WEST LAFAYETTE -- Purdue coach Darrell Hazell needs his team to translate practice performance into game-day execution.
The Boilermakers looked good during their two-week preparation for Nebraska and had the right kind of energy coming into Saturday, the first-year Purdue coach said. But a 44-7 loss Saturday to the Cornhuskers (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) indicates the Boilermakers (1-5, 0-2) are doing something wrong along the way.
"We got to be able to transfer what we do through the course of the week, Monday to Friday, to Saturday," Hazell said. "When the lights come on, you got to perform in those critical situations."
Purdue hasn't been able to do that much, save a near-upset against Notre Dame in Week 3. Hazell said he can't pick out a reason why his team performed so well against the Irish and has been so sloppy in its other matchups.
"I don't think there is one particular thing," he said. "Obviously, we played much better that night than we have here the last couple times, and again, it's one of those situations where you're in the game for a little bit and all of a sudden you look at the scoreboard and you're down 21, or you're down 28 points. And then you're reeling a little bit."
The Boilermakers reeled plenty Saturday, and their lone touchdown came on a 55-yard pass from freshman quarterback Danny Etling to freshman receiver DeAngelo Yancey with 39 seconds left in the game.
Purdue was less than a minute from its first shutout loss since 2010. As it stands, the Boilers have their first 1-5 start since 2009, when Danny Hope first took over in West Lafayette.
With this loss came another dose of the reality that this season has no chance to be anything but a blemish on the Boilermakers, and Hazell, until his staff can build the program.
"We're not in a great spot right now," Hazell said. "That's the reality of it. We don't feel good about it, nor should we, but there's only two ways you can go. I know our football team. They'll work to get out of this hole."
He's said that a lot lately. Whether his team can do it is another thing entirely.
Pressure gets to Etling, Boilers
Freshman quarterback Danny Etling was sacked five times in his first start for the Boilermakers.
Part of that, Etling said, was his fault. The 6-foot-3 quarterback held onto the ball too long at times and scrambled for too long without making a decision.
"It's not good enough yet," said Etling, who was 14 for 35 for 184 yards with an interception and a touchdown. "Obviously, I've got to play better, and I think I'm going to play better. I'm going to learn more from a game like this than I would success, so I'm going to get in there and I'm going to watch it and I'm going to get better."
Sophomore center Robert Kugler and Etling agreed that the Huskers didn't bring anything they hadn't seen on film during prep for Saturday. That troubled Hazell, who expects his team will see similar aggression from future opponents.
"Until he proves, and we prove, that he can handle it, he's going to continue to see it," Hazell said. "When he does get pressured, get rid of the football. Don't put us in second-and-18, second-and-12 situations. We talk about that all the time."
Turnovers, 3rd-down struggles persist
Purdue has two Achilles heels right now, Hazell said.
One is turnovers, which have plagued the Boilermakers all season. The other is its lack of stops on third down.
"An established football team or program can deal with those kinds of issues," he said. "Where we are right now, we're going to struggle in those areas, so we need to do a better job of making sure those things don't occur."
Purdue gave up conversions on 11 of Nebraska's 21 third-down attempts, and the Cornhuskers were 2 for 2 on fourth down tries. The Boilermakers were 3 of 14 on third down and 0 for 3 on fourth down.
That, coupled with two turnovers when the game was in the balance, stripped Purdue of any shot at this game.
"We're not a good enough offense right now to overcome some of those self-inflicted wounds," Hazell said.