CINCINNATI – Purdue quarterback Rob Henry didn't look like a fifth-year senior when he took the field against Cincinnati on Saturday at Nippert Stadium.
And he knew it.
"I didn't play anywhere close to the way I need to play for us to be successful offensively," said Henry, who was 18-for-35 passing with 161 yards and two interceptions. "I'll just say that I take responsibility for it. This offense isn't easy, and we just have to prepare. We have to be ready, and we have to be certain with our alignments and assignments.
"We have to get out of the huddle. I need to spit the play out better. I'll take responsibility for that."
Henry was his harshest critic throughout preseason, and he didn't stray from those blunt assessments after the 42-7 loss to the Bearcats. Purdue was just 4 for 12 on third-down conversions and averaged 4.6 yards per completion.
The signal caller looked out of place as Cincinnati defenders blanketed his receivers and stormed into the backfield. For a fifth-year player, whose time has finally come after injuries and being way back on the depth chart, it wasn't a promising start.
"This is a phenomenal offense," Henry said. "Coach (John) Shoop and the offensive staff work extremely hard, and I think that's why I'm really disappointed, because I know how hard they work and I know how hard the guys have worked. I didn't play well enough for us to succeed."
Coach Darrell Hazell was less stern in his evaluation. He said he never considered putting in redshirt freshman quarterback Austin Appleby or freshman Danny Etling, who lost the position battle to Henry during the preseason.
"I thought he missed a couple guys, but he stood in there a couple times," Hazell said. "We'll watch the film and make an assessment on Rob."
Run game, communication out of sync for Boilers
The offense couldn't get much going in part because of the passing game, but also because of its running game – or lack thereof.
Purdue managed three yards per rush on 22 total carries and just 65 net yards. The Boilermakers' lone touchdown came on an 8-yard rush by Henry in the second quarter.
"I think it's always important to establish a run game," Hazell said. "Everything comes off of our run game. We need to be able to do that, but we were so out of sync, we couldn't get anything going, which is – like Rob said – very frustrating. Frustrating from his standpoint and probably the rest of the football team."
Sophomore center Robert Kugler was certainly bothered by it.
In the first quarter, Purdue was five yards from the end zone when it was pushed back on a rushing loss, fumbled snap, delay of game penalty and a screen pass that went for a loss. The Boilermakers wound up looking at third and 21, and after that, a 39-yard kick from Paul Griggs went wide left.
The lack of discipline and missed opportunities became a microcosm of the rest of the game for Purdue.
"Just little things happened where we get down, we can't run as much," Kugler said. "We had penalties and some bad plays on us. There was some miscommunication on the offensive line's part."
It threw Hazell and his staff off their schedule for the game. Purdue had planned on 75 to 80 plays over the course of the game, he said.
The Boilermakers ran just 57.
"We had way too many three-and-outs, and that's the reason we couldn't get the personnel in that we wanted to," Hazell said.
Bearcats keep Purdue on the field
Unlike Purdue, Cincinnati didn't have many three-and-outs. It didn't have many failed third-down attempts, either.
The Bearcats were 9 of 15 on third-down conversions and 3 of 4 on fourth-down tries. That led Cincinnati to a 7:36 advantage in possession time over the Boilermakers. It also gave the offense plenty of chances to rack up its 425 yards of total offense and 72 offensive plays.
"It was tough," junior linebacker Sean Robinson said. "The guys up front are working their tails off to get to the quarterback, and then there's a missed tackle or a busted coverage or whatever happens."
That was the story most of the game Saturday. Cincinnati won the possession time battle in three of the four quarters and kept the Purdue defense on the field long enough to fatigue it.
From there, the Bearcats exploited mistakes.
"I felt we missed a couple of tackles, and they were doing a good job of hitting us underneath and making the three or four yards that they needed," Hazell said. "Again, it's hard to say right now, but you have to look at the film to know exactly what happened."
Whatever happened, it happened plenty in the 35-point loss. Some errors were physical, Robinson said. Others were mental. Whichever they were, Purdue will need to correct them before Saturday's noon kick against Indiana State.
"It's definitely deflating, just being out there for extended amount of plays in the heat. You can't let that take away from you on defense. It might have today," junior defensive end Ryan Russell said. "It's definitely deflating as a defense any time the ball is consistently moved on you, but you've got to build three good plays somewhere or four good plays if they go for it. You've got to build those four plays somewhere, and that's what we didn't do today."
Russell was confident, however, that the defensive front will be stronger in Week Two.
"There's no growth like the growth from the first game to the second game in a football season," he said. "We're going to capitalize on that."
Hazell confirmed that senior cornerback Ricardo Allen left the game Saturday with a high ankle sprain, while running back Akeem Hunt suffered from some dehydration early in the contest. … The loss moved Hazell to 0-2 in season openers as a head coach. His last loss came at Kent State, when his Golden Flashes lost 48-7 against then-No. 2 Alabama in 2011. … Purdue became the lowest-scoring opponent in a season opener since Cincinnati held Eastern Kentucky to a 40-7 margin in 2008. … The Bearcats set a program attendance record with 36,007 in paid attendance Saturday. … Cincinnati ran the ball 47 times for 221 net yards and four of its touchdowns. … Freshmen Dalyn Dawkins was Purdue's leading rusher and receiver, with 70 total yards to his credit. … Purdue punter Cody Webster averaged 56.3 yards on three punts, including a 73-yarder that Cincinnati fumbled. The fumble led to the Boilermakers' only touchdown.