Darrell Hazell may have lost his job just two weeks into the season.
That may seem a bit dramatic, but it’s true. He was on the hot seat coming into the season, needing a bowl berth at the very least to retain his post in West Lafayette. After Purdue’s 38-20 loss to Cincinnati on Saturday, any chances the Boilermakers had of reaching the postseason took a serious hit.
Purdue started the year with one of the easiest five-game stretches in the B1G. It opened with Eastern Kentucky, Cincinnati and Nevada in the non-conference before traveling to Maryland and Illinois to begin conference play. Everyone thought the Boilermakers had a decent shot to begin the year 5-0, or at least 4-1.
That seems uncertain after Saturday.
It wasn’t just that Purdue lost – it was a six-point underdog to a team that hasn’t won in a B1G stadium in 59 years – it was the way in which the Boilermakers were dominated for most of the afternoon.
Cincinnati held a 31-7 lead in the fourth quarter before a few Boilermaker touchdowns made the final score look somewhat respectable. David Blough threw five interceptions. The Bearcats converted on 13 of their 21 attempts on third down, but were 12 of 14 at one point. They were successful on both of their fourth-down tries.
Yet, somehow, Purdue looked better. That’s where the biggest problem lies.
The Boilermakers, on their own turf, were dominated by an AAC squad that struggled with turnovers a season ago. They didn’t force one takeaway and had trouble getting the Cincinnati offense off the field.
And this is the best Purdue has looked this early in the year in four seasons.
It seems that any argument to keep Hazell around after the 2016 season concludes is unfounded. That became apparent quickly as the Boilermakers were dismantled, again, by a non-Power Five opponent.
A roster full of his own recruits?
It didn’t matter. The five turnovers, 103 rushing yards and the defensive shortcomings showed that the caliber of talent isn’t up to the level it needs to be to win major college football games.
Changes on the coaching staff?
Sure, the play-calling was different. Purdue stretched the field more frequently and wasn’t afraid to introduce new wrinkles on both sides of the ball. But when you score 20 and give up 38, what you’re doing still isn’t working.
The best team he’s had in four years?
That’s not saying much. Even though the Boilermakers looked better than they have in four seasons, it’s important to remember that they have only won seven games, four of those against FCS opponents.
Purdue is 1-1 after two weeks. The Boilers might be right where many folks they believed they’d be at this point. And with a relatively soft schedule still ahead, a 4-1 mark through five games is still a possibility
I’m not buying in, though. Nothing that we saw in Saturday’s loss indicated that Purdue can regularly compete in the B1G. All hopes of a bowl berth may have already evaporated.
After last year’s 2-10 season, the Boilermakers made some significant coaching changes to attempt to get things corrected. There’s still a long way to go.
The Boilermakers still haven’t started a season 2-0. In four years, they still haven’t strung together consecutive wins. Saturday’s game against Cincinnati may have been Hazell’s best opportunity to halt that trend.
Just two games in, Purdue’s bowl hopes took a serious hit. So did Hazell’s chances of staying in West Lafayette.