Huskers fall short once again in 31-27 loss to Purdue
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – In a game that would ultimately decide which team was more desperate to keep its season alive, Nebraska once again couldn’t stay out of its own way.
Despite an impressive start and taking a 10-0 lead out of the gates, the Huskers failed time and again to put a reeling Purdue team away on Saturday afternoon. As a result, the Boilermakers rallied back for a 31-27 victory, with freshman David Bell scoring the winning touchdown on a nine-yard reverse with just 1:08 left in the game.
Nebraska (4-5 overall, 2-4 Big Ten) has now lost 10 of its last 11 road games, and now its chances for bowl eligibility look bleaker than ever.
After a 40-yard one-handed catch and run by JD Spielman on the first play of the game, Nebraska ended up punting from the Purdue 39-yard line on its opening possession.
Facing another fourth down inside Boilermaker territory on its second drive, quarterback Adrian Martinez connected with Kanawai Noa for a 34-yard pass down to the Purdue 2-yard line. Dedrick Mills finished it off from there with a touchdown run to five NU an early 7-0 lead.
Nebraska’s defense came up with a big play of its own later in the first quarter when nose guard Darrion Daniels picked off a shovel pass and returned it to the Purdue two. But the offense did nothing with the opportunity and had to settle for a 23-yard field goal from Barret Pickering.
After a quick three-and-out by Purdue on its ensuing possession, NU’s special teams provided a spark when Eli Sullivan tipped the punt to give the offense the ball at midfield.
But a bad throw by Martinez into coverage resulted in an interception by Cory Trice at the three-yard line. That marked Nebraska’s first pick thrown since the home loss to Ohio State on Sept. 28.
The Blackshirts were able to deliver once again, as Lamar Jackson answered with a one-handed interception of his own at the Purdue 47. Martinez and offense continued to stall, though, and the drive ended in another punt.
Purdue’s offense finally woke up and marched 89 yards on 10 plays to score on a three-yard touchdown pass to King Doerue to make it 10-7 with 7:04 left in the second quarter.
A promising drive ended in another NU punt, but punter Isaac Armstrong pinned the Boilermakers at their own four.
All that did was help pad the stats, as Purdue picked Nebraska apart for a 12-play 96-yard drive and took a 14-10 lead on a 12-yard touchdown throw from Jack Plummer to Payne Durham with just 14 seconds left in the half.
After gaining just 38 yards in the first quarter, the Boilermakers racked up 181 in the second quarter alone and out-gained Nebraska 219-195 in first-half total yardage.
Needing to re-establish some momentum to start the second half, the Huskers got some help with three 15-yard Purdue penalties – including a pass interference on a fourth-down pass – to drive all the way down to the PU 3-yard line.
All of that would only result in another three points, though, as the offense couldn’t punch it into the end zone and had to settle for a 21-yard field goal from Pickering.
Special teams provided another spark after a three-and-out stand by the defense, with Eric Lee Jr. blocking the second punt of the day and giving Nebraska the ball at the Purdue 34. That opportunity would go to waste, however, as the offense turned the ball over on downs after four plays.
The Boilermakers were able to turn that into a 42-yard field goal J.D. Dellinger and extend their lead to 17-13 with 1:14 remaining in the third quarter.
Facing a third-and-14 from their own 32, Martinez completed back-to-back passes of 18 and 21 yards and then rushed for 17 more to get the Huskers inside the 10 once again. On a third-and-goal from the two, Martinez took a keeper in for the go-ahead touchdown to give NU a 20-17 lead with 12:30 remaining.
Plummer followed that up by moving Purdue all the way down to the NU 11, but had to leave the game with an ankle injury with just under eight minutes to play. Walk-on Aidan McConnell took over at quarterback, and four plays later, Doerue ran in a seven-yard touchdown to put PU back up 24-20.
Facing a third-and-10 from the NU 42, Martinez found Spielman on the same route as the first play of the game for a 42-yard completion down to the Purdue 16. Martinez finished off the drive with his second rushing score of the day from four yards out to give Nebraska a 27-24 lead with 4:21 left.
Needing just one more stop, the Blackshirts couldn't finish the job. O'Connell and Purdue marched 82 yards over 12 plays and took a 31-27 lead on a nine-yard reverse to David Bell with 1:08 to go.
A tipped fourth-down pass from Martinez fell incomplete with 26 second left to officially put the game away.