INDIANAPOLIS – Darrell Hazell isn't changing course. He can't afford to now.
Rather than dwelling on last weekend's demoralizing loss or Purdue's first six-game losing streak in two decades, Hazell is working overtime to end this ugly tailspin and stabilize a team that appears to be in a free fall. Hazell is not revising his long-term blueprint.
"Obviously you've got to see where you need to make the improvements and you've got to make those improvements, but the structure, the scheme and the vision, that doesn't change," Hazell said Tuesday. "If you start to waver, then you have some issues. We're going to work hard, and we're going to find those solutions to the problems we are having. If we can fix them, we're going to fix them."
Purdue (1-7, 0-4 Big Ten) has endured back-to-back shutouts for the first time in six decades and will try to avoid its first three-shutout streak since November 1941 when Iowa (5-4, 2-3) comes to town Saturday.
Twice this season, the Boilermakers have allowed a Ross-Ade Stadium scoring record for an opponent to be broken (Northern Illinois, 55; Ohio State, 56). The most recent blowout, 56-0 to No. 4 Ohio State, was the most lopsided home loss in school history and only the third time Purdue has ever lost a game by 56. Chicago did it in 1907 and Iowa matched it in 1922 — a school record that hadn't been touched until last weekend.
Purdue also is 121st in scoring (11.5 points per game), a number that ranks ahead of only two Bowl Subdivision schools (Florida International, 11.4; Miami (Ohio), 10.9) — and a virtually unfathomable number for a school known for producing NFL quarterbacks. The Boilermakers are still looking for their first FBS win of the season.
But Hazell insists those bleak story lines don't tell the whole story.
After meeting with the seniors for 45 minutes Sunday, Hazell proclaimed they're still committed to turning things around — a positive attitude that is rubbing off on the underclassmen — and that he has seen improvement on tape.
"We're better," he said when asked to compare where the Boilermakers are now with where they were in the season opener. "We're better than that game. I still think there's a little bit of confidence that we lack, especially when you're playing a good team like Ohio State. When those things happen, you're like, 'Oh, here we go.' But we're better than where we were. Obviously not where we need to be."
Hazell started 1-6 at Kent State before winning 15 of his last 19.
In 27 years on the sideline, Hazell has lost at least eight consecutive games in a season five times — a stretch that even includes back-to-back nine-game skids in 1990 and 1991 at Oberlin for 18 consecutive losses. But the last time he endured anything like this came in 2002 when Rutgers finished the season with nine straight losses.
So he's learned how to deal with tough times.
"You take each year individually and you analyze it and you try to find ways to get better," Hazell said. "You don't look back at your successes, you don't look back at your failures. I think you look forward to see how you can get better."
Hazell has already changed quarterbacks, benching fifth-year senior Rob Henry in favor of true freshman Danny Etling, and made an unusual midseason switch from a 4-3 defensive front to a 3-4. He's plugged true freshmen into the rotations, and on Tuesday, Hazell acknowledged he's not likely to make many more lineup changes.
The schedule won't help much, either.
Iowa can become bowl-eligible with a win at West Lafayette. Purdue then closes out the season at Penn State, where they are 1-6-1 all-time; by hosting Illinois, which has lost 18 straight conference games; and a trip to Indiana, where it will face one of the nation's highest-scoring teams and an archrival that wants coach Kevin Wilson to finally get his hands on the Old Oaken Bucket.
But Hazell isn't changing the plan or the expectations.
"The two things I want to see, and I told our football team this on Sunday, is energy and execution. Energy and execution, that's how I'll measure the progress over our last four games," he said. "We're going to prepare as hard and as well as we have and better in the weeks prior."