CINCINNATI – New Purdue coach Darrell Hazell has energized the football program since his hiring in early 2013. However, he was dealt a difficult hand in his first season at Purdue due to the very challenging schedule.
A season-opening game at the University of Cincinnati is not the way most Big Ten teams start non-conference play, but that is exactly the task Hazell was presented with. The Boilermakers were able to hang around in the first half, but eventually wore down in a hot and humid Nippert Stadium, falling to the Bearcats 42-7.
Hazell made the decision two weeks ago to start Rob Henry at quarterback in the season opener. While Henry is not as talented a passer as his fellow Boilermaker quarterbacks Austin Appleby and Danny Etling, he does have much more experienced and separated himself from the QB competition during fall camp.
However, Henry was out of sync for much of the game as the Boilermaker offense looked sloppy and made numerous execution mistakes.
Purdue was trailing 7-0 late in the second quarter when punter Cody Webster fired up the Gold and Black faithful who made the trip down Interstate-74 for the opener. Webster’s punt from the Purdue five-yard line traveled over the head of Anthony McClung. The Pike high school graduate fumbled and the ball bounced around before eventually being recovered by Jesse Schmidt at the UC ten-yard line.
Two plays later, Henry scampered in from six yards out to tie the game at 7 and give Purdue fans reason to think they could pull off the upset. However, the Purdue defense let down just before halftime, giving up a seven-play, 75 yard drive that ended with a 15 yard touchdown pass from Muncie Legaux to Blake Annen with just 17 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
The Boilermakers numerous mistakes in the third quarter preventing any realistic chance at a comeback. After a Cincinnati touchdown on the first drive of the third quarter, Henry overthrew DeAngelo Yancy on the ensuing possession. Adrian Witty intercepted the pass and returned it 41 yards to give the Bearcats a 28-7 lead with 6:42 to play in the third quarter.
For the day, Henry completed just 18 of 35 passes for 161 with two interceptions.
Purdue gets a brief break from its brutal early-season schedule next Saturday when Indiana State visits Ross-Ade Stadium. The Sycamores were defeated 73-35 Thursday night and lost star-running back Shakir Bell with a shoulder injury. Kickoff in West Lafayette is set for Noon.