- Image 1 of 2
- Image 2 of 2
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The Purdue Boilermakers are searching for answers and trying to find solutions for their struggling offense.
What's so hard? Move the football. Make plays. Put together drives and score touchdowns.
But coming up with the answers isn't as easy as it might seem.
"They are simple, but they're not simple," coach Darrell Hazell said. "I mean, you see the areas (that need) improvement, but we still have to take those steps. We can see that, but you still have to do it. It's a physical component you must overcome."
It's been tough for the Boilers (2-3, 0-1 Big Ten), who are last in the Big Ten in total offense.
Purdue has struggled to get much going. They generated only 56 yards of offense and had four first downs in the second half of a loss to Iowa last weekend.
Now the Boilermakers expect to see major improvements as they look for their first Big Ten win since 2012 this weekend at Illinois (3-2, 0-1). But first, Hazell instructed his team to do some soul searching between games.
"I'm saying, 'Let's look at ourselves and figure out what we can all do better from the head coach down to the last guy on the roster,'" he said. "What are those things that we can improve upon to make ourselves better as a football team?"
He made it clear the Boilers need to be a better third down team, and it's been a point of emphasis all week. Purdue has converted 35 of 84 third downs this season after going just 6 of 17 against the Hawkeyes last week.
That's not Hazell's only concern. He acknowledged Purdue has "too many empty drives" that end too early because of lack of execution, especially when it's needed most.
Some might point the finger at sophomore quarterback Danny Etling, but Hazell is looking for others to step up and make plays, too. That's the next step, Hazell said, and Purdue is already moving players around to make sure it happens.
Hazell wouldn't say if he plans to stick with Etling this week or go with backup Austin Appleby, who has thrown passes in just two games this season.
But Purdue plans to throw more to receiver B.J Knauf, who has caught just seven passes this season, but can be a playmaker. They also plan to include running back Raheem Mostert more.
But through soul searching, Hazell hopes that players' individual improvements will carry over to the bigger picture — strong offensive drives, big plays, and, ultimately, touchdowns.
"They understand," Hazell said. "If you give them factual information and tell them, 'This is where we have to improve,' they get it. It's sincere and that's why you go back to work and you work hard.
"You don't look for excuses, you look for solutions. That's kind of our motto."