FORT WAYNE – Purdue coach Darrell Hazell refused to shy away from the facts of his team’s 41-10 loss to then-No. 24 Wisconsin last Saturday.
Honestly, we took a little bit of a step back, the first-year coach said of his Boilermakers, who are 1-3 entering a home game against Northern Illinois on Saturday. We have good players, but we still have to get a lot better on all the little things that we need to do to become a good football team.
Those little things include fundamentals Hazell and his staff have tried to preach every week since the start of camp and throughout the early segment of the season.
But for all the instruction and all the positives that have come out of practices and game planning, only one result – a 31-24 loss to then-No. 21 Notre Dame – reflected the growth of Hazell’s program.
The only way you’re going to get out of these situations is to continue to work together and find solutions to some of the problems that you have, Hazell said. Now, we’ve all been here, and if you hang your head, you’ve got no chance of getting out of it.
Team stats tell the story.
Purdue is last in the Big Ten in scoring offense with 15.2 points a game, 13 fewer than No. 11 Minnesota, as it prepares for the heart of conference play.
The Boilermakers’ defense gives up a second-worst 32 points a game.
The Boilermakers are ninth or worse in every major offensive and defensive category save pass defense, where they are seventh.
We’ve got to do a better job as a team at some of the fundamentals, he said. It’s very important for us to have success going into the rest of our schedule.
That starts with NIU, which comes to West Lafayette with a 3-0 record and nine votes in the Associated Press Top-25 poll.
The Huskies could become the first Mid-American Conference team to beat two Big Ten teams in the same season with a win over Purdue. They defeated Iowa 30-27 on Aug. 31.
They feature a dual-threat quarterback in senior Jordan Lynch, who has 1,066 yards of total offense and nine touchdowns this season.
Injuries have hobbled senior cornerback Ricardo Allen, sophomore corner Frankie Williams and sophomore safety Anthony Brown, but all are probable for Saturday’s matchup against the favored Huskies.
You don’t stop him. You slow him down, Hazell said of Lynch. He’s a fierce competitor. You talk about guys that you want in the foxhole with you, he’s the guy you want in the foxhole.
This will be a big test, and a big game, Hazell said. That said, the result isn’t as important as taking a step forward, to get past where the Badgers left the Boilermakers.
We’ve got to get those things fixed up, he said. Any type of progress is huge for our football team right now.
Note: Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Jordan Roos is out for Saturday’s game, Hazell said.