Five burning questions heading into Purdue week
Here are five of the biggest questions facing the Huskers as they look to bounce back this week at Purdue...
1. How much fight is left?
Nebraska lost for the fourth time in five games this season and dropped its sixth straight game to rival Iowa on Friday.
However, compared to the previous defeat vs. Illinois, the Huskers played will all of the physicality and effort needed to have a chance to win in the final seconds.
The only way NU is going to stand a chance this year regardless of its opponent is if it brings that same level of fight to the field week-in and week-out.
Friday's loss was discouraging in many ways, but one positive Nebraska can take away from it is that the team never quit. Can the Huskers maintain that mentality on the road again this week?
2. What is McCaffrey's role going forward?
If nothing else, the past few weeks have at least confirmed that Adrian Martinez is Nebraska's best option at quarterback this season.
Martinez responded to losing his starting job as well as could be expected, returning to his No. 1 role against Iowa and playing as well as he had all season.
Now the question becomes what the Huskers will do with Luke McCaffrey the rest of the way?
The redshirt freshman took over on NU's third offensive series and rotated in for 18 total snaps. Of those 18 plays, five were designed quarterback runs that McCaffrey netted for 42 yards.
Sprinkling in McCaffrey as a change of pace with Martinez might be the best formula for Nebraska going forward, as he remains the best and most consistent rushing threat on the team.
3. Can Nebraska find a running back?
Nebraska's running game has relied almost entirely on the quarterbacks all year, and Friday was no exception.
With senior Dedrick Mills out for essentially the past three games, the Huskers have gotten little-to-nothing from their true running backs. Rahmir Johnson led all NU backs against Iowa with five carries for 23 yards.
On the season, Mills is still the leading running back rusher with 95 yards on 31 attempts. As a group, NU's running backs have totaled 65 carries for 205 yards and three touchdowns.
McCaffrey and Martinez have combined for 101 carries, 583 yards, and five scores.
Getting Mills back would likely help, but that position group has to be a more significant factor regardless of who's on the field.
4. Is the secondary ready for a busy day?
The game plan for Nebraska's defense won't get much more evident than this week vs. Purdue.
Boasting the Big Ten's best passing attack and worst running game, the Boilermakers have been about as one-dimensional as it gets offensively.
The quarterback duo of Aiden O'Connell and Jack Plummer have combined to average 304.0 yards per game and 12 touchdowns through the air. They're also completing 66.7 percent of their passes on 214 attempts, trailing only Justin Fields and Ohio State for the league lead.
The offense's focal point is star wide receiver David Bell, a potential future first-round draft pick who leads the Big Ten with 43 catches and seven receiving touchdowns.
Conversely, Purdue also ranks dead last in the conference at 98.2 rushing yards per game on only 133 carries for the season (Nebraska has 200). Zander Horvath is the only running back of note, and he's only accounted for 421 yards on 82 carries this year.
The Huskers will know full well what the Boilermakers are going to do offensively. The question is, how well can they stop it?
5. Will the offense light up Diaco?
A familiar face will be in the Purdue coaches' box on Saturday, as former Husker defensive coordinator Bob Diaco is now in charge of the Boilermakers' defense.
As much of a disaster as Diaco's scheme was at NU, his group has been middle of the pack in the Big Ten so far this season, giving up 28.4 points and 406.0 yards per game.
However, Purdue has been most vulnerable through the air.
The Boilermakers rank 11th in the conference in pass defense (254.4 yards allowed per game) and 10th in pass efficiency defense (142.4). They hardly ever get to the quarterback, either, posting just four sacks in five games, the lowest total in the league.
Nebraska's offense has been a mess all season, but Husker fans would certainly enjoy being on the other side of a Diaco defensive meltdown after the train wreck they sat through in 2017.