FORT WAYNE – Purdue responded to its 42-7 season-opening loss to Cincinnati by narrowing its playbook and adjusting the focus of its offense.
The Boilermakers did the same during their bye week, with major overhauls to personnel, and their offensive and the defensive schemes. Purdue went from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense and started freshman quarterback Danny Etling over fifth-year senior Rob Henry.
After a 44-7 drubbing by Nebraska last week, the Boilermakers (1-5, 0-2 Big Ten) are back to the drawing board again.
The things that matter for us right now that are kind of putting us in a pickle are taking care of the football, getting off the field on third down and converting more third downs, first-year coach Darrell Hazell said. We got to punt the ball better, and then we got to find some more plays. We’re not making enough plays on either side of the ball right now. Those are the four things that are really hurting us.
They are simple things that create huge problems for a team like Purdue.
The Boilermakers head to East Lansing to take on Michigan State at noon Saturday. Before then, they will narrow their play packages, work more on perfecting that 3-4 look and try to eliminate some of the mistakes that have popped up despite constant adjustments by the staff.
Purdue had 34 freshmen on its travel roster when the team played Wisconsin, Hazell said, and the Boilers play most of those newcomers.
It leads to mistakes, like an interception of Etling behind Purdue’s 30-yard line Saturday and a fumbled pitch by freshman running back Dalyn Dawkins that led to a Nebraska touchdown on the next play, and a 21-0 Cornhuskers lead.
The freshman just took his eyes off the ball. that’s such a poor turnover. I don’t really have an answer to why that ball’s on the ground, Hazell said. We have to do a good job of getting those guys caught up as fast as we can and making sure that they don’t make those young mistakes and hurt the football team.
For those reasons, Hazell pared down the playbook even more this week. He said Etling and the rest of the unit understand the concepts, but this move will help them focus on perfecting a few of those packages instead of trying to juggle all of it.
It’s more about an execution thing, not only for the quarterback, but for everybody on offense, Hazell said. We have to be able to execute better. We’re seeing a lot more man-to-man coverage on third downs. We’re seeing a lot more blitz. And we have to have answers for those things.