Boilermakers enter tilt on heels of 38-17 loss
Brian Hartnett | Thursday, September 11, 2014
Purdue’s two-deep roster may be all set for Saturday’s game against No. 11 Notre Dame, but the team’s quarterback situation is far from settled.
Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell as of Wednesday had not yet announced which of his two sophomore quarterbacks, Danny Etling or Austin Appleby, will start for the Boilermakers (1-1) on Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
“We’re running a couple of reps with both guys [Tuesday] in the ones, and we’ll make a decision here this week,” Hazell said at his Tuesday press conference.
After starting the final seven games of last season, Etling came into this season as the team’s starter. He threw two touchdown passes and finished 19-of-38 passing in Purdue’s season-opening win over Western Michigan, but threw for only 126 yards and tossed two interceptions, one that was returned 57 yards for a touchdown in the Boilermakers’ 38-17 loss to Central Michigan last weekend.
Appleby replaced Etling in the fourth quarter of last weekend’s game and finished the game 7-for-17 passing with 78 yards and one touchdown pass.
Purdue’s two-deep roster currently lists Etling as the No. 1 quarterback, with Appleby behind him.
In Tuesday’s Big Ten Coaches’ Teleconference, Hazell said most of his quarterbacks’ mistakes are related to nerves.
“They’ve got to just relax,” Hazell said of his two sophomore quarterbacks. “They’re putting way too much pressure on themselves, they’re too uptight and really go out there, go through your reads and cut the ball loose. It’s about making more of the game than what it is — I think sometimes we put so much in their heads that when the ball is being snapped, sometimes it slows them down. So, I want to see them relax and play.”
Etling’s play in the season opener was aided by efficient production from Purdue’s duo of senior running backs, Akeem Hunt and Raheem Mostert. Mostert added 147 rushing yards and a touchdown, while Hunt recorded 90 rushing yards and a touchdown in the win over Western Michigan.
Against Central Michigan, however, the duo combined for only 67 rushing yards on 22 carries.
Hazell said Hunt and Mostert will be called upon to produce in Saturday night’s matchup with the Irish (2-0).
“We have to be able to establish the run and … this week, four- and five-yard gains are big plays for us, and we have to be able to stay on schedule,” he said. “Not necessarily those big chunk plays, but we have to be able to shorten the sticks on third down.”
On the other side of the ball, Hazell said the Boilermakers will look to shore up their rush defense, which allowed 155 yards and two touchdowns to Chippewas senior running back Thomas Rawls last Saturday.
“Well, the biggest thing we have to do better … is we have to be able to tackle better,” Hazell said. “We had some unblocked guys that need to make tackles in the hole.”
Hazell put an equal emphasis on minimizing penalties, as the Boilermakers were flagged seven times for a total of 69 yards in last weekend’s loss.
“One of the things I said in the staff meeting [Tuesday] morning is make sure each one of your groups takes it upon themselves that they have no penalties, and we have to keep emphasizing that, because those were some critical penalties,” he said.
Purdue, which went 1-11 last season, will enter Saturday’s game as substantial underdogs, but Hazell said he is more worried about his team’s ability to execute.
“I think we can go win [Saturday’s] game with the mentality that no one expects us to win the football game,” he said. “We have to go out and play extremely hard, and we have to play relaxed and we have to execute. At the end of the play and the end of the day, that’s what it comes down to.”
Saturday’s neutral-site contest will mark the 86th meeting between Notre Dame and Purdue, but this season will also mark the final of 69 consecutive seasons in which the teams have played each other. After Saturday, Notre Dame and Purdue are not scheduled to meet again until 2020.
“Talk about in-state rivalries and two good football programs that have a lot of history and tradition,” Hazell said in Tuesday’s Big Ten Football Coaches’ Teleconference. “So it’s going to be an exciting, exciting environment down in Indianapolis.”