Before I get into adding my own context to these I like to at least let coach have his opening statement.
Real quick, comments on last week's game. Obviously, we didn't play as well as we'd like to play or execute as we like to execute. Hard to get into a rhythm. 4 out of the first 5 series offensively were three and outs. So it's hard to get into a rhythm. Obviously, on defense, we didn't tackle as well as we needed to tackle, and we missed some gap fits, which allowed some big plays against us.
I'm confident that our team will come back extremely hungry and strong this week as we get ready for a good Northwestern team that's playing good football right now.
The reporters came out with a questions that were a bit harsher this week. First off, how does Purdue become more consistent and stop bouncing up and down?
That's the big question, Pete. You play good one quarter, you don't play well another quarter. You play good one week, you don't play well another week. I think a lot still has to do with the maturity of the football team, being able to handle that adverse situation early in football games. I think we still had a little glazed eye look after the first couple of series, and we have to be able to snap out of that, and someone's got to step up and make a play.
I think, if you can get a spark, that will get things to start to roll, but we needed to have a spark on Saturday in some phase of that game early, especially after they went down and scored pretty quickly.
Coaches are trying to get it sparked up from their aspect, but we also need some guys that are on the field between the lines to also provide that. You hear Frankie a lot trying to drum that spark up a lot, but we need -- and Kugler is really good at that as well. But we need more voices to be able to speak up.
But also you've got to make a play. That's part of it. It's not just talking about it or saying something, somebody's got to make a play to get that spark going.
Here's the question everyone has wanted Hazell to be asked. I'll leave it here verbatim.
Q. And in your mind, what are the signs that the program is moving in the right direction?
COACH HAZELL: Well, there's no question in my mind that it's moving in the right direction. The guys are so much better. The things that they're doing, obviously, coming off a loss like that, you don't feel that way sometimes. At least I feel that way, but people on the outside don't feel that way.
They're getting better in so many different things -- the way they prepare, the way they -- most of the time they're competing at the highest of levels. Sometimes they're not, but there's a lot of things that are in place right now that certainly weren't in place last year and definitely not in place two years ago.
I just don't understand this answer. Because it's not an answer. Nowhere in that rambling response did he come anywhere close to anything resembling a correct response.
Why does Purdue seem to play better on the road than at home?
I'm not sure there's any particular reason, if that's an accurate statement. It probably is accurate. A lot of times, when you go on the road, there's 68 guys or 70 guys in our league, much less than 110, and sometimes there's less distractions in terms of getting pictures and seeing parents and people hanging out at the hotel. So that might have something to do with it.
But our focus, no matter where we're playing, should always be the same once we hit the field. We should be as sharp and playing as fast and have as much confidence that we need to have to do a good job.
Here's another great question I'm just going to throw in as is. The press corps appears to be tired of this team as well.
Q. Darrell, kind of piggy-backing off of what he asked you, your Indiana State game, your Michigan State game, and your Nebraska game, solid efforts. You could just kind of see the energy there. And then each time, you followed that with kind of a dud, to say the least. When you see that, as Matt Painter told us two years ago, a coach really shouldn't have to coach effort, but with that team that was struggling, he did. How do you go about coaching -- it's a different sport, but how do you go about coaching effort?
COACH HAZELL: I think we do. Especially at this junction of our program, we're 2 1/2, 2 3/4 years into our tenure here. I think we have to continue to coach effort. That is a good statement that a lot of coaches do make, and I think there's a lot of validity behind that. But for where we are and where we've come from, we have to continue to coach every single aspect of the game, whether it's how to line up quickly, how to run to a gap -- all those things that matter, we still have to coach and we have to coach them hard.
Paraphrasing here but the question is basically, tackling sucks, why is that and how do you fix it?
Yeah, there's been a huge emphasis on it all season long. We'll keep emphasizing it. We're going to tackle, take them to the ground on Tuesdays, and we'll do something to the pad on Wednesdays. But fundamentally on Saturday, I thought, as you watched the film, that we need to again, close the space where we were tackling. When we don't pull the trigger and close the space, it leaves that guy with much more area to negotiate, and we have to be able to close the distance and get him on the ground.
What's going on at the safety position?
We have to be much more physical at that spot right now. I think that's one of the areas that I think we're struggling a little bit with that safety spot. We've got to be better. Robert Gregory, we know he can be physical. He needs to be more physical than the way he's playing right now. You might see a little bit of a change in putting Brandon there first this week, but both of those guys need to play better. They both missed tackles in the open field. We need to get guys on the ground.
Is the lack of consistency a practice issue?
Well, it is. It is. It's a practice issue. It's a confidence issue of understanding what your technique is and being able to execute your technique when you're going against fast guys and all those things. So yes.
Any update on the health of D.J. Knox?
Today will be a big test for D.J. I'm anxious to see him back out there. I think that gives us another weapon that we can use. Markell is playing great, he really is. He's one of the guys that's been consistent throughout the course of the season, but it's always nice to have more weapons available to you. So today will be a big test day for D.J.
How are you going to combat the Northwestern defense that gave up 9 yards on their first four drives last week?
We have a couple things that are a little bit different. Yeah, we do.
Well there you have it. The press is definitely asking tougher questions after the continued implosion of the football team but I'm not sure they are asking the right ones. No one is pressing coach on these wishy washy answers about confidence and execution and how this team has turned the corner. Even if they did i'm not sure what he could say to appease all of us angry fans. He's in a no-win situation (okay it's a two win situation right now but still). Regardless of what he says he's probably going to get torn apart. I sort of feel bad for him...then I remember what he's being paid and I stop myself.