WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) Purdue's first bye week came at a good time and the Boilermakers took full advantage of the time off to improve and relax.
''I thought we needed to get fresh again,'' Purdue coach Darrell Hazell said. ''I thought we needed to rest our bodies, to clear our minds a little bit and take a step back and kind of evaluate where we are as a football team, and where you are as an individual.''
After having time to evaluate, Hazell sees a team that continues to get better. The Boilermakers waited eight weeks for its first of two bye weeks and look to show they've found some solutions to their weaknesses Saturday at No. 17 Nebraska.
The Boilermakers (3-5, 1-3 Big Ten) need to steal a win from Nebraska (7-1, 3-1) or Nov. 8 opponent Wisconsin for a chance to stay in the hunt for bowl eligibility.
To do that, Purdue will need to close out must-win games, like those similar to the 39-38 loss to Minnesota two weeks ago. Hazell doesn't want to see another game slip away like that again.
''We feel like we've created an identity for ourselves offensively,'' Hazell said. ''Each week you have to add to the game plan to make sure teams don't catch up with you. What are the next two or three wrinkles that we have to put into the things that we're doing well now?''
Purdue practiced Tuesday without a football, Hazell said, focusing more on individual assignments and where players are supposed to be on the field rather than just what happens with the ball. And during the break, there also was an emphasis on preparation for when the Boilers face third down or are under pressure to move the ball in under two minutes.
''You can't get enough third down work in,'' Hazell said. ''The other situation is two minutes. You see it come up so often, week in and week out, with so many different football teams. And the teams that can control that two-minute situation is usually the team that comes out ahead.''
The extra time also gave Purdue's coaching staff an opportunity to take a look at the future and the team's recruiting needs. Right now, Hazell said, the Boilermakers have 17 seniors on scholarship and additional six open spots.
''We need a little bit of everything,'' Hazell said. ''We have to get a stud wide receiver in this class. You look across the board, we need some defensive linemen, some linebackers. Those are probably the priority positions right now.''