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September 15, 2007Kory Sheets summed up Purdue's post-game mood well following the Boilermakers' 45-22 win over Central Michigan Saturday.
"For me, it was bittersweet," Sheets said, "because we lost Jaycen. That's like my brother."
Jaycen, of course, is starting running back Jaycen Taylor, who broke his arm in the first half and is almost certainly lost for the season.
"I don't see him back this year," Coach Joe Tiller said.
The silver lining of this dark, dark cloud is the fact that the season had not yet progressed to the point where Taylor would no longer be able to redshirt. He is eligible to shut down for the season and come back next season, once again as a junior.
But while, he's gone, he will be missed.
Taylor was one of Purdue's steadiest and most valuable offensive players last season - he rushed for 677 yards and caught passes for another 261 - and was one of the team's best special teams players. He unseated Sheets as the starter late in the season and held the position through the off-season.
He'd done nothing to disappoint this year.
He came into the Central Michigan game averaging 6.8 yards on 25 carries, and opened the game against the Chippewas with a 19-yard touchdown run. Taylor was also one of Purdue's first-team kickoff return men.
But Taylor's value goes beyond statistics and depth charts.
"We're going to miss him more for what he brings to the team from an intangible standpoint," Tiller said, noting the former junior college transfer's personality, charisma, unselfishness, etc.
Tiller also lamented the loss of a player who's pushed Sheets to improve.
"It gives someone else a chance to step up and be a player," Tiller said.
That player would be Sheets, who'll go from splitting carries with Taylor to getting the lion's share to himself. It also means an increased role for freshman Dan Dierking, who moved up to second string after starring in garbage time through the first two weeks.
As is often the case with serious injuries, no one spoke of Taylor as if he were gone.
After getting injured and having his arm put in a sling, Taylor returned to the sideline.
"Jaycen's always going to be there," quarterback Curtis Painter said. "His mouth was running (on the sideline) just like everyone else, as if he were playing."
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