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April 13, 2013

Not quite dominant but Black wins spring game






The offensive dominance that members of Purdue's Black team predicted leading into the spring game never really developed.

But one half of Kevin Pamphile's 42-0 prediction was realized: The Black team pitched a shutout.

Behind Akeem Hunt's 134 yards and a touchdown rushing and three forced turnovers, the Black team won 14-0 over the Gold team in Darrell Hazell's first spring game as the Boilermakers' head coach on Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium.

"We were really trying to get those 42 points," Pamphile said, smiling. "We were four touchdowns away and got stopped (once) in the red zone. I'm upset with that. But I'm glad our team got better and the O-line stepped up, even though the Black team doubted our O-line. I'm happy with how we came out."

With the team broken into two squads, there were few 1s vs. 1s matchups and that caused some individual mismatches - some players seized those. But it also made it a bit tough to evaluate real success, though effort and execution could be gauged.

Hazell said he couldn't judge "how far we are" but said he thinks the program is headed in the right direction.

"I thought both sides of the ball with both squads played pretty hard," he said. "We'll take a look at the film and see where we are. Nothing's set in stone. I think there's a long way to go, but I think we'll get there. With the determination that these guys are practicing with, I think one of the goals of being a smart football team at the beginning of the spring, they're starting to understand that."

The first half produced the only real legitimate scoring opportunities with two touchdowns and two field goal attempts, both of which were missed.

The Black team seemed to start strong, using its first drive to move down the field to the Gold team's 4-yard line. It was first-and-goal from there, but then the group stalled.

Rob Henry's pass after rolling right was into the ground, then Raheem Mostert dropped a touchdown on a quick slant and Gabe Holmes dropped a pass that likely would have been just shy of the goal line.

On fourth down, Sam McCartney missed a 21-yard field goal.

It was the only time the Black team was in the red zone and failed to score, but it still stuck with Henry.

"We didn't take advantage of some of the opportunities we had, especially on that first drive there. We should have put it in there and then we ended up missing the field goal, which you can probably blame that on the holder," said Henry, who was the holder. "But we have to be able to finish drives. That's one thing we've missed out on a little bit. Last Saturday as well in the scrimmage, we didn't finish drives the way we're going to need to when we start playing in August and September.

"Coach Hazell always talks about we have to be able to finish. We left some points on the board and I'm sure both teams would say that. We definitely have to improve in that area."

Hazell also has preached the importance of not turning the ball over.

And both offenses struggled on Saturday in that area - though in this setup, Purdue's defenses obviously also get credit for forcing them.

Purdue quarterbacks threw three interceptions - Austin Appleby, Danny Etling and Austin Parker each had one - and the teams combined to lose three fumbles.

One of the Black team's fumbles came on a punt return (Frankie Williams) and another was on offense (Jonathan Curry). The Gold team's fumble was on offense (Appleby).

"One of the key components that leaves no doubt is the player who is hanging onto the football gets the football back to the official. That's one of the things I was taking notes on," Hazell said. "I think there were six situations when we didn't. I wanted to remind the guys that's very important. It may not seem like it.

"Over the course of the season, (keeping the ball is) going to get you an extra two or three wins."

The Black team did respond to one of the Gold team's mistakes with a touchdown, though. After Ryan Russell got a strip sack of Appleby and the Black team recovered, it gave the show to Hunt. He had seven carries on the eight-play drive and capped it with a 15-yard touchdown.

Black scored again on its next possession when Henry connected with Shane Mikesky on an 8-yard TD.

Henry was sharp, completing 6-of-9 passes for 75 yards and that TD. Etling, also on the Black team, was 5-of-7 for 54 yards and an interception.

With only two quarterbacks on the Gold team, Appleby got the bulk of the snaps and was 6-of-18 for 52 yards and an interception.

Though Henry was the first quarterback working with the No. 1 offense all spring, Hazell stopped short of saying Henry exits the spring as the team's No. 1 quarterback when asked directly.

"He's definitely in the battle," Hazell said of Henry. "I love the way he's performed this springtime. We'll battle and we'll make a decision probably two weeks before we open up with Cincinnati. But the spring he's had is very good. I like where he is. I think he's been a tremendous leader for us, but he's throwing it well and he's getting us into the right plays. So I'm very pleased with his progress over the last four weeks."




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