Darrell Hazell is a stickler for details, and he wants Purdue's players to be the same way. It's why the Boilers' offensive struggles in the first two games must frustrate the first-year coach, even if he keeps a positive attitude both publicly and privately.
Nothing went right for Purdue's offense in its opening loss at Cincinnati, a game in which it ran only 57 plays and had only one drive stretch longer than 40 yards. Communication problems surfaced throughout the contest, as Purdue committed three false starts and a delay of game penalty, never finding a rhythm.
The Boilers largely cleaned up their communication lines last Saturday against Indiana State, committing only four errors according to Hazell, down from 18 the week before. But a new issue surfaced, as Purdue couldn't get the ball in the end zone despite twice having first-and-goal from the Indiana State 1-yard line.
"We've got to do a better job down there of executing," Hazell said. "We had an inside zone play called, and the guard falls off the block one time, and then we missed a back block on a power play. The first one is a walk-in [touchdown] if he stays on the block, and the second one was probably a hit on the goal line and falls in. So we've got to do a better job of executing down in the tight red zone."
Hazell spoke Tuesday about the need for the offense to remain "on schedule," meaning productive first- and second-down gains to set up manageable third-down situations. Purdue is just 8-of-28 on third downs (28.6 percent) through the first two games, but many have been long-yardage situations.
The entire offense must make several gains Saturday night for Purdue to have a chance of upsetting No. 21 Notre Dame at Ross-Ade Stadium. Although Michigan moved the ball well against the Fighting Irish in last week's win, Notre Dame's formidable defensive line, led by 342-pound nose guard Louis Nix III, will challenge a Purdue offensive front that, so far, has underperformed.
"He's chasing the ball 20, 25 yards down the field, and that's uncommon for guys who weigh 350 pounds," Hazell said. "I was really impressed with his effort for a big guy."
Hazell saw better things from Boilers quarterback Rob Henry in Week 2 after a rough outing in the opener. Henry had no turnovers, which pleased Hazell, but missed some open throws to his back side.
"We've still got to see the field better, and we've still got to throw it a little bit better," Hazell said.
The details will determine how far Purdue's offense can go this fall, beginning Saturday night against the Irish.