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September 13, 2006
Purdue banding together; other football notes
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Since the end of last season's forgettable showing, Purdue's football players have talked about improved team chemistry and how much they like each other.
Just talking about it, though, wouldn't suffice for the team's seniors.
"We just wanted to have something visual," senior Uche Nwaneri said.
The result: The yellow bracelets you may see players and coaches wearing. While they may appear from afar to be Lance Armstrong's LIVESTRONG bracelets, they're not.
The rubber bracelets - which are sometimes hidden by equipment on game day or on the practice field - say "brotherhood" on one side and the acronym "P.A.R.T" on the other. That would be P for "positive attitude"; A for "accountability"; R for "respect"; and T for "trust."
The team's seniors conceived their idea in one of their preseason meetings with Coach Joe Tiller, who wears one himself.
"It's the theme of this year's team," Nwaneri said, "and hopefully it will be for every team from here on out at Purdue."
More importantly, though
"It looks pretty cool," receiver Greg Orton said.
But why yellow?
"It's supposed to be gold," Nwaneri said. "It's as close to gold as we could get."
Pick Your Poison
Purdue's kickoff return team is giving opponents an awful difficult decision to make, to say the least.
Certainly, no one's crazy about the idea of kicking the ball to Dorien Bryant, who averaged 23.8 yards per kickoff return last year, with a 95-yard touchdown against Northwestern. He's gotten only two return opportunities thus far, on one of which he inadvertently stepped out of bounds at his own 3.
But fellow return man Kory Sheets isn't looking like a much better option. He's averaging 32.6 yards on five returns.
"It's kind of a slap in the face that they're kicking to me," Sheets said, "but I wouldn't want to kick to Dorien, either. Sooner or later, they'll realize they shouldn't kick it to either of us and it'll be all squib kicks."
Sheets returned a kick 56 yards against Miami (Ohio), setting up a Purdue touchdown. Against Indiana State, he had a 56-yard return.
"They better start kicking the ball out of bounds or something," Bryant joked.
With seven rushing touchdowns in just two games, Sheets has accounted for 42 of Purdue's 98 points thus far.
That point total has tied the sophomore for first nationally along with Boise State's Ian Johnson.
Sheets has also rushed for 188 yards.
"From the outside looking in, you'd probably think I'm happy (with how I'm playing), but from a personal standpoint, I'm not that happy with how I'm playing," Sheets said. "The touchdowns are a good thing, but I'm more focused on the yardage, the blocking and catching the ball."
Sheets threw a tremendous block against Miami (Ohio) Saturday.
On a third-and-nine play in Miami territory, Sheets aligned to block to the left, but a blitzer came barreling at quarterback Curtis Painter from the right side. Sheets covered a four-yard span seemingly in an instant, cutting down the pass-rusher just before he hit Painter, who was then free to hit Dustin Keller for a first down.
"That was appreciated," Painter quipped.
Tiller said that new running backs coach Joel Thomas has Purdue's backs blocking now better than they ever did last season, and Sheets' play might have been an illustration of that.
"We all heard the ooohs and aaaahs when we made that block," Thomas said. "He may not have scored a touchdown, but he saved that drive. The whole team saw it. That's positive reinforcement for pass protecting."
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