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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Purdue has found what it has been missing the most — intensity.
The Boilermakers learned just how important it is to play with a high intensity level when they stuck with Notre Dame in a 30-14 loss last weekend.
"That has to be the key for our football team," coach Darrell Hazell said. "That's one of the things I mentioned to them right after the game is that, 'You put it out there. The energy, the effort, the intensity, the volume that you played with. All of those things, you have to play with each and every week. It doesn't matter who you're playing.'"
On Saturday, the Boilers (1-2) host Southern Illinois (3-0) in a game they see as an important win. Hazell made it clear: There has to be a high level of intensity.
Hazell caught a glimpse into how hard a team can play Saturday night in a prime-time game with Notre Dame, and, for the most part, he liked what he saw.
Even running back Raheem Mostert saw what the Boilers are capable of.
"Last week against Notre Dame was really an eye-opener for a lot of us," he said. "We know the potential that we have going into this game (against Southern Illinois). This game is very important for us to win. You have to win these non-conference games. The intensity level is right where we need it."
And, if nothing else, a win this week could show this isn't the same Purdue squad as last season.
In fact, Hazell says it's not the same team. There are different players and new players taking on leadership roles. Hazell said Purdue has a better work ethic this year, a better attitude, and there is more attention to detail — big factors that go into playing at a high extremity.
There is some hope that things won't go downhill like last season.
The Boilermakers played Notre Dame at a high level a year ago, too. They led most of the way until the Irish made a late run to win it. Then Purdue lost nine straight games to end the year.
There are lessons to be learned from a season that ended like that, and Hazell took note.
"Stay the course and continue to work through the issues that you have," he said. "Understand in the process that there's going to be sidesteps, maybe even backward steps. But you have the vision of where you want to be when you get the things righted."
Aside from last year, Purdue actually made a habit of responding with a win after losing to Notre Dame in close games. They won at least one game following a loss to the Irish from 2010-12. That kind of history, however, is nowhere on Hazell's radar. The second-year head coach is looking forward.
"The big thing is that you have to improve," Hazell said. "That's the biggest thing as a football team is that you have to improve from week to week and each week presents a different challenge."
Southern Illinois hasn't lost a game this season, and the Boilers expect to see different things from the Salukis defensively. With some energy and some potency, Purdue could earn another win before it opens the Big Ten season against Iowa on Sept. 27.
"We feel if we get that win before the conference game," Mostert said, "that will boost us up going into the conference games and moving forward week-by-week."
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