FORT WAYNE – Purdue players had a look in their eyes during their 42-7 loss to Cincinnati in Week 1 – and not the look coach Darrell Hazell wants to see.
As the Boilermakers prepare for their matchup against Indiana State at noon Saturday in West Lafayette, Hazell and his staff have emphasized building morale and keeping the team’s eyes off the clock and the scoreboard.
That strategy has helped Purdue get past its poor performance at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, Hazell said.
I thought the morale was very good yesterday, and guys stopping in the office to study more film, Hazell said Tuesday. The guys are very anxious to get back out on the field and prove that they are a much better football team than we showed last Saturday.
The playbook will be dialed back some against the Sycamores, who are coming off a 73-35 beatdown by Indiana. Regardless of that result, Hazell said, ISU is a dangerous team – especially if his team gets down on itself.
One of the messages to the team on Sunday is it doesn’t matter what the scoreboard says or the clock says, the first-year coach said. You’ve just got to play, and everything else will take care of itself. Sometimes, and I’ve seen this before, sometimes you get paralyzed by the scoreboard, and it doesn’t allow you to unlock your potential.
He saw plenty of that against the Bearcats, as a 7-7 game late in the second quarter became a 14-7 Cincinnati advantage at halftime. The Boilermakers turned that small margin into an insurmountable one and didn’t approach the game with the right attitude after the late score, Hazell said.
On the sideline, there were some blank stares when we were down, he said. I said, you can’t worry about those things. It’s a 14-7 game, or it’s a 21-7 game, you can’t worry about those things. You’ve just got to keep fighting and do your assignment for those plays that are coming up. That’s the only thing you can control at that point in time.
The Boilermakers face the Sycamores at the front end of an eight-game stretch that features seven teams either receiving votes or ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. No. 14 Notre Dame, No. 21 Wisconsin and Northern Illinois, with 27 votes in Week 2, are up next.
Although it’s early in the season, a loss against ISU could be a crippling blow.
We can scream and yell and try to excite them as much as we can, but if they don’t have it within themselves to understand the circumstances, then it will be hard, Hazell said. But I think they are going to get it.