The bye week furnished Purdue with extra time to prepare for its next opponent. The Boilermakers used the first part of it to fix what’s broken with them.
Purdue comes into Saturday’s game against Nevada (Noon ET, ESPN News) at 1-1 after falling at home to Cincinnati, 38-20, on Sept. 10. The Boilermakers are 7-31 overall (2-22 Big Ten) in coach Darrell Hazell’s three-plus years leading them.
There was plenty to fix.
“I thought it was a good time for us to reflect on where we are after two weeks and the things that we have to improve upon, specifically, just a lot of little things,” Hazell told reporters at his weekly press conference in West Lafayette on Tuesday.
“One of the goals that we talked about is the details in our jobs now, not just doing our jobs but emphasizing how to get to this level. This is how you execute. You get to that level with all those detailed things.”
Much of the improvement must come on the defensive side of the football. The Boilermakers are allowing 31 points per game, last among the Big Ten teams. The 219 rushing yards given up also ranks at the bottom of the league.
Nevada will challenge that aspect of the Boilers’ defense. Wolf Pack running back James Butler, a Chicago product, ranks 14th nationally in yardage on the ground with 347. He also has carried for five touchdowns, tied for eighth nationally.
Notre Dame held Nevada to 99 yards rushing during a 39-10 win Sept. 10 in South Bend. The Wolf Pack rolled up 174 and 352 in wins against Cal Poly and Buffalo, respectively.
“They’re committed to running the football,” Hazell said. “They’ve got a really good back. He’s quick. He’s got really good vision. He makes a lot of people miss in the backfield. He’s a strong runner.”
Hazell also said his team must concern itself with quarterbacks Tyler Stewart and Ty Gangi doing damage with their feet.
“(Stewart) has enough ability to pull it down and run with it to hurt you. So, you have to make sure you have quarterback responsibilities. They bring in a back-up quarterback (Gangi) and he’s an option guy. You have to make sure you’re sound in all your assignments against option football,” Hazell said.
While the Wolf Pack moves the ball well on the ground, it’s doing a poor job of stopping the run. The 284.3 rushing yards they’re yielding ranks 124th among 128 FBS programs.
“Evaluating their personnel and our personnel, I think we have a very good matchup,” Hazell said about his offense against Nevada’s defense. “It will be interesting to see how much they drop the weak-side safety into the box early in the game. Or are they going to rotate strong if we have three receivers to the field? But, yeah, I like where we are.”
Purdue’s offensive line has yet to allow a sack through two games, so establishing the running game could open up passing lanes for quarterback David Blough. The sophomore from Texas could use a game on which to build after tossing six interceptions with three touchdowns the first two weeks.
“I think they’re going a good job in communication. That’s where it starts. When we’re man protecting, they’re doing a good job in their actual techniques, but when we’re team protecting, being able to help each other out, you’ll see guys trying to clear the pile when they’re a free guy up front. I think David has helped those guys. He’s slipped a couple of tackles maybe once or twice last game. That always helps those offensive linemen,” Hazell said.
The Boilermakers open the Big Ten with two road games. The trip starts next Saturday at Maryland and ends a week later in Illinois.