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WEST LAFAYETTE -- Darrell Hazell paused at the question he knew was coming, the one everybody wanted to know because in football, quarterbacks rule.
How tough will the decision be to choose between Danny Etling and Austin Appleby?
At first, Hazell talked around it. When asked again, he paused again. He smiled.
“We'll make a decision in the next day or so,” he said.
And then, for clarity, “Probably Monday.”
Etling, last year's returning starter, and Appleby have spent the last three weeks trying to prove they're No. 1. Saturday's Jersey Scrimmage was their final shot to make a difference.
What was the difference?
“That's the question of the year,” receiver B.J. Knauf said. “They're all doing a phenomenal job. The QB controversy continues … maybe. I don't know who will start. They're all talented. I feel comfortable playing with any of them. I don't know which way it will go. Whoever starts will get the job done.”
On Saturday, Etling was 11-for-24 for 143 yards and a 15-yard touchdown pass to DeAngelo Yancey. Appleby was 16-for-20 for 131 yards. That included multiple drops that skewed the accuracy.
Etling rushed five times for 12 yards and a touchdown. Appleby six times for 38 yards. Both rotated between the No. 1 and No. 2 offense.
Hazell, offensive coordinator John Shoop and the rest of the offensive staff are assessing Saturday's film, and all the other notes and thoughts they've accumulated since the spring.
Trying to get Hazell to reveal those thoughts is like getting the Lone Ranger to pull off his mask.
“They were both scheduled to have black jerseys on the fourth set (which meant they would be live and the defense would be allowed to hit and tackle them), and I said, no way. They're playing way too well to risk it. To have either one of them hurt. I really, really like the camp those two have had.”
Could the result be a quarterback rotation? Hazell has given no indication he would do that, and the fact both quarterbacks are similar (they are more drop-back throwers than dual-threat catalysts) suggests that won't happen.
Meanwhile, tailback Akeem Hunt showed his big-play ability with a 75-yard TD run and finished with 123 yards on five carries. Raheem Mostert had 34 yards on seven carries. Keyante Green had 60 yards on eight carries, although some of the luster was lost because of a fumble.
The defense, meanwhile, totaled seven sacks (two by defensive end Ryan Russell) and forced three turnovers.
Hazell said he was pleased with the pace of the offense and the resiliency of the defense.
“That's what it's all about. We're two weeks away (from the season opener against Western Michigan. “We've got to get really healthy and make sure we're sharp.
“Offensively we're much more efficient. There's less stress in the huddle in terms of communication. They were getting up and getting lined up quickly, and they were executing. If you eliminate the mistakes and eliminate the stress, you'll be able to operate at a high level.”