Purdue coach Darrell Hazell knows his team must find solutions.
The Boilermakers’ defense can’t continue struggling to get off the field on third down. It can’t continue to let opponents run for 4.7 yards per carry, and Purdue certainly can’t afford to have David Blough throw five interceptions.
So after spending the bye week seeking answers, Hazell expects to see some changes Saturday against Nevada.
“You can’t let one game turn into two games of doing those things,” Hazell said.
Blough threw five interceptions two weeks ago in a 38-20 loss to Cincinnati and now faces a Wolf Pack defense ranked No. 8 in the nation. And turnovers are only one issue for the Boilermakers.
Hazell went into the bye week contemplating possible defensive changes. He decided against making any moves even though Purdue (1-1) has allowed a Big Ten-worst 31.0 points per game and allowed opponents to convert a league-worst 56.1 percent of third-down attempts.
And Nevada (2-1) can run the ball.
Junior James Butler already has two 100-yard games this season and freshman Jaxson Kincaide came up one yard short of cracking the 100-yard mark in last week’s win over Buffalo.
“They’re committed to running the football. They got a really good back (Butler). He’s quick, he’s got really good vision, he makes a lot of people miss in the backfield,” Hazell said. “That’s probably what our No. 1 goal is, to stop him.”
Here are some other things to watch Saturday:
POLIAN’S BACK: Nevada coach Brian Polian is making his second trip to the Hoosier State this month. Two weeks ago, his team lost at Notre Dame. This week, the son of the former Indianapolis Colts president and general manager Bill Polian hopes to lead the Wolf Pack to their second win in six tries against a Big Ten foe. Nevada’s first win came 10 years ago at Northwestern.
GETTING HEALTHY: The best news for Purdue may be that a week off gave some key players a chance to heal. Hazell expects running back Markell Jones back after he injured his shoulder two weeks ago. He also listed starting cornerback Da’Wan Hunte and starting defensive end Austin Larkin as probable.
THREE FOR THE SHOW: As if Nevada’s opening stretch hasn’t been tough enough — traveling to Indiana twice in four weeks and Hawaii next week — there is this: Purdue will be the second straight opponent and third this season that has had more than a week to prepare for the game. Buffalo and Purdue both had bye weeks before playing Nevada. Of course, Cal Poly, Nevada’s season-opening opponent had a whole offseason to get ready for the Wolf Pack. Hawaii has a bye this week.
HOLDING ON: So far, the Boilermakers’ offensive line has stood up to the challenge, allowing no sacks through the first two games. The last time that happened came in 2004 against Ball State and Syracuse. But going sack-free again could be imminently more difficult Saturday. Right tackle Matt McCann injured an ankle at practice Tuesday and is unlikely to play, and left tackle Martesse Patterson is dealing with “personal issues” and may not play either.
RED FLAG: One advantage for Purdue could be red-zone success. Nevada’s first three opponents have moved inside the 20-yard line 11 times — and have scored on all 11 possessions.