WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – In Tuesday’s media luncheon, Darrell Hazell was asked how his debut as Purdue’s leader compares to his first game as head coach.
“When we went down to play Alabama?” Hazell responded with a smile, referring to Kent State’s 48-7 loss to the eventual national champion.
So the challenge was a bit greater for Hazell’s debut as a head coach, but his first game with the Boilermakers is far from a piece of cake.
Purdue opens its season against Cincinnati, another program welcoming in a new head coach in Tommy Tuberville. The stakes will be high as the Boilermakers play in front of a sold-out Nippert Stadium crowd, the largest number of tickets Cincinnati has ever distributed for a home game.
But Hazell has been on much bigger stages in his coaching career. As an assistant with Ohio State, he coached in championship games. As Kent State’s head coach, he brought the Golden Flashes to the MAC Championship.
In his Purdue debut, Hazell anticipates he won’t feel the nerves he did while coaching in Bryant-Denney Stadium.
“I feel much more relaxed, probably by doing it for the first time two years ago,” said Hazell. “It probably helped me relax a little bit more.”
Entering the week of practice, Hazell feels satisfied with his team. But he hopes to see a strong showing of work before Saturday.
The Boilermakers are facing a bit of the unknown, with Cincinnati having yet to name a quarterback and Tuberville’s offense remaining a bit of a mystery. Still, Hazell is confident in his team.
“I feel pretty good right now, but it’s only Tuesday,” Hazell said. “There is still a lot of preparation that we need to do. We need to have three great practices this week. But I’m very pleased because I think we have a good football team. I think we have a lot of good football players in our locker room and I think they’re looking and seeing things the same way.”
Purdue and Cincinnati kickoff at noon, sparing Hazell from a painful, all-day wait in a stuffy hotel room. But as soon the ball is put in the air, Hazell goes under the microscope. He will be judged by wins and losses, not hope and promise.
“I feel like we’ve pretty much dotted all of our I’s and crossed all of our T’s, and by the end of the week, we will have,” Hazell said. “So I know a little bit more of what to expect now.
“I’ll be fine, probably until Saturday.”