WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Darrell Hazell saw a lot of positives in Purdue’s season opener last weekend.
There were two major factors that stood out for the coach: the Boliermakers’ composure and special teams.
“We talk about eliminating stress, and there was no stress on the sideline,” said Hazell, who is in his second year at Purdue. “I thought our coaches did a good job. I thought our players did a good job, especially when the game went back and forth.”
The Boilermakers beat Western Michigan 43-34 on Saturday, winning their home opener for the 11th straight season. They scored more than 30 points for just the second time since Hazell took over.
Special teams helped, too.
“We were able to manufacture, directly or indirectly, over 19 points in our special teams,” Hazell said. “If we can continue to do that, that’s going to bode well for us down the line.”
Paul Griggs kicked field goals of 35, 44 and 51 yards. The 44-yarder gave the Boliermakers a 23-14 lead before Western Michigan scored early in the second half to pull within two.
Next up for Purdue is Central Michigan on Saturday, and the Chippewas’ defense could provide a whole new set of challenges for the Boilermakers.
The Chippewas have an experienced defensive line. Central Michigan trailed Chattanooga 16-0 at halftime of its opener on Thursday, and came back for a 20-16 victory.
Looking for more scoring, Purdue may have to depend on throwing the ball.
“I think we do have to stretch the field probably a little bit more vertically this week, but you know, they’re big inside,” Hazell said. “Their two tackles are very big guys, and so we have to be able to get those guys a little tired before we can stretch the field.”
Sophomore Danny Etling completed 19 of 28 passes for 181 yards in his first win as a starting quarterback. Hazell said the experience the team gained during last year’s 1-11 season is already paying off. Now it’s about making strides for the Boilermakers.
“We have to do a great job of improving today,” Hazell said. “Not tomorrow, not Thursday. Today, on Tuesday, because typically, on Tuesday practice you’re installing a new game plan, the guys are still a little bit beat up, bruised. But we have to be sharp today. We have to come out there with 21 periods and we have to execute at a high level to make sure we’re making huge strides today.”