Final take and grades: Nebraska vs. Purdue
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A year ago Nebraska was in a very similar position at Purdue.
The Boilermakers started flat and spotted the Cornhuskers 10 points. However, the score probably should've been much worse than 10-0, and Purdue came back with14 unanswered points to retake the lead at halftime.
On Saturday, they faced a similar situation, the difference was they jumped out to a 17-0 lead and did not let the Purdue offense get any momentum until it was almost too late.
That 17-0 cushion fueled by a Levi Falck blocked punt and Cam Taylor-Britt punt return was enough to give the Huskers (2-4) a 37-27 victory in Ross-Ade Stadium. It also marked head coach Scott Frost's first win over Purdue (1-2)
"That was key," Frost said of his team's start. "We started some other games off not so well and made a good play on special teams. Our kids just keep coming to work and keep fighting. We experienced some positive things today, so I'm proud of them.
"The punt block really set the tone."
His defense also set the table early as well. Purdue failed to establish any type of running game, and they were forced to chuck it around most of the day, as Jack Plummer had 47 attempted passes.
The Boilermakers were forced to punt on their opening three possessions, as they gained just three yards on 12 total plays. The Blackshirts also came up big with three first-half sacks from Ben Stille and Garrett Nelson.
"We just preached through the whole week to finish," junior cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt said. "Play four quarters and finish."
Now Frost and his team have a chance to change the narrative next week. Minnesota (we think) will be coming to Lincoln, then they will get a chance against an unknown opponent on Week 9.
A win next week is a step closer to 4-4. That would give this season a completely different feel and greatly improve the Big Red's chances to make a bowl game.
"I've been saying for a while, I think this team is ready to take off and propel itself," Frost said. "But we have to experience some good things and develop confidence. If I had to point to two things we are lacking a little of is experience and confidence. Today we finished one and were able to grow."
Now on the breakdown...
WHAT I SAW ON SATURDAY
***Defensive back Myles Farmer went down with a non-contact injury during pregame warm-ups where he was carted off the field. An air cast was put on his right leg. Frost did not have an update other than what we could see.
***Another interesting thing from pregame warm-ups was freshman running back Marvin Scott was a late add and started doing his own drills with a trainer while the rest of the team was in the locker room. Scott was in the concussion protocol last week after NU's loss at Iowa. He did not get into the game.
***The key stat of the day for Nebraska's offense was they had no interceptions or lost fumbles. The only fumble happened on an exchange issue between Martinez and Dedrick Mills and NU fell on top of it right away.
***I thought a lot of guys had big plays on the defense, but late in the game some of the pass break-ups by Cam Taylor-Britt were big moments. Both he and JoJo Domann held their own in coverage. Taylor-Britt finished with two break-ups, and both were big moments.
***Nebraska finished with three sacks, nine tackles for loss and five pass break-ups. It was a very productive day on all three levels.
***Connor Culp's 49-yard field goal was the longest by an NU kicker since Drew Brown in 2016. He's given the Huskers a very reliable leg at kicker and has just missed one time over six games.
***I thought the 11 play, 75-yard drive to start the third quarter changed the game. Purdue cut it to 14 points, and a bad series to start the third quarter would've allowed them to make the second half much different.
***The Huskers scored 27 points on their first five possessions. You aren't going to lose very many games with numbers like that, especially when your defense can hold Purdue to just 3 yards of offense on the first 12 plays of the game, forcing three straight punts.
***11 touches for 119 yards is the perfect workload and stat line for Wan'Dale Robinson.
***If Nebraska's record was better, JoJo Domann would probably be getting much more attention in 2020. He's had a heck of a season and had 11 tackles, including eight solo stops on Saturday. Senior safety Deontai Williams added 12 tackles, with 10 of them being solo stops.
THE FINAL GRADE OUT
Rushing offense: C
It was by no means a great day of running the football for Nebraska, but they got enough. Dedrick Mills gave NU 16 carries for 60 yards. It's been a long time since the Huskers got that type of production from a single back in terms of consistent carries. Adrian Martinez had 45 yards on 14 carries, but his third-down run that went for 15 yards was probably the biggest. It set up a touchdown to put the Huskers up by 21.
Passing offense: B+
The Huskers finished an efficient 24-of-31 for 253 yards through the air. There were no interceptions. Wan'Dale Robinson led the way with nine catches on 10 targets for 114 yards. Both Levi Falck and Zavier Betts gave the offense five catches and averaged over 7 yards per catch. Wyatt Liewer scored on a perfectly blocked bubble screen that Frost checked into from the sidelines.
Rushing defense: A+
On 11 designed run plays to their backs and receivers, Purdue had just 30 yards rushing. The best sequence of the game came when the Blackshirts stuffed Zander Horvath and the Boilermaker offense three straight plays on second, third and fourth-and-1.
Passing defense: C
The wide receiver delay plays were giving the Husker problems at times. However, other than the coverage bust that allowed David Bell to score from 89 yards, it wasn't that bad of a game for the Blackshirts. Rondale Moore averaged just 6 yards per catch, on 13 receptions. He did not have a play longer than 19 yards. You knew Purdue was going to get some yards, but when it mattered the Huskers got the stops. The pass rush was also very good in the first half forcing three sacks between Ben Stille and Garrett Nelson.
Special teams: B-
Nebraska's play on special teams gave them 14 points out of the gate, as Levi Falck blocked a punt and Cam Taylor-Britt's 27-yard punt return with a penalty added on to it put the ball on the 17-yard line. However, the blocked punt before halftime just can't happen. That type of play gets you beat on a lot of Saturdays. Also, the kick catch interference was another inexcusable mistake when the return man made a fair catch signal. Connor Culp has also become a very reliable option at kicker, and all three of his field goals were very important in the final outcome.
Sean Callahan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and he can be heard each day at 6:45 am and 5:05 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha during the football season. He can also be seen on KETV Channel 7 in Omaha during the fall and each week he appears on NET's Big Red Wrap-Tuesday's at 7 pm.