Friday, October 21, 2016 10:01 pm
Huskers await Boilers
JEFF WASHBURN | For The Journal Gazette
WEST LAFAYETTE – David Blough wishes he could have done more.
That’s what Purdue’s sophomore quarterback thought Sunday when he learned that fourth-year coach Darrell Hazell – the man who recruited him out of Carrollton, Texas – had been fired on the heels of a 49-35 homecoming loss to Iowa.
While Blough has tried to focus on the game plan for today’s test at No. 8 Nebraska (6-0, 3-0), it has not been easy. He threw five interceptions in a Sept. 10 loss to Cincinnati and was sacked six times during an Oct. 1 loss at Maryland.
"Any time you lose a high-character man who has been an important part of your life, of course it’s not easy," Blough said of Hazell’s firing after only nine victories in 42 games.
"It is a tough situation, but fortunately, we have a great group of guys. We have to go make the most of it. We have to do everything we can to be successful."
Purdue is 3-3 – 1-2 in the Big Ten – but has been outscored 137-62 in its three defeats.
Even Purdue President Mitch Daniels said he wishes there were more men and women with Hazell’s character in college coaching. Daniels, however, added that athletics also is performance based, and the Boilermakers won only three of 27 Big Ten games with Hazell coaching.
"The reality of it is that you have production on one side, but you have the great character on the other," Blough said. "You wish it would have worked out. It’s not like I didn’t give 110 percent for him. The reality also is that you have to produce, and everyone is held to that standard, coaches and players.
"We have to pull together and make this happen."
Blough said the best way to honor Hazell is to perform at the highest level during the six remaining games, beginning at Nebraska, a team Purdue stunned last season in Ross-Ade Stadium. Interim head coach and wide receivers coach Gerad Parker has told his players they have nothing to lose.
"The goals haven’t changed," Blough said, "Coach Parker has emphasized how special can we make these last six weeks. If you go in and knock off No. 8 Nebraska on the road after you lose your coach, people would start saying, ‘What in the world just went on?’ The reality is that we can do it, and we can fight for it. Guys believe it."
Senior defensive end Evan Panfil has mixed emotions going into a rough stretch of games against improving teams.
After Nebraska, Penn State (4-2, 2-1) comes to West Lafayette for a game on Oct. 29.
"We have the next great guy (Parker) to help us achieve our goals for the rest of the season," Panfil said. "But it’s sad. A lot of guys were sad, but you have to move on."