Nebraska and coach Mike Riley have earned a nod of understanding from Purdue coach Darrell Hazell, who is 1-17 against Big Ten competition.
Hazell, speaking at his weekly news conference Tuesday, said he’s impressed with the Cornhuskers ahead of Purdue’s meeting with Nebraska Saturday (noon ET, ESPNU) in West Lafayette, Indiana.
Nebraska, 3-5 overall and 1-3 in the Big Ten, has lost five games before November for the third time since 1957. It is in danger of missing a bowl game for the third time since 1969. The Huskers' defeats have come by a total of 13 points.
“Very bizarre year for Nebraska football right now,” Hazell said.
Under Hazell since 2013, the Boilermakers (1-6, 0-3) own three wins over FCS programs and victories over Western Michigan and Illinois.
“You watch their games, all phases … and you shake your head at the last three minutes of about four or five of those football games, where they had a chance to win them and fell short,” Hazell said. “They still have a lot of good players on the field, and they can hurt you. And I’m sure coach [Mike] Riley is pulling his hair out because of some of those losses that they’ve had.”
Hazell labeled the game Saturday as a “big opportunity” for Purdue and Nebraska.
“You know, Coach Riley in his first year there and us in our third year here,” Hazell said. “And the programs are moving in directions. And I think this is a big game for both programs right now, because they’re reeling a little bit, and we obviously need to get a win.”
Hazell is definitely right about one thing: Both programs are moving in directions.
What direction remains unclear.