Nebraska holds off Purdue for 37-27 victory
Nebraska scored on their first five drives, didn’t punt until two minutes left in the first half, and set a season-high point total with 25 minutes remaining in its road game at Purdue on Saturday.
Yet it came down to a fourth-down stop by the Blackshirts in the final minutes to finally put away a 37-27 win over the Boilermakers.
Adrian Martinez completed 23-of-30 passes for 242 yards with three total touchdowns, and NU’s defense held Purdue to minus-2 yards rushing. But a combined 20 penalties for 233 yards and 334 passing yards and three touchdowns from Jack Plummer kept PU within striking distance.
The Boilermakers even trimmed a 21-point deficit down to seven 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter, but Nebraska held on with two straight defensive stands to end the game.
Nebraska could not have drawn up the start to the day any better than how the first quarter played out, as a blocked punt by Levi Falck was recovered at the Purdue 1-yard line by Simon Otte on the Boilermakers’ opening possession.
Dedrick Mills, who was back in the starting lineup after missing the past two games to injury, punched it in for a touchdown on NU’s first offensive play to take a 7-0 lead right out of the gates.
After the Blackshirts forced a quick three-and-out on the ensuing series, a nice punt return by Cam Taylor-Britt and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Purdue’s sideline spotted Nebraska at the PU 17.
Martinez took it from there with an impressive 13-yard scramble for a touchdown to make it 14-0 after only five minutes of play. The Huskers needed just four plays and 18 yards of offense to score their first two TDs of the game.
Nebraska had a chance for three straight touchdowns after driving down to the Boilermaker 6-yard line on its third possession but had to settle for a 25-yard chip shot from Connor Culp to push the lead to 17.
Purdue finally answered with a 45-yard field goal by J.D.Dellinger at the end of the first quarter. The Huskers ran 14 plays in the first 15 minutes, and 11 of those were on the Boilermakers’ side of the field.
Culp padded the lead with a 49-yard field goal – the longest of his career and his season-best by 10 yards – that made it 20-3 with 12:22 left in the second quarter.
The Boilermakers got some momentum going on offense and found the end zone for the first time on a 20-yard scoring strike from Jack Plummer to King Doerue.
The Huskers quickly responded with an eight-play 65-yard drive that ended with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Martinez to Wyatt Liewer to make it 27-10 with 6:13 left in the half. That marked only NU’s third scoring throw of the year.
A kick-catch interference flag on Taylor-Britt spotted Purdue at the NU 40-yard line with 1:51 remaining, but the defense stuffed Zander Horvath on a fourth-and-1 to get the ball with 45 seconds to go.
But just as the game began, Purdue reciprocated with a blocked punt of its own to get the ball back at the Nebraska 20 with 19 seconds to play before halftime. The Boilermakers had to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Dellinger to cut the Huskers’ lead to 27-13 going into the break.
Martinez was 14-of-19 passing for 134 yards and two total touchdowns in the first half, while the defense held Purdue to zero rushing yards on 12 attempts. NU scored more than 23 points for just the second time this season after only two quarters of play.
Nebraska opened the third quarter just like it did to start the game, taking its first drive 75 yards on 11 plays and capping it with a one-yard touchdown keeper by Martinez.
Purdue came right back six plays later with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Plummer to tight end Payne Durham that left NU with a 34-20 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Luke McCaffrey took over at quarterback while Martinez was having his right shoulder examined in the medical tent. The offense didn’t do much after the change, and Purdue got the ball with a chance to cut it to a one-score game.
Two plays later, Plummer hit David Bell for an 89-yard touchdown pass that made it 34-27 with 12:16 still left in the game.
Nebraska’s offense took over and, after five penalties on the first seven snaps, Martinez connected with Austin Allen for a 37-yard pass down to the Boilermaker 18-yard line. But a chop-block flag on Allen helped turn a potential first-and-goal into a 31-yard field goal by Culp to make it 37-27 with 7:04 to play.
A beautiful pass breakup by Taylor-Britt forced Purdue to punt the ball back to NU at its own 43 with 5:32 remaining. But on a fourth-and-2 from the PU27, the Huskers decided to go for it, and Martinez’s pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage with 2:21 to go.
The Blackshirts stepped up and got one last stop by stuffing the Boilermakers on a fourth-and-6 to put the victory away for good.
Wan’Dale Robinson hauled in a season-high nine catches for 114 yards while Mills rushed 16 times for a game-high and season-best 60 yards.
The Huskers are set to play host to Minnesota next week, though kickoff time and television information has yet to be announced.