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October 14, 2014

Darrell Hazell

THE MODERATOR:  Welcome to Week 8 of Purdue football.  Thank you for being flexible and altering your schedules to be with us here today.  We'll go ahead and get an opening statement from Coach Hazell and then we'll open it up for questions.
COACH HAZELL:¬† Well, you look at the film from last Saturday‑‑ it's already Tuesday already, but you look at the film from last Saturday, I think our guys played extremely hard.¬† I felt the offense did some nice things to take advantage of Michigan State's defense, a very good defense.
We did some of the things that we thought we were going to be able to do going into the game, being able to exploit some of those flat throws, with the zone reads.
Defensively, obviously we need to play a lot better in some of those premium situations, third‑down‑and‑long, third‑down‑ and‑goal situations.¬† I thought our special teams were pretty good.
Now we're moving on to Minnesota and had our first practice this morning, a little change of schedule, and obviously guys are still a little bit sore and not as fresh as you like them to be, but the body has a way of knowing what day of the week it is and starts to heal itself as we go through the week.
THE MODERATOR:  Okay.  We'll open it up for the phone callers.  Pete, I heard you join us.  Can you hear us?

Q.  Hey, Darrell, I guess when you look at Minnesota, they are not particularly effective on the pass, yet they play so well in this era where the pass is to key.  How do they do it?  I know they got a strong running game and strong defense, still, being able to win it this way with the limited passing attack is kind of unique, isn't it?
COACH HAZELL:¬† They're very patient offensively.¬† I think they do a great job of running the ball and putting two tight ends in the formation, putting another back in the formation.¬† They throw the play‑action passes at you.¬† They throw the naked passes at you, and then they're very content with punting the ball and playing great defense.¬† And I think that's been their formula for winning.
I think they all understand what they're good at and where they're going to make their hay with their football team.  I think they've done a great job of just doing that.

Q.  The fact that all teams when they've played them know they're going to run the ball and they've been effective with Cobb.  What's been the key for their effectiveness in running the ball and what makes Cobb so effective?
COACH HAZELL:  Well, I think the back is a really, really good player.  He's got really good balance, he's got great patience.  He trusts his offensive line.  You see him stay on the hip of the guards a lot of times in the power play.  He trusts that the crease is going to happen even before it happens, and then just stay with it.  They'll hit you for three, they'll hit you for two and then all of a sudden they hit you for 12.  So they're not going to give up on it in no situation.

Q.  When you look at your team coming off Michigan State, the way the offensive line has developed, the way obviously they played against Michigan State, what's been the progress you've seen in that group?
COACH HAZELL:¬† I think our offensive line has continually gotten better each week.¬† They're starting to understand where their help is coming from in terms of the combination blocks, how to get up to the second level.¬† They're playing with better pad level.¬† They're playing more‑‑ I thought they were as physical last week as they've been since we've been here.¬† They really really came off the ball and did a great job with some of those double teams.
But you know, I think one of the areas they continually need to improve upon is our pass pro.  We need to be able to pass pro a little bit better.  But they're running the ball pretty well right now.  Hopefully we can continue to get better.

Q.  And last thing, not only did the offensive line block well, but you got good blocking from your receivers.  I guess, can they sustain that?
COACH HAZELL:¬† They have to.¬† And you're right.¬† They did a great job on the perimeter, and we thought that was part of the key to our success because we knew they were going to throw those flat‑swing throws and bubbles and all those things, but they had to do a good job on those corners and safeties; and they did.
I think there was maybe two or three times where they didn't block the safety when we needed them to block the safety, but other than that, I thought they did a great job.  They have to continue to get better at that and be aggressive, and we'll mix and match personnel out there to be able to do that.
THE MODERATOR:  Anybody else join us on the phone lines?  No.  Okay.  We'll get started here in the room.

Q.  You talk a lot about team chemistry and guys kind of caring about each other.  Why does that matter?
COACH HAZELL:  I think it matters in those tough ball games, that you know that here's the same guy you went out to dinner with last week or here's the guy that you can play the game room Xbox.  Those guys that hang out with each other usually fight for each other just a little bit harder in those tough situations.  I think chemistry is maybe underrated and you can't have enough of it.

Q.  What do you do to foster it, then, as a coaching staff?
COACH HAZELL:  I think one of those things today I told those guys at our meeting this morning, I said, you know what, you got per diem yesterday; you should go out and buy your teammate dinner tonight.  And I believe that.  I think that's all part of trusting each other and hanging out with each other, and anytime you can do that during the course of the season, which is hard during the course of the season, but if you can do it, it'll help your football team.

Q.  You've been on good teams and teams that have struggled a little bit.  Have you seen a correlation on the better teams when guys do seem to kind of buy into that philosophy?
COACH HAZELL:  I think they've bought in.  I think we're young, and I think that plays a major factor in a lot of things, but I feel like, you know, 99 percent of our football team has dove into the water.  And you know, last year we had a couple guys sticking their toe in, and a couple of guys would jump in; but I think they're all in right now, and I think that's why you're seeing the progress that we're seeing at the rate we're seeing it.

Q.  Is it easier for kids who win to have that, that kind of chemistry?  I mean you would think that, you know, just generally, you know, when teams are losing, you can separate teams and have problems in the locker room.  I guess it's kind of the chicken and the egg kind of thing.  Which comes first?
COACH HAZELL:¬† Right.¬† Winning solves a lot of things.¬† It really does.¬† It brings teams together.¬† Obviously makes you‑‑ it shouldn't, but it makes you work a little bit harder.
But it really does.  There's a correlation between wins and a lot of other things, just as losing and so many other things.
But we have the right mindset in our locker room right now.  The guys really believe.  They're starting to trust each other more and more each week, and their work ethic has been phenomenal.

Q.  So do you see a difference from last year to this year in terms of locker room kind of mentality or vibe or whatever?  And what would you attribute that to, then, because you guys are playing better or just because you've been together for a couple of years now?
COACH HAZELL:  I don't think there's any one thing.  I think there's a combination of things.  I think you got a better leading class, with the seniors, and even the juniors.
I think that they've all made a commitment to each other.¬† I think that's part of it, and I think because we are having a little bit‑‑ it's not nearly the amount of success we're going to have or we'd like to have at this point in time, I think that they feed off of that, and they realize that they can have a lot more success even in the weeks to come here.

Q.  Michigan State, I don't know if they blitzed a little bit more in the second half.  They seemed to get more pressure in the second half.  Going forward with Austin now as a young quarterback still, does Minnesota blitz a lot?  Is that something he's going to have to be better prepared to handle?
COACH HAZELL:¬† I think with our receiver situation the way it is, and when you struggle a little bit at the offensive line position, you always gotta anticipate.¬† And I tell our coaches that all the time, you better plan for blitz and man‑to‑man coverage until you can show people that you can beat it.
So that's something we always talk about, and we have to be able to help receivers.  You have to be able to help the offensive line in all those situations to be able to sustain some of those heavy pressures that you're going to get.

Q.  Does Minnesota typically blitz?  What is their defensive practice?
COACH HAZELL:  No, they're not a huge blitzing team, but they are a big man team, so they like to play a lot of coverage, but man coverage.
So they'll‑‑ what we're calling one rat or zero rat, that means that everybody's playing man‑to‑man coverage, but they're not bringing those extra guys on the blitz.¬† They're extra defenders to play the coverage.¬† So that's a big M.O. of Minnesota.

Q.  When you look at this stretch, and obviously it kind of started last week with Langford, just the running backs that you guys are going to see these next couple of weeks.  It's unbelievable their ranking in the country.  Seems an obvious question, but how do you play better against the run?  The combination of things that you have this group of linebackers now that you know you're going to have going forward.  Is it them and the defensive line kind of working together?
COACH HAZELL:¬† It's all of them.¬† Not only those two groups, but it's also the secondary where the secondary's gotta get more and more involved in the running game, and obviously when you do that, you become more susceptible to some of those play‑action passes, but you have to stop the run first.¬† Otherwise it's demoralizing, and teams can run the ball on you.
So we'll have to have all sets of levels, D line, linebackers and secondaries get involved in the running game to be able to stop those guys, and we got some great backs coming up on the schedule.

Q.  Danny Ezechukwu, I guess he just told Kyle he only had like three MAs last week, which I don't know if it's true, but it's pretty remarkable considering it was his first start and a lot of playing time.  What did you like that he did and what does he need to do now going forward?
COACH HAZELL:  You know, sometimes he gets a little bit spastic out there, but I thought he played a very good game for his first time being out there as a starter at linebacker, and we need him to continue to get better and settle down and not run around and chase ghosts and things like that.
I think he's got a bright future.  I really do.  He's a bigger kid, who's very fast and can be very physical, and he plays very relentless.  Sometimes he's out of position, but you know he's going to go as hard as he can.

Q.  I know you're still trying to figure things out maybe with the secondary and cornerback a little bit.  In the second half, especially toward the end of the second half, it looked like Taylor was in there more in the base back against the safety.  How are you looking against not just the cornerbacks, but overall in the secondary for this week?
COACH HAZELL:  We'll set the depth chart in stone here in the next couple of days, but we're trying to figure out what are our best combinations back there.  We needed to play better back there at every single position.  I thought the only guy that really played up to his level was probably Anthony Brown.  The rest of the guys I thought they struggled a little bit.
We needed to make more plays and be in better position to make those plays.  So that's an area of improvement we must get better at.

Q.  Is there any consideration to putting Frankie back at cornerback?
COACH HAZELL:¬† Well, we've talked about that a little bit, but you know, you don't want to thin yourself out at safety either.¬† So we gotta get every‑‑ all those five or six or seven guys, we gotta get those guys all better.¬† That's the bottom line.
And you know, again, you're talking about, other than Antoine Lewis and Landon, the other guys are pretty young that are back there at that position.

Q.  You talked a lot about finishing after the game.  Is that where you're at right now in this program that you feel like we can go out there and compete, and there's not going to be so much variability of play maybe each week, but now we're looking at we gotta finish.  Is that kind of how you're viewing where you're at in this development right now?
COACH HAZELL:  Yeah.  That's the next step that we have to take.  We have to be able to finish football games, and getting close is not the answer.  And it's, again, you look at a couple of things.  You look at a couple plays.  You look at youth.  You look at all those things, but you have to grow up.  I mean you do.  That's all part of being a winning football team.

Q.  Sticking with the secondary, I think you had Da'Wan Hunte working out there today.  How much of a look are you going to try to see him and what he may bring?
COACH HAZELL:  We're going to look at him the next couple of days and see if he can handle some of the things and probably take the pressure off a couple of those other guys and see how he matches up with Antoine Lewis to the field.  We'll play a little bit more field and boundary this weekend.
Maybe into the boundary and Leroy Clark into the boundary.¬† And then you can protect some of those field guys a little bit by the spacing because there's a lot of no‑cover zone to the field a lot of times.¬† So we'll take a look at it the next two days and see where we land.

Q.  Does Minnesota's offense ultimately dictate what you do back there?  I mean they are run heavy.  They're going to throw it a little bit, but they're still run heavy.  Will that dictate at all how you approach the secondary?
COACH HAZELL:  Not necessarily with the corners per se.  I think the corners we're going to find out who's going to do the best job for us, what we're asking them to do.
I think it plays a factor with the safeties now because obviously they're very physical, and we need to be coming downhill and making hits at five yards or less at safeties.
So I think that's important for those guys to understand that, Frankie and Taylor and Landon.

Q.  When you talk about production from your cornerbacks, what are you looking to see?
COACH HAZELL:  I think, one, the first thing, their number one job is obviously to defend the pass as a corner.  And when they have opportunities, which they don't get a whole lot of opportunities as a defensive back playing the pass.  They may get three a game, may get four a game, but you better be pretty productive when you're defending the pass.

Q.¬† Talking about production, are you talking about interceptions or are you talking about‑‑
COACH HAZELL:¬† No, I'm talking about knockdowns or challenging the ball or even a tackle for a five‑yard gain, not letting them spin out and run for 15 yards.¬† That's all part of it.

Q.  I believe in the Michigan State game you didn't use a lot of defensive linemen.  You went with basically your first team group.  I guess the reason for that?  And do you need to get more of those guys involved from a depth standpoint?
COACH HAZELL:  We used five, I believe.  I think we used the starting four in our base package, and I think we used Ryan Watson was the other guy that we used quite a bit.
That's kind of where we are right now.  That's who we feel comfortable with, and then when you go to the nickel package, one of those guys comes out, so gives you Danny E. back to play one of the rush people, but that's probably where we are right now.

Q.  With Danny E., is his development contingent on how much base defense that you're going to play for the next five games or so?
COACH HAZELL:  No, no, not at all.  We gotta play base.  I mean because we're to see two tight end and two back, and we can't play quarter and nickel against all those heavy sets that we're going to see.  You gotta be able to play base defense and be able to match size with size, and that's going to be key for us these next three weeks or so.

Q.  I mean do you feel like your offense has reached the point where it has an identity, or are you still working toward one?
COACH HAZELL:  Well, we talked about that last night, ironically.  We talked about we really feel like we are starting to develop an identity with the offense, who we are, what things that we do well right now and continue to build on those things.  Regardless of who we're playing and what fronts or coverages we're seeing, here's who we are identity wise and here are the things that we're doing well.  So let's keep continuing to build on those things.

Q.  Is it all because of the quarterback change or what else could it be?
COACH HAZELL:¬† Well, it actually happened before the quarterback change, when we started doing all the zone reads when we were pulling and dropping it off in the flats and just trying to keep teams one‑half step behind us and just not fitting the gaps correctly because of all the eye candy that we're giving them.¬† I think that's what helped us and is really starting to develop our identity.

Q.  Minnesota is tied in the BIG TEN with nine interceptions.  What are they doing in the back half there to create those opportunities for themselves?
COACH HAZELL:¬† You know, I don't know how many they got in the‑‑ it was one game they got five turnovers.¬† I can't remember how they got them all, but you know, they're playing a lot of man coverage, and they have a lot of extra help.¬† So you might have a three wideout set playing against man‑to‑man coverage and there might be three extra defenders that are roaming around.¬† That's where they're getting their interceptions.
Where a lot of teams will play man‑to‑man coverage and being pressure, so they're on an island.¬† These guys are not on an island.

Q.¬† Can you kind of break down Minnesota's offense?¬† Obviously they're a run‑first offense.¬† Just what's made their run game so effective?
COACH HAZELL:¬† They have a good offensive line and good tight end.¬† They have a lot of big tight ends that secure the edge, allow the ball to get outside, but they're going to run zone and they're going to run power.¬† And they're going to hope you miss‑fit the gap, and they're going to try to pound you as much as they can, try to wear you down, and as soon as you start to get nosey, they're going to pull it out and throw it over the top of your head.
They love to run post corner routes with the outside guys.¬† That's their kind of go‑to route when they're in trouble.¬† It's third‑and‑long, watch for the outside guys to run PC routes.¬† So we gotta do a good job of covering those.

Q.  From what you see on film, can they throw to win if they have to?
COACH HAZELL:¬† It's all part of their package.¬† If you want to get into a shootout game‑‑ I think they got into a shootout game with TCU, and TCU was throwing it all over the place.¬† That's not what Minnesota is going to do well.¬† Can they throw the ball, yes, off the play actions, but they're not going to drop back and throw it with you.

Q.  What about their defense?  They've been pretty stingy throughout the season in terms of scoring and yards both.  What's made them so effective?
COACH HAZELL:  They play these really wide ends, and they play pretty much like us in terms of a secondary.  They play five defensive backs, two linebackers, most of the time if you put in 11 personnel or 10 personnel.  And they like to funnel everything to the inside.
They got these ends super wide, and they want you to run in between the tight ends at tackles, and they just run through the ball, and their inside linebacker No. 5, he's on his toes before the ball is snapped because he wants to run downhill; and he's really good.  He's a guy that sees the zone, the general step, and he's flying downhill.  So you can't spend a whole lot of times on your double team because he'll run through the gap and make a tackle for loss.

Q.¬† And you already talked about the number of turnovers they've been able to forge this year.¬† You mentioned they play a lot of man‑to‑man, they've got some extra people back there.¬† How big of a concern is that when you're throwing around that there's some loose guys that run in the secondary?
COACH HAZELL:  We gotta be smart of how and where to throw the football.  You gotta to know where the help, the extra rat guys are, and there's some things that they give you in the passing game that you can take advantage of, and we better understand where those things are.

Q.  Would you say this is a physical weekend for you guys?
COACH HAZELL:  Oh, absolutely.  I think this is a big game for us, as all of them are, but this is a huge game, and just, you know, we gotta come up there and play our best football game of the season, and you know, I like our chances.  Obviously they're feeling good about themselves at 5 and 1 and playing good football.  But we'll match up well with them.

Q.¬† You've played Michigan State like you did, Notre Dame and handled Illinois like you did.¬† Do you think it's just a matter of time before you start‑‑ or maybe get a win that you're not supposed to get, Nebraska or Wisconsin?
COACH HAZELL:  Oh, yeah, we'll take each game for what it is, and you prepare as hard as you can, like I said, every week.  And you put your best foot forward, and hopefully we make enough plays at the end of the game and we put them in the right position to be able to make those plays.
And it'll happen.  Definitely it'll happen for us, and it won't be a surprise, to us at least, the guys in our locker room.

Q.  Stacy was asking a little bit about chemistry.  Comparing this year to last year, where would you see the biggest difference in team chemistry this year?
COACH HAZELL:  You know, our guys really enjoy being around each other.  I think that's the biggest thing.  They love hanging out together, and they're laughing and really enjoying each other's company.

Q.  What, if anything, was said to Austin about his throws he made falling down?
COACH HAZELL:¬† Obviously you want to throw that ball away.¬† The first one, we had‑‑ took a huge back‑‑ excuse me, a huge intentional grounding penalty.¬† He got caught off guard because they‑‑ one of our offensive linemen missed the block, so it got on him pretty quickly.¬† He was just needs to try to get that thing out of bounds, or as close to a receiver as he can.¬† The other one, the second one, the Q4 intercept, obviously he's gotta do a better job on that.

Q.  How are you sharing up (indiscernible) for David Cobb in that Minnesota game?
COACH HAZELL:  Again, we'll try and get as many hats in the box as we can to help stop that run, and we won't do a whole lot of blitzing, but we'll get more and more bodies around the football.

Q.  Are you hopeful that B.J. can give you something this weekend and at least make the trip and maybe give it a go?
COACH HAZELL:  You know, I'm hopeful, but I'm not sure it's going to happen.  He's pretty sore.  His shoulder is still pretty sore.  His head is clearing up a little bit.  He had a little bit of concussion symptoms, but he said his head feels pretty good, but he's having trouble right now lifting that shoulder.

Q.  Have you felt a frustration level with him from the ups and downs this season?  He scores a touchdown against Michigan State and then can't get out of a game without the injuries?
COACH HAZELL:  Yeah, unfortunate for him and for us that he has not been able to stay on the field consistently.  He's a good player.  He plays so hard.  He throws his body around, and you know, he's an impact player.  He really is.  And we need to get him to stay healthy for some consecutive weeks.

Q.  Now that you've had a chance to watch Austin on film the last two weeks, just talk about his progression at the quarterback position and how comfortable he's getting back there.
COACH HAZELL:  I think he's pretty calm.  That's the one thing that you like about him.  He understands what we're trying to do, and doesn't always do it perfectly, but you know he knows exactly what to do.
And I think a lot of guys are feeding off of Austin right now, not only offense, but both sides of the ball, and I think that's why there's so much confidence.¬† You know, when we get down two touchdowns or three touchdowns, I think we still feel like there's a chance that we can do some things and come back, especially when you got a one‑hit wonder or one‑play wonder like Akeem who can take a simple zone play and take it the distance.¬† When you have those types of players, it always gives you a little bit more boost on the sidelines.

Q.  Talk about the confidence level of this team going on the road to Minnesota now that you have that first road BIG TEN win and just that giving them a little extra boost.
COACH HAZELL:  Yeah.  I think us going on the road again, I think that's good for us, our concentration level.  I think we really get narrowed in when we take the road.  It's a small group of guys.  It's not like you have 107 guys that are in your locker room.  There are 70 guys that are on the travel roster and these guys get really locked in and really concentrate on the things that we have to do.  We'll do our normal special teams reminders midfield and you can almost sense it in their eyes that, okay, this is something special.

Q.  And then Danny Anthrop, how did he grade out this week, and obviously the nine catches and had a pretty big game.
COACH HAZELL:  I think he graded out at 92 or 93 percent, which is a winning performance.  But he is a guy that's been very consistent for us throughout the entire year, and he's the other guy that plays so hard and gives you so much energy and lift on the sideline and you know he's going to make plays.  He's been a blessing.  He really has for us this year.

Q.¬† Are you hoping eventually you're going to hit that home‑run ball to him?¬† It seems like three weeks now you've had that open and it's just been a little long.
COACH HAZELL:  Yeah.  We call that what we call a sluggle, and each sluggle last weekend, we thought for sure that it would score, and unfortunately it didn't.
But no, we're going to hit that.  At some point in time we're going to hit him over the top and he's going to catch that big touchdown pass he needs to catch.

Q.  The TV broadcast said that you had Sean room with Ja'Whaun before the Michigan State game.  Will you take Sean on this trip to have him still kind of be tied to the hip to Ja'Whaun, to help him out?
COACH HAZELL:  We will.  We talked about it the last two days, and you know, I asked Sean yesterday, would you like to go, because sometimes guys don't want to go.  But Sean said absolutely.
And we will room those two together.¬† And you know, Sean's such a great captain, a great teammate, great person that he helps that guy, and he really has a lot of respect for Ja'Whaun as well.¬† He keeps saying, I can't believe how mature Ja'Whaun is as an 18‑year‑old, as a football player and a person.¬† So he's been really, really good for Ja'Whaun's growth.

Q.  Having him, just the presence of the one game around, I mean did you see a difference in Ja'Whaun, having Sean mentor him like he did?
COACH HAZELL:  Well, it's hard to gauge, but I'm sure Sean had a huge effect on calming him down and just simplifying the game, even a little bit more from a player's perspective, a guy that's done it so often.  So I think that just having Sean around does a lot for him.
THE MODERATOR:  Okay.  Anything else?  Coach, thank you for your time.

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