New Purdue head football coach Darrell Hazell wore a long sleeve jacket in the sweltering August heat at Nippert Stadium. Maybe Hazell can stand the heat. But his Boilermakers melted in the Cincinnati sun in their season opener against the Bearcats, losing 42-to-7 in a front of a stadium record crowd of 36,007 fans most wearing white for a whiteout promotion.
Fifth year senior quarterback Rob Henry fumbled snaps, threw interceptions and struggled just to get plays off in time.
"We had some problems with communication," said Hazell. "That is where it all started really. I thought we were late getting out of the huddle quite a bit and that rushes you. Then you get guys that are moving around and drop the ball here and there."
"I'm mainly disappointed in myself," said Henry. "We had a lack of communication like coach said. I take full responsibility for that. But we have to prepare harder."
Henry completed 18-of-35 passes for 161 yards and two interceptions. He was only sacked once. But Purdue fumbled five times, losing two. Purdue running back Akeem Hunt lost one of those fumbles and ran for just 21 yards on seven carries.
Meantime, the Purdue defense could not make a stop on 3rd and 4th down. Cincinnati converted 9 of 15 third downs and 3 of 4 fourth downs.
"We were doing decent on first and second down," said Purdue junior defensive end Ryan Russell (6 tackles, 1 sack). "But then on third down they would get just enough to move the sticks. Just being out there for an extended amount of plays in this heat, you can't let that take away from you on defense. It might have today."
Bearcats quarterback Munchie Legaux (appropriately from New Orleans) ran for a 10 yard touchdown to open the scoring in the second quarter and threw a touchdown pass just before halftime to give Cincinnati a 14-7 lead.
Purdue's best play was a 73 yard punt by Cody Webster, which Cincinnati's Anthony McClung muffed. Jesse Schmitt recovered for Purdue and the Boilermakers scored their only touchdown two plays later. Henry's seven yard keeper for a TD tied the game at seven with 3:26 left in the second quarter. But Purdue never scored again.
"It was a rough start for us," admitted Hazell. "We didn't execute phases that we needed to execute and we had some penalties and turnovers that hurt us. We gave up some big plays and we all have things to do, coaches included, to get some of those issues fixed."
Cincinnati's Tommy Tuberville got the victory in a contest between two schools with new coaches. Cincinnati is also part of the new American Athletic Conference. Purdue suffered its first loss to Cincinnati and its first loss to any team that will play in the new conference.
"I think it's very important that we stay the course," said Hazell. "We're not going to flinch. We're going to go back to work and stay tight. We're not going to listen to what people say about us. We're going back to work and we'll get it fixed."
Purdue has plenty to work on before the Boilermakers home opener next Saturday at 12 noon against Indiana State.
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