Asmussen | Purdue's Brohm harbors no hard feelings toward UI

Asmussen | Purdue's Brohm harbors no hard feelings toward UI

OK, Illinois fans, I understand if you want to boo a bit today when Purdue runs into Memorial Stadium.

It's the closest rival in the Big Ten geographically. The teams are playing for the Cannon, which the Boilermakers currently own.

Other reasons exist on why Purdue should have it, including its recent success in basketball.

But you might want to be kind to the guy leading the Boilermakers on the field. Jeff Brohm used to be on your side. And did a tremendous job for Ron Zook.

The only time Illinois won bowl games in consecutive seasons — ever — Brohm was on the staff.

He joined the Illini in 2010, serving as coordinator Paul Petrino's quarterbacks coach.

Brohm had a strong influence on Nathan Scheelhaase, the school's career leader in total offense.

As a seven-year NFL quarterback, Brohm helped teach Scheelhaase how to play the position at a high level. Brohm had the perfect personality for the position. He wasn't a yeller and screamer. He was calm and cool.

The Illini offense was at its best in the 2010 Texas Bowl. Scheelhaase threw for 240 yards and ran for 53 in a blowout win against Baylor and future Heisman winner Robert Griffin III. Scheelhaase completed all 13 of his passes in the first half.

Brohm returned in '11, again handling the quarterbacks for Petrino. He added duties before the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, with Illinis firing Zook after the regular season and Petrino leaving, too.

Brohm was promoted to offensive coordinator for the game against UCLA. The Illini defense dominated and Brohm gave the Bruins a heavy dose of Scheelhaase, who threw for 139 yards and ran for 110.

As you remember, there was plenty of controversy before the game. Some of the Illinois coaches threatened not to work. It didn't happen and interim head coach Vic Koenning and Brohm led the team to a victory.

Fond memories

Brohm, his wife Jennifer and kids Brady and Brooke enjoyed their time at Illinois. However brief.

"I had a great two years there with Coach Zook and his staff," Brohm said. "We were able to win two bowl games and coach Nathan Scheelhaase, who was a tremendous athlete and great player for us. We had a lot of good players on the team when we were there."

So, no hard feelings.

"It's a great university," Brohm said. "There's a lot of history and tradition. And they're definitely trying to get that back. I'm looking forward to going back. It's a good college town. Hopefully, our players are looking forward to going there as well."

This isn't Brohm's first trip back as a head coach. In 2014, his first season in charge at Western Kentucky, Brohm brought the Hilltoppers to C-U. And left with a 42-34 loss.

He did good work at Western Kentucky, which ultimately led to the call from Purdue.

Mirror image

The 2011 Illini won their first six games, lost six in a row, then won their bowl game.

The 2018 Boilermakers lost their first three games and are looking for their third win in a row today.

Brohm was asked earlier in the week if he sees any similarities between the two teams.

"Every (season) is unique in its own way but sometimes, to be quite honest, you play maybe not the tougher part of your schedule at the beginning and then you hit some tough games at the end," Brohm said. "And I think a little bit of that happened with us at Illinois, and then you lose your confidence, and when that happens, then it's hard to beat anybody."

The 2011 Illini lost to good teams during the skid: Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Purdue went the other way this season, with a difficult start to the season followed by a successful middle stretch.

"I think just the fact that, hey, win or lose, the next week, you've got to work hard to prepare to win the next game and it doesn't matter what happened the week before," Brohm said. "You have to do those things. I think that is what we brought to the table here and that's what we're trying to do each and every week. When you lose, you're definitely hungrier. When you win, you have to find a way to keep that hunger and that desire to get better."

Win today and the Boilermakers are halfway to a return bowl trip.

The remaining schedule is nasty, though, with games left against Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and bitter rival Indiana.

Meaning even if Brohm enjoyed his time in C-U, he'll want to leave today with a much-needed win for his Boilermakers.

Bob Asmussen can be reached at 217-351-5233 or by email at asmussen@news-gazette.com.

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