PURDUE COACH DARRELL HAZELL
September 17, 2013INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
COACH HAZELL: Well as you take a look at the first quarter of the season, you try to look to see if you're hitting some of those checkpoints, and the offense and defense start to catch up schematically and the players within the scheme start to catch up, I think we're doing a decent job right now playing special teams. I think we're number three in punt in the country, and I think we're number four in kickoff returns, in the mid?30s in the punt return.
You'd always like to be in the top 20s in all four major categories. We have to do a much better job in our coverage; we have not been good there. But I think our guys are starting to understand the level that you need to compete at each play. I think they handled some adversity on Saturday night much better.
While saying that, I still say that we're in the business of winning, and that's the bottom line. Don't ever let that go without saying.
So we need to keep getting better. I think we are getting better, but I think we need to keep getting better. But now that you head into a tough road opponent at Wisconsin, they're coming off of a tough loss against Arizona State and the way they lost it was very tough. But it's going to be a very good challenge for our football team, but we're really looking forward to this challenge on Saturday afternoon.
Q. I know this is a moral victory here, but how important do you think it was for your team's confidence to be able to compete the way that it did and have a really good shot against Notre Dame there at the end?
COACH HAZELL: I think any time you can put yourself in a ballgame where you can see positive things happening, that's good for your program and good for the guys playing the game. Again, we're in the business of winning. What I told the team on Sunday night was as you look through the game film, we are a foot off in a lot of different areas, a physical foot. Which means, knocking down a ball, we're a foot away, catching a ball that's, you know, 12 inches in front of us, we're a foot away. We missed a tackle and kickoff return that brought the ball back to the 40, the guy is a foot away.
So we're physically a foot off in making a lot of plays. I told our football team that we need to find that foot this week. Wherever that foot is, those 12 inches, we've got to go find that foot. Because that is the difference, the physical difference that makes the difference in your world.
Q. I know you can't talk about specific guys or anything like that, but just the atmosphere you had at that Notre Dame game, the crowd, all those things like that has to be a pretty good statement for just the recruiting side of things. How important is that for that aspect?
COACH HAZELL: I thought the crowd was absolutely amazing. Our fans came out and did just what fans should do. They stood on their feet for four quarters. They screamed and hollered. Our student section was excellent. That is the way that college stadiums are supposed to be across the globe. Our fans were the best on Saturday night, and we can't thank them enough.
Q. I guess Rob Henry had a very strong performance. Do you see the sign that's he's now ready to sustain that level and get even better?
COACH HAZELL: Well, that is the goal. Every week we've got to?? as you move through the season, we're a quarter of the way through the season. But as you move through the season, the goal is to keep building so you're at your top in the month of November. Rob Henry needs to keep taking steps forward. I'm sure he feel it's more so than anyone else that he'd like to have that one kickback in the fourth quarter.
But he played he pretty well. He got us in and out of the huddle really fast. I thought he made good decisions with the football throwing it away, but we need for him to continue to get better.
Q. When you're facing a Wisconsin team that basically averages eight yards a carry, what is the key to stopping that kind of rushing attack?
COACH HAZELL: You've got to get a lot of men near the football, which makes you vulnerable in other spots, but you have to make them as one dimensional as you can. You have to be able to stop the power. They run it out of a lot of different formations. They have a big offensive line. I was looking at how big they were yesterday. They're all about 6'6", 6'7", 6'8", 325 pounds, so that presents a little bit of an issue. But you need to get eight, nine hats around the football to eliminate some of those running gaps.
Q. You look at a guy like Gordon who averages 12 yards a carry, what makes him so dangerous?
COACH HAZELL: Well, they like to run the speed sweep with that guy. He's a big back. They put both of those backs in the game at the same time, they ran the speed sweep. He's fast when he gets on the edge, but he breaks so many tackles. So we'll have to get him corralled before he gets rolling.
Q. Last week you're starting the Big Ten season a little earlier than obviously most teams. Do you like starting in September or would you like to get your non?conference out of the way before the conference starts?
COACH HAZELL: You know, I don't really have any decision on when we should start the Big Ten season or not. We're obviously excited about this challenge on Saturday. We'll go out and play like crazy and give ourselves every chance we can to win this football game. It's a big, big game for this program.
Q. I don't know if anybody's asked you about this yet. But the play at the end of the Wisconsin?Arizona State game, what would you tell your quarterback in that scenario?
COACH HAZELL: Well, there are 18 seconds left to go in the game. This is just me. We all go through these different scenarios in our heads, but there are 18 seconds left in the game. The one unknown about the clock is how you unpile. Their objective was to center the ball and spike the ball which is, you know, good in some people's eyes, but that's hard. That's a hard situation because of what Arizona State did. I thought Arizona State did a great job of laying on the football there in that scenario.
But we all see things differently. I'm not saying anyone was wrong or right, but there is a lot of different perspectives on how you should have played that one out at the end.
Q. Now that you've had a couple of days, how would you say the team has responded to this point to the Notre Dame game, and what is the mood around the team as you move forward?
COACH HAZELL: Well, our team knows that they were very disappointed in the outcome on Saturday night, and that's where you want them to be. If your guys are happy because we played better or we played well, something's wrong there. The outcome of the game should determine how you feel, and our guys didn't feel good about the outcome of that football game Saturday night, so we're starting to get it.
But where their heads are, they know that they are a good football team, and they know if they can find that one foot in their play, each play each individual, they've got a chance to be successful at the end of the year.
I always talked about don't measure. We're in the first leg of a race. This is a four?leg race. We're in the first leg of a race. Evaluate the race at the end.
Q. Last thing from me. You had some concerns in the Indiana State game about the offensive line. Not making some plays, holding up some blocks, can you assess the offensive line play against Notre Dame?
COACH HAZELL: Yeah, we played a great defensive front last weekend, and those guys did a good job. The two tackles, graded out winning performances. I thought Kugler played pretty well. The guards hung in there on those 350?pound three technique and the nose. So they played better. Did we play well enough? Obviously not, but we need to continue to play better as we move forward.
Q. You talked about the momentum that you gained. This may seem like an obvious question, but how do you sustain it now going forward?
COACH HAZELL: It's all about preparation. I think what happened was you heard what Carlos said after the game is that they knew the positions to be in on Saturday, and that's huge. If you have a great anticipation of what's coming, that allows you to play freely and make plays. So we've got to keep preparing like crazy Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and keep getting our mind sharper and sharper and sharper.
Q. I would assume it's not about having letdowns at this point. You've now kind of showed and given fans a taste of what this offense can be and this team can be. Is it each team getting better this week?
COACH HAZELL: You have to get better. That is the whole key. You have to have adversity on Saturday, and we've got to be able to handle the environment, handle the atmosphere and overcome those adverse situations on Saturday. That's going to be key in the first quarter of this football game.
Q. Why has your run defense been pretty good the last couple of weeks?
COACH HAZELL: I think it has to do with the play of the defensive backs getting into the front and being that extra linebacker and be the guy that gets the key on the blitz and goes and tackles the ball. I think that's why.
Q. I'm assuming your defensive line is holding up pretty well to allow those guys to come in, and your linebackers too, it seemed like they were going more downhill especially against Notre Dame?
COACH HAZELL: I think we have to get a little more productivity out of our defensive line just watching the film on Saturday. I think we've got to be able to beat more one?on?one blocks with those guys up front.
Q. We've talked quite a bit about Justin Simms. Is he the most complete tight end you have?
COACH HAZELL: Right now?
COACH HAZELL: Absolutely. He's our number one guy. He can block, he can catch, and we have to do a good job as a staff. We've talked about this constantly, not wearing him out. Being able to change personnel groupings so he is fresh in the fourth quarter and we need him the most.
Q. Do you think that that comes then in playing fewer tight ends or do you still want to?? I mean, do you want to put Bade and Carter on the field by themselves or is that more of a forward receiver look like you talked about yesterday?
COACH HAZELL: We'll do both. We'll have a package where we say regular baby, which means the baby is the tight end. Or a package that called flush, which means four wideout sets. So we'll do a lot of the interchanging in terms of personnel so he can get a blow here and there throughout the course of the series.
Q. Obviously, Wisconsin's run game, why has it been productive? Obviously, they have Gordon and White, and I think they have another kid too. But why are they able to set up all of these guys?
COACH HAZELL: I think they get great double teams. They get those big bodies on people, they cover them up and they get good movement. If you can get some movement off the line of scrimmage, then you have a chance to make yards. They're so consistent with it and they're patient with it. I mean, they'll lose a yard and come right back to the same play and pick up four yards. They're very patient in what they're doing.
Q. You've only played one for the road this year. Happened to be last game you had communication issues. Do you feel more comfortable where you're at from the communication standpoint or is there concern because you're going to be in that loud environment again?
COACH HAZELL: I don't feel the same concern I had coming out of the first week. The first week was we just weren't doing a good job with the signal, receiving the signal. This communication issue is about crowd noise. We'll practice that today. You'll see on the practice field today that the offensive practice will be up on the turf field closer to the speakers for that particular reason.
Q. What is the identity of this offense?
COACH HAZELL: Well, you'd like it to be?? it hasn't gotten there yet, but you'd like it to be a physical, downhill offense that creates a lot of deception. We talked about sleight of hand all the time in terms of making the run look like the pass, and the pass look like the run, and we're getting closer, but we're not there. We need to be a much more still physical football team running the ball when we have to.
Q. Does that come with the group of offensive linemen you had now? You played more of King and Rouse this past game than you had the first two games. Are you still maybe experimenting on who your best guards are?
COACH HAZELL: No, not necessarily. But we're going to play those four guards, definitely those four guards because we think they're all capable of playing fours. At any time you can create the depth you need. The issue with me right now is who is that next tackle? We might have to slide Devin outside to see if he can handle that situation in an emergency situation.
Q. The play that Prince came in, he got beat, right?
COACH HAZELL: He did.
Q. On the one play.
COACH HAZELL: He did.
Q. He's obviously been your third tackle at this moment?
COACH HAZELL: He was on that play, yes.
Q. How do you feel about Paul Griggs right now? He made the long field goal but he missed another short one. Are you thinking about changing that approach at all?
COACH HAZELL: Well, he's definitely?? I'm not thinking that way, but he definitely needs to be more consistent and go through his mechanics and not overswing, because we're going to get into the Big Ten schedule, and field goals are critical. We can't afford to miss those chip shot field goals.
Q. You mentioned pit coverage, does Meadows need to kick it into the end zone more often? Is it something that simple?
COACH HAZELL: I wish it were that simple, but that's where the issue starts. The issue starts with the average hang time right now is about 3.5 on the kick, and the ball is only getting to the 10?yard line. You'd like for your coverage team, by the time they catch the ball, to be at the 25 right now. Our coverage team is at the 35. So it's not necessarily the coverage team that is the kick hang time, it's the kick distance that's putting stress on the coverage guys.
Now we miss the tackle on the 18, that tackle we missed, the ball came out to the 37?yard line. You can't miss tackles. That was that one foot that I was talking about.
Q. The job that Taylor Richards has done recently for you, I think just from watching live on Saturday night, it seemed like maybe that was one of the better games in his career?
COACH HAZELL: He was special on Saturday night. He was the one guy on defense that graded out at winning performance. The thing that he's doing right now is playing so comfortable. He's leaning across the field, playing downhill. He's breaking up balls. He's the complete safety for us right now, and he needs to continue to play at that level.
Q. Has it been experience for him, do you think, that's allowed him to take the next step maybe?
COACH HAZELL: There is nothing like experience. You can say well, all you want about this guy, this guy, but once you've actually done it, there is nothing like doing it that second, third or fourth time.
Q. You've got several players that used to play quarterback and Sinz is one. How does that help him at the tight end position?
COACH HAZELL: He's got a great feel for vacancies in coverage and using his body against people and finding that soft seam where he sits down. He's got very soft hands. So he has been a blessing.
Q. Just with the offensive line, you talked about you still need a tackle from a rotation and depth standpoint are you getting as many guys in as you want right now or do you want to get more?
COACH HAZELL: No, I feel like we're in pretty good shape. The only other guy that you look at probably will be Cody Davis. But I think we're going to probably stay with just those two guards on the rotation for right now.
Q. Still a little concerning with a couple bad snaps? You mentioned yesterday about the high snap after you got the turnover, that kind of got guys out of sequence, and you had one down near the goal line in the end.
COACH HAZELL: Yeah, those things crush you. It was first down. We just got the turnover, and he puts one over Rob's head. So all of the blocking schemes are all out of sorts. Now we're in a second and long situation there. If we can get two or three yards on that first down, then we like our chances. But we've got to do a better job.
You see it every week. I just saw one on the NFL last night, the same thing, those things stress you out as a coach, just being able to hit that quarterback and his hands on the short snap.
Q. With what happened at the end of the Wisconsin?Arizona State game, is that a teaching moment for you with the team? Is that something you address or at least go through that situation with them this week if you already haven't in the past?
COACH HAZELL: I haven't talked to the team about it, but we've talked about it as a staff the other day about Arizona, the announcers were saying that should be a penalty on Arizona State or delay of game for sitting on the ball. But they literally thought he did not put his knee down. It happened so fast, the natural reaction was to jump on that football.
Now you're in a situation where you tell your guys, take your time getting off the ball, milk that clock. I think the offensive team got caught up in the moment and didn't realize the clock was running at that point in time.
Q. Are there any disadvantages to playing a conference game in the middle of your non?conference season?
COACH HAZELL: I don't see any disadvantages. You prepare every single week the same way, at least we do, and you're going to have to play them at some point in time. Obviously going up to this place is a hard place to play, but it's a fun place to play.
Q. Just what are your memories at Ohio State of playing in Madison?
COACH HAZELL: Well, we've had some battles up there. We won, I think, in 2009 or 2008, 2009 real late in the game. Then my last chance up there we finished the season 12?1, that was our only loss of the season up there. They got up on us 21?0, and ran the opening kickoff back and then reeled off two more touchdowns, so it's 21?0 and we're fighting upstream the rest of the game and didn't end up catching them.
It's a hard place because it's loud. It's a great atmosphere. I want our guys to really enjoy that, but you've got to be able to handle those situations.
Q. Would you look at their linebackers and maybe what you want Purdue's linebackers to be one day? Is that a template to follow from your standpoint?
COACH HAZELL: No. 44 is spectacular. He might be the best guy in the country. The thing that makes him so good is that he's never off of his feet. I see guys trying to chop him. He's never off his feet, and he plays with such great energy. I don't think we'll see a better linebacker than No. 44 this week.
Q. This Purdue team has suffered its worst losses against Wisconsin in the past five years. How do you motivate your team when they've not found success against the Badgers?
COACH HAZELL: I think it's the same thing every week for us. I haven't been here to say why they've lost in the past or why they've lost by such a great margin. But it's about us believing in ourselves as we go up there and having the confidence in the game plan and then our execution within the game plan to be able to give ourselves a chance to win that football game, period.
Q. When you talk about that one foot that you guys have to find, what does it take? Is it a physical thing, a mental thing, a recognition thing?
COACH HAZELL: I think it's all three. Physically you see that foot. I mean, you see a guy just reaching out and just missing a guy. He's got to take another step. Or the guy is scraping through a gap to a B gap, a defensive linebacker is scraping to a B gap where he misses his gap by a foot, all of those things, some of it is anticipation, some of it is physical, some of it is know your assignment. All of those things. But that foot is so critical for us right now.
Q. When you talk about this team is starting to understand what it takes to compete on every play at the same level, when did you notice that transition? Was it some time during the week? Was it during the game, looking on the tape? When did you start to notice that they got it?
COACH HAZELL: I felt really good when I went to the defensive side, the defensive bench when they scored on us. It was 17?17. I went to the defensive bench just to give them a little juice. They didn't need my juice. They had their own juice. They were all fired up. They said, Coach, don't worry about it. We've got it. That is a completely different football team than I saw the previous two weeks.
The offense was constantly chattering just the way you want them to be. Let's do this, let's do this, let's do this. They were playing with so much confidence and you could hear it in their voice and see it in their eyes.
Q. Did you still see that yesterday when you met with the team?
COACH HAZELL: Yesterday we were off, but I saw that Sunday. They were down, obviously, which they should be. But it was down because they knew they had a chance to win that game and they didn't win it.
Q. The announcers on TV said that after the Cincinnati game you got a text from Drew Brees. Is that correct?
COACH HAZELL: That is accurate.
Q. What did that mean to you to have him text you in that kind of moment after you suffered that kind of loss?
COACH HAZELL: Well, I think you deal with players who have played the game or are playing the game. They've been through all of those things, so they understand. His text was we lost to Toledo in the first week and came back to beat Notre Dame and the rest was history. That's when you say, keep working at it and we're all supporting you. That's more or less what his text was. But I got a couple more this weekend.
It's always good to have that support from people that know the business, and you're appreciative of those people.
Q. Can you say who you got them from?
COACH HAZELL: No, I can't.