Football: Rivalry is ‘more than just a game’ for Purdue’s Darrell Hazell
By Michael Osipoff firstname.lastname@example.org or 713-2485 November 26, 2013 11:14PM
The Big Number
Purdue has averaged 41.3 net yards per punt, third nationally and first in the Big Ten.
Ray Guy Award finalist Cody Webster averages 43.5 yards per punt, 19th nationally and first in the conference.
The Extra Point
Freshman quarterback Danny Etling was expected to be OK after suffering a bruised left (non-throwing) shoulder against Illinois. Freshman wide receiver DeAngelo Yancey (hamstring) was termed probable after missing the game against the Illini. Linebacker Sean Robinson (concussion) was cleared after missing the game against Illinois.
Updated: December 28, 2013 6:39AM
Within two or three weeks of arriving as coach, Darrell Hazell had a clock installed in the football offices to count down the kickoff to Purdue’s annual game against Indiana.
“It’s a constant reminder of how important this game is to our football program. … We want our players to understand that this is more than just a game,” Hazell said on Tuesday.
It didn’t take long for Hazell, a New Jersey native, to understand the importance of the Old Oaken Bucket game, with the latest edition taking place on Saturday as the Boilermakers (1-10, 0-7 Big Ten) travel to play the Hoosiers (4-7, 2-5). He also has been an assistant coach in several such rivalries, including Ohio State-Michigan, West Virginia-Pittsburgh and Army-Navy.
“When you get into these big‑time rivalry games, I told the staff that less is more this week,” said Hazell, who added he has been “constantly reminded” by people from “Day 1” about this game’s significance. “It’s not about all these great schemes that you diagnose. It’s about getting our guys to know exactly what they’re supposed to do, getting them to play as fast and as hard as they possibly can play. … It’s about playing fast, not making mistakes, handling the ebbs and flows of the football game.
“As crazy as it gets, you have to be calm when the game starts. You really try to do a good job with your players of letting them know it’s not a street fight, it’s a football game. … It’s a football game, and you have to execute.”
Still, the Boilermakers have several “special activities” planned for what Hazell called “an exciting week.” Among them, on Tuesday, the team was shown the top 10 plays Purdue has made in the rivalry, and did something with the Bucket; and on Thursday, the seniors will take a run around the practice field, greeted by the underclassmen as they exit for the last time.
“Our guys are ready to go,” Hazell said. “They’re fired up, even after a disappointing loss last week (to Illinois). Our seniors are jacked up to play their last game down in Bloomington.”
The Boilermakers have lost nine straight games since their lone win of the season, against FCS member Indiana State. And the Hoosiers were eliminated from bowl contention with last week’s loss at Ohio State.
“You put everything into it,” Hazell said. “This is their last opportunity to put the Purdue football helmet on. That adds everything to a rivalry. It’s another very emotional game for our guys on the field on Saturday, and we’re going to have to do a good job of controlling our emotions. But this is the last chance, you played football for 15 years, your whole life, and all of a sudden you’re putting your helmet on for the last time, a rivalry against your biggest opponent — watch out. That’s a big, big, big deal.”
Purdue is trying to avoid its first one-win season, and winless conference slate, since 1993 (1-10, 0-8); and to head into the offseason with a sliver of momentum.
“It’s huge,” Hazell said. “It’s a mental health game, potentially. It’s not a die‑or‑not situation. But it’s a game that you have to find a way to play as well as you can possibly play to give yourself a chance to win.”