Hance finds quarterbacking at Purdue a Brees

John R. Carter

Right now Brandon Hance is simply the answer to the trivia question: Who took over as quarterback for Purdue when Drew Brees graduated to the NFL?

As unfair as it sounds, that’s reality for the redshirt freshman – at least until he can prove himself as a solid signal-caller in the Big Ten.

Hance spends his Saturdays fending off pass rushers, and every other day of the week keeping doubters at arm’s length.

In four years with Purdue, the final three as the starter, Brees threw for 11,792 yards and tossed 90 touchdowns – both Big Ten records.

The questions comparing him to arguably the best quarterback in Big Ten history pile up like first downs and points did under a Brees-led offense: “What is it like take over for Drew Brees?” or “Do you feel pressure because you are expected to fill Drew Brees’ shoes?”

While some might object to the constant badgering, Hance takes it in stride.

“I don’t really mind the comparisons too much,” Hance said. “I take it as a compliment, and just try and go out and play my game.”

Two games into his Boilermakers career, Hance has thrown for 369 yards and a pair of touchdowns – a typical day’s work for Brees.

Hance himself will be the first to tell you he’s a long way from being listed in the same category as Brees.

But let’s not forget the major difference between the two: As a freshman, Brees played only sparingly while Hance goes out there every down.

And if a Brees-like career is his goal, there is no better team for Hance to make his mark against than Minnesota. In three games – all victories – against the Gophers, Brees threw for 1,214 yards and 10 scores.

“I hope we can follow in those footsteps,” Hance said. “But at the same time we have to realize we are a different offense and we just have to go out and execute.”

The Gophers also realize Purdue’s offense is different without Brees. In fact, it’s almost a relief to them Brees won’t be calling the shots for a fourth-straight year.

“Whether it’s Drew Brees or Brandon Hance, we still have to come ready and play hard,” Minnesota cornerback Mike Lehan said. “But of course going from a Heisman candidate to a true freshman is going to be some sort of change.”

With a front-row seat for three Brees games, Gophers coach Glen Mason held high praise for the former Boilermaker.

And although Mason said Hance is nowhere near Brees at this time, he does see a promising career in Hance’s future.

“If you asked me if he was executing Purdue’s offense as well as Drew Brees did, I would say no,” Mason said. “But you can see he has a strong arm, he can make the throws they want him to make, and he can take off and run the ball. I think he’s out of the same mold as Drew Brees. He has the same type of abilities.”

The Gophers can only hope those abilities don’t play a factor on Saturday. In Brees’ first game against Minnesota in 1998, he threw for 522 yards and six touchdowns in a 56-21 win.

Said Hance of Brees’ success against the Gophers: “The ideal situation for any quarterback is to be able to go out and throw for 500 yards.”

If Hance can do that, in four years people will be asking, `Who replaced Brandon Hance at quarterback for Purdue?’

 

John R. Carter covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]