OSIPOFF: Darrell Hazell seeks some ‘validation’ in Purdue debut
By Michael Osipoff 713-2485 or email@example.com August 28, 2013 7:58PM
Updated: September 30, 2013 2:07PM
Even with a season opener, under a new coach, it would be rash to put too much stock in a single game.
But, clearly, Purdue’s first game with Darrell Hazell at the helm has a certain significance.
“Any time you can validate the things that you’re doing as a new staff, that’s good — that’s good for your program, that’s good for your players,” Hazell said. “So I think validation in this football game would be huge.”
Almost nine months after the hire, the Hazell Era begins as the Boilermakers play at Cincinnati on Saturday.
And this season opener — which could help set the tone for the Boilermakers as they embark on what figures to be a grueling schedule — is not the usual gimme. Far from it.
The Bearcats are among the others receiving votes in both the Associated Press and coaches’ top 25 polls. Now in the American Athletic Conference, generally picked second behind Louisville, they won a share of the Big East title last season. They have won at least 10 games in five of the last six seasons.
“They know how to win,” Hazell said. “Obviously, any time you go into someone else’s stadium, it’s going to be a hostile environment. … They play with a lot of passion and lot of energy, and we’ve got to be able to exceed that energy, and be able to overcome some of the adverse things that are going to happen throughout the course of the game.”
Cincinnati has announced the game as a sellout, and a record crowd for Nippert Stadium could be in attendance.
Like the Boilermakers, the Bearcats also have a new coach; their recent success was achieved with current Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly and Butch Jones, who departed to take over at Tennessee after he also had been a candidate for the Purdue job. Enter veteran Tommy Tuberville, who left Texas Tech after having made previous stops at Mississippi and Auburn.
So there is a degree of unpredictability on both sides.
“What I told our team the other night, we don’t know for certain what we’re going to get scheme-wise, offensively, defensively, but it comes down to execution,” Hazell said. “It’s about our execution, regardless of what we call and regardless of what they line up in.”
Earlier this week, Hazell was asked about his nerves heading into his first game as Purdue’s coach.
“I feel pretty good right now, but it’s only Tuesday,” he said. “There’s still a lot of preparation that we need to do; we need to have three great practices this week. But I’m very relaxed, because I think we have a good football team. I think we have a lot of good football players in our locker room, and I think they’re looking and seeing things the same way. I look forward to what our execution level is going to be about on Saturday.
“I’ll be fine, probably until Saturday. Typically, it’s all about what do we need to do? And that probably takes away a little bit of that anxiety. But on Saturday, I’m sure there will be a little bit in all of us — players, coaches — we’ll have a little bit of butterflies in our stomach on Saturday as we get ready to kick it off.”
Obviously, Hazell is no stranger to big games, including having spent seven seasons on Ohio State’s staff. And his first game as a head coach? To open the 2011 season, Kent State traveled to No. 2 Alabama, which went on to win the national championship.
“It (the experience) probably helps me relax a little bit more,” Hazell said. “But I feel like we’ve pretty much dotted all of our Is, and crossed all of our Ts, and by the end of the week, we will have. So I know a little bit more of what to expect now.”