higgins to remain in his play calling role if Nord is not cleared for the Boilermakers’ game at Illinois on Saturday. Saturday was the first game or practice Nord had missed in more than three decades of coaching.
“It’s tough when you put all that time into it,” head coach Danny Hope said. “It’s like a player. The player is out and can’t be part of it. Coach Nord is out and couldn’t be part of it. Tough thing for him emotionally but he was excited about the win.”