Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Sports

September 11, 2013

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Boiler head coach: More touchdowns needed

Points have been hard to come by in first two games under new coach Hazell

WEST LAFAYETTE — Darrell Hazell doesn’t have to make this week’s point by breaking down game tape.

He can simply point to the scoreboard.

After combining for 27 points and two offensive touchdowns in Hazell’s first two games as the Purdue coach, the Boilermakers are now looking for a simple, quick fix before facing No. 21 Notre Dame on Saturday.

“Stay on schedule and red zone offense, those are probably the two biggest things right now,” Hazell said Tuesday as he outlined Purdue’s problems. “If we can stay on schedule, that helps your chances on third down. But when we get inside the red zone, we’ve got to score touchdowns. We can’t make field goals; we can’t miss field goals; we’ve got to score touchdowns.”

How tough have things been at Purdue (1-1)?

In two weeks, the offense has accounted for only one more TD than the kickoff return team. On Saturday, the Boilermakers couldn’t even put points on the board after blocking a punt at the Indiana State 27 late in the first half. Instead, the half ended with a 10-second runoff and the ball sitting at the Indiana State 1-yard line.

Scoring points might be the most obvious obstacle, but it’s hardly the only one.

A week ago, Hazell’s big goal was getting the calls to quarterback Rob Henry on time, and simplifying the playbook. Those changes were good enough to give Hazell a 20-14 victory in his home debut, though it was a far tougher struggle than most expected against Indiana State, which gave up 73 points in a Week 1 loss at Indiana.

But the problems go even deeper.

In eight quarters, the Boilermakers (1-1) have had only three offensive plays go for more than 20 yards, the longest being a 29-yard completion to freshman running back Dalyn Dawkins. They have 28 first downs, are averaging a dreadful 2.9 yards per carry, and Henry, a senior, has completed just 55.9 percent of his passes, throwing for 311 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions after reclaiming the starting job.

All of this is taking place at a school that helped make high-scoring games and the spread offense trendy and dubs itself the “Cradle of Quarterbacks.”

“Score more touchdowns, I guess,” right tackle Justin Kitchens joked when he was asked about how to produce more points. “What we can do is get a better feel for things and the play calling and visualize scoring more points, too. Really, we’ve just got to get to our blocks and just dominate and get to the end zone.”

Nobody thought the transition from a wide-open offense to Hazell’s more balanced approach would be easy.

And with Purdue about to embark on one of the nation’s most brutal stretches this season, it’s about to get a lot harder.

After hosting the Fighting Irish (1-1) the Boilermakers go to two-time defending Big Ten champion Wisconsin and then host Heisman Trophy candidate Jordan Lynch and Northern Illinois.

Following the first of two bye weeks, Purdue hosts No. 23 Nebraska, then visits Michigan State and finally ends the run with a home game against No. 4 Ohio State in early November.

Hazell knows that in today’s college football environment, and against that lineup, 13.5 points per game simply won’t cut it.

The good news is that the Boilermakers did see some progress from Week 1 to Week 2, and Notre Dame has been struggling in the red zone, too.

The bad news: Purdue will be playing without starting safety Landon Feichter this week, and perhaps the rest of the season.

Hazell said Feichter had surgery for a broken right leg Tuesday morning and was expected to miss at least six to eight weeks. Hazell acknowledged Purdue may seek a medical redshirt for the junior who started 13 games last season and the first two this year, if he can’t return. Anthony Brown is likely to replace Feichter in the lineup against the Irish.

But if the Boilermakers have any chance of pulling an upset this week — or between now and Nov. 2 — they’ve got to find a way to score more than one offensive touchdown each week.

“That is the goal, and obviously we’re working to do that,” Hazell said. “We’ve got to execute better. That’s really what it comes down to. The guys got to sustain the blocks and we have to do a better job of getting that ball in the end zone.”

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