Purdue, Indiana St. look to rebound in Week 2
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Purdue running back Akeem Hunt moves upfield against Cincinnati in a blowout road loss last Saturday. The Boilermakers managed only 65 yards on 22 carries in the ground game.
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue's Darrell Hazell and Indiana State's Mike Sanford are getting one of the rarest opportunities in coaching — a second chance.
While neither new coach can erase the memories from last weekend's embarrassing blowouts, both now have an opportunity to demonstrate how well they can coach up players. Both have plenty of work to do, and both believe they can get things fixed quickly.
Whoever does the better job making fixes this week will walk away with win No. 1 at his new school.
"Tell them (the fans) that we have a great football team in our locker room and they are going to show it, and I really believe that," Hazell said. "If I didn't believe it, I wouldn't say it. But I really like our football team and the guys that are in our locker room right now."
They just have to start showing it on the field. Here are five things to watch Saturday.
THE SIMPLE THINGS: Hazell believes Purdue can — and will — do a much better job with intangibles that won't show up on a stat sheet. It starts with getting plays in on time and getting the offense to the line of scrimmage early. Hazell made it clear this week that the Boilermakers need to be out of the huddle and at the line with 15 seconds left on the play clock — enough time to see the defense, read it and figure out what to do. He's also wants players to make an attitude adjustment. He did not like the blank stares he saw on the sideline last week.
BROKEN BELL: When Indiana State lost running back Shakir Bell just before halftime last week, the Sycamores had no chance of coming back. This week, they're hopeful he'll be back. Bell was initially diagnosed with a separated right shoulder and doctors feared he may have broken his collarbone. Turns out X-rays were negative on the two-time Walter Payton Award finalist. The news got even better early this week. On Tuesday, the diagnosis was changed to a bruised shoulder and team spokesman Ace Hunt said Bell would travel with the team. Now, he's a game-time decision. If Bell plays, Indiana State's chances improve dramatically. If he doesn't, it could be another long afternoon for Indiana State — and a lost final opportunity for the senior tailback to show the Big Ten schools what they missed.
DO-RUN-RUN: For the Boilermakers to be effective, they have to run the ball. They tried against Cincinnati but managed only 65 yards in 22 carries, an average of less than 3.0 yards. Hazell knows that's not nearly good enough. Part of the explanation was they didn't have much of a chance to run against the Bearcats in the second half of the 42-7 rout. If Purdue can't run effectively against a Football Championship Subdivision foe, who can they run against? Especially as Purdue embarks on a brutal run that includes Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Northern Illinois, Nebraska, Michigan State and Ohio State.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T: It wasn't long ago Indiana State's losing ways made it a laughingstock. After turning the program around the last couple of seasons, the Sycamores must have felt like they were in a time warp during Saturday's disastrous 73-35 at Indiana. This week, the motivated Sycamores will try to show everyone this team is better than people think. The Sycamores deviated from their grind-it-out philosophy by throwing the ball more often. This week, Bell's availability could dictate whether Indiana State takes last week's tack or reverts to the run-first strategy that revived the program. But the defense has even more to prove after allowing Indiana to score on 11 of 20 possessions last week. For Indiana State, it's all about gaining some measure of respect.
IMPERFECT & PERFECT: FCS teams upset a number of Bowl Subdivision teams last week but history is certainly not on the side of the Sycamores, who have not beaten any of the current Big Ten schools in football. Purdue, on the other hand, thrives on these matchups. The Boilermakers are 6-0 against Missouri Valley Football Conference schools and have won all three contests against the Sycamores.
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