The power of belief during a bye week changed the course of Darrell Hazell’s first season with Kent State in 2011.
Purdue hopes it can duplicate the same turnaround during Hazell’s first season in West Lafayette.
When Hazell arrived at Kent State in 2011, the team opened the season 1-6 before entering its bye week.
Something changed in the open week as the Golden Flashes rallied for four consecutive victories before finishing 5-7.
Former Kent State defensive tackle Dana Brown Jr. said the rapid turnaround started when players started to listen to Hazell’s message.
After not believing what Hazell had to say at first, Brown said that the players started to “look in the mirror” at 1-6 and begin to realize they wanted to be better.
“Before Coach Hazell came, it was a battle between offense and defense,” Brown said. “We weren’t on the same page; we were fighting amongst each other. It took us a while to get out of that habit.”
Players at Kent State started to pick each other up and become a single unit. Whether it was in the weight room, team meetings or on the field, Brown said the team in a perennially downtrodden program became a brotherhood.
“When we went out to hang out or go get something to eat, we wouldn’t just hang out with the guys,” Brown said. “It was a group of 15 of us, offensively and defensively. In the past, we would just hang out with the defensive players. As we were buying into what (Hazell) was preaching, we came together.”
After falling early and often in 2011, former Flashes quarterback Spencer Keith said the players’ faith was low, as it still didn’t trust Hazell’s coaching staff.
He said improving confidence was crucial when the Flashes reached their bye week.
Keith said Hazell exhibited a level attitude and instilled confidence in the heads of the Golden Flashes. He told the players that they needed to turn turn the season around in order to prepare for the following year.
“Once we got past Northern Illinois (in the following week), we started clicking a little better,” Keith said. “We went into the last couple of games of the season knowing we had to win them all to even get bowl eligible. Once we won one or two (more), we started to get the feeling of winning again.”
The Purdue football team is in a similar situation to Kent State with a 1-4 record entering its bye week. The Boilermakers opened the season with a 42-7 loss at Cincinnati and also fell 41-10 in their Big Ten opener at Wisconsin.
Hazell said the parallels between the two programs in his time as a head coach are something to note. The teams are similar in rushing offense, as Purdue has averaged 87 rushing yards per game and Kent State had 90.2 in 2011. Purdue is giving up 36.6 points per game to the Golden Flashes’ 29.4 in 2011.
“I try not to mention (the similarities), but there are some between the beginning there and the beginning here,” Hazell said. “That allows you to see a little bit of the future, which is nice. As long as our guys continue to work and stay together, we’ll be OK.”