FORT WAYNE – Purdue coach Darrell Hazell saw many positives to draw from in his team’s 31-24 loss to then-No. 21 Notre Dame on Saturday in West Lafayette.
Chief among them was the attitude his team showed during the fourth-quarter comeback by the Irish.
I felt really good when I went to the defensive side, the defensive bench when they scored on us, Hazell said. It was 17-17. I went to the defensive bench just to give them a little juice. They didn’t need my juice. They had their own juice. They were all fired up. They said, Coach, don’t worry about it. We’ve got it.’ That is a completely different football team than I saw the previous two weeks.
The offense was constantly chattering just the way you want them to be. Let’s do this, let’s do this, let’s do this. They were playing with so much confidence and you could hear it in their voice and see it in their eyes.
Offense praised for poise
Hazell said the offense, in particular fifth-year senior quarterback Rob Henry, showed a lot of poise in the loss. Henry threw three touchdowns and an interception in the fourth quarter.
As you move through the season, the goal is to keep building so you’re at your top in the month of November, and Rob needs to keep taking steps forward, Hazell said. He feels it more than anyone else that he’d like to have that one pick back in the fourth quarter, but he played pretty well.
Henry’s improvement against a good team in a big-time environment bodes well for the offense, which is still trying to establish its identity, Hazell said.
You’d like it to be a physical, downhill offense that creates a lot of deception, he said. We talk about sleight of hand all the time in terms of making the run look like the pass and the pass look like the run. We’re getting closer, but we’re not there. We need to be a much more physical football team running the ball when we have to.
Purdue had 61,127 fans in Ross-Ade Stadium on Saturday, and it was rocking for all four quarters of the matchup against Notre Dame.
The game was a steppingstone for Purdue in the short term, but it also made an impact on this team’s future.
The Boilermakers played host to six of their 2014 commits on official visits for the game against Notre Dame. Two of those players – Carroll safety Drue Tranquill and Simeon (Ill.) offensive tackle Denzel Ward – are still being pursued by, and considering, other programs.
Hazell can’t talk specifics about recruits, but the atmosphere Saturday nailed home how passionate Purdue fans can be and made a big impression on the potential future Boilermakers.
I thought the crowd was absolutely amazing, Hazell said. Our fans came out, they did just what fans should do: They stood on their feet for four quarters, they screamed, they hollered. Our student section was excellent.
And that’s the way that college stadiums are supposed to be.