Purdue may be going through one of the worst seasons in its history, but Ohio State receiver Corey Brown believes the Boilermakers will one day be competitive again in the Big Ten.
He has too much faith in their coach to think otherwise.
Former Ohio State assistant Darrell Hazell is in his first year in West Lafayette, Ind., after spending two years at Kent State. He led the Golden Flashes to an 11-3 record in 2012, their first winning season since 2001. He also guided them to their first bowl trip in 40 years.
He was a receivers coach for the Buckeyes for seven years before that and was instrumental in the development of Brown and others.
“When I see him, I’m going to give him a handshake and a hug,” said the fifth-year senior from Upper Darby, Pa. “He recruited me all through high school. He came to my house. We went out to dinner a couple times with my family. Me and him have a really good relationship.
“He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever been around. He knows his stuff. Obviously, what he did at Kent State was unbelievable. I know it will take a couple years (at Purdue). You can’t turn a program around in one year. But in a couple of years, he’ll be back.”
Hazell and the Boilermakers, though, have sunk lower than a crew of spelunkers this year. They’re ranked last in the Big Ten in scoring (13.1 points per game) and next-to-last in scoring defense (34.4).
They’re the worst rushing outfit in the conference (76.1 yards per game) and are last in total offense (278.6). They have three rushing TDs, and two of them are by their quarterback.
They’re 1-6 overall, and their only win was a 20-14 decision against Indiana State, an FCS team.
OSU coach Urban Meyer was concerned enough about a letdown that he had two of his captains give the team a history lesson Wednesday.
The Boilermakers actually have won two of the last four meetings in the series and three of the last four at home.
“I don’t see, ‘Are you overlooking this team?’ These guys played there two years ago and lost. Last year (a 29-22 overtime win at home), we got hit right in the face,” Meyer said.
“They were every bit as talented. That game was a tie ballgame. I don’t feel there’s an issue we’ve had to deal with this time. There’s respect for their players.”
Oddsmakers have made the Buckeyes 31-point favorites. That’s the biggest spread they’ve had as a road team since being favored by 36.5 at Illinois in 1998. They won that game, 41-0.
Hazell likened the current Buckeyes to the 2006 OSU team that stormed through the regular season unbeaten and was ranked No. 1 before losing in the BCS championship to Florida.
“Ohio State is the measuring stick for everyone else in the Big Ten,” Hazell said. “I felt it when I was there for seven years, and I feel it now that I’m on the other side of the coin. And that makes it exciting to go against them.
“Purdue has played them tough, and I saw that first hand when I was at Ohio State. We’ll get a chance to try and make things tough on them, and that’s a challenge that we’ll embrace. The respect I have for Ohio State, it’s almost immeasurable.”
Picking up the pace: For all the angst about the Buckeye defense, the unit actually ranks in the top 15 nationally in the three major categories. It’s sixth against the rush (95.9 yards per game), 15th in scoring (19.1 points per game) and 14th in total yardage (336.1).
But Meyer has been looking for more, and he was encouraged by what he saw against Penn State last week. Although the Nittany Lions ripped off five first downs on their opening possession, the drive ended when freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg threw an interception in the end zone.
After that, most of their yardage came at garbage time in OSU’s 63-14 win.
Meyer made a point with co-defensive coordinators Luke Fickell and Everett Withers to blitz more rather than sitting back in base defenses.
“I think Ryan Shazier is one of the best blitzers in America, and he doesn’t blitz very much. We had that conversation. I’m an offensive guy, and disruptive defenses are very hard to work against. And I thought Luke and Everett did a very good job mixing in some pressures,” Meyer said.
“We disrupted this quarterback. To let that guy sit back and throw, I don’t know if we would have lost the game, but we certainly wouldn’t have held them to 14 points.”
Leading the way: Carlos Hyde has rushed for 464 yards and seven touchdowns in his last three games, averaging 7.0 yards per carry.
“In my opinion, he’s the best back in the country, and I know everyone around here feels strongly about that,” Corey Brown said. “The way he runs the ball, nobody wants to tackle him in space. He’s a big, 240-pound running back who’s probably the fourth- or fifth-fastest guy on the team.
“He’s a real physical runner who brings a speed aspect to the game. And he’s an every-down back. He can throw us over his shoulder and carry us to victory.”
Ohio State (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) at Purdue (1-6, 0-3), noon, Big Ten Network, 1410