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Associated Press
Purdue’s Michael Rouse III returns a deflected pass during the Boilermakers’ spring game Saturday in West Lafayette.

Purdue puts power on display in spring finale

– Purdue coach Darrell Hazell kept his team in its base defense and offense throughout the Boilermakers’ spring game Saturday.

While the team did nothing special schematically, he saw quite a bit of potential for some big things in the fall.

“It’s a good conclusion to four weeks of a lot of hard work by our guys,” the first-year Purdue coach said. “I really like the direction that we’re heading. I think we’re working hard, and I think we’re understanding how to compete.

“I wanted to see us play base defense, base offense and be a physical football team today. I think we accomplished that.”

The Boilermakers ran with pre-selected Black and Gold squads, and after one normal half and a running clock in the second, the Black group won 14-0.

Akeem Hunt ran for 134 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown for the Black team, and first-rotation quarterback Rob Henry went 6 for 9 for 75 yards and a score for the group.

Henry, a fifth-year senior, said he saw plenty of positives out of both groups Saturday. But he also saw room for improvement.

“We didn’t take advantage of some of the opportunities that we had,” said Henry, who has been the first-string quarterback throughout the spring. “We have to be able to finish drives, and that’s one thing that we missed out on, and something we missed out on last Saturday at the scrimmage, as well.”

Hazell kept his team’s formations tight, much in tune with his schemes throughout the season. It allowed for a lot of hitting between the tackles and plenty of physical play.

Often, Purdue put out two running backs or two tight ends, offering a look into the power style of football the Boilermakers hope to employ this fall. The linemen have especially enjoyed that setup.

“I credit it to the hard work on both sides of the ball,” said defensive tackle Michael Rouse III, who played with the Black team. “We really knew what we were doing out there, and we just took advantage with our technique and everything.

“With the help of the linebackers and the secondary, we were able to keep the quarterback to hold the ball, which allowed us to get back there.”

The veterans and young players were all “freshmen to the system” this spring, Henry said, but plenty of progress was made in understanding the concepts Hazell and his staff put in place. One actual freshman – quarterback Danny Etling – said he has learned more about football this spring than at any other point in his life.

“First practice, I wasn’t quite how I am now, and I think the team isn’t quite what they are now,” said Elting, who is in contention for a starting spot. “I got a couple good drives in. It was pretty fun overall.”

Fun, but insightful, Hazell said. This glimpse at the team will go a long way toward helping him shape the depth chart entering the summer, and while he can’t be a part of team-only workouts before camp opens again, he said the baseline is there for further improvement.

It is up to the Boilermakers to continue to push themselves and hammer home the mantras his staff set in place this month.

“Obviously, there’s a lot of work to be done before we open up the season against Cincinnati (on Aug. 31),” Hazell said. “But the mindsets of our guys … I really think we’re starting to understand what it takes to be a better football team.”