As this week's game with the Boilermakers approaches, I am reminded of the fact that Nebraska's All-Everything DE Randy Gregory almost ended up going to Purdue, before heading to junior college and eventually choosing the Huskers. In light of that fact, I'm heading to Hypothetical Land to write what would have been this week's game recap if Gregory had stayed with his initial choice and played for Purdue.
LINCOLN, NEBRASKA. NOV 1-In a game that was much closer than predicted, the Huskers escaped with a hard earned come-from-behind victory that hinged on an unusual late game change in tactics.
Things started well for the Huskers, with the first three drives making it into Purdue territory. Each time they got close, there was Randy Gregory sacking Tommy Armstrong, knocking down his passes, or drawing a holding penalty. On one particularly gruesome play, Jordan Westercamp caught a slant pass across the middle only to be flattened into the ground by the human missile wearing #4.
After witnessing the hit several Nebraska receivers were lost for the game with nausea. Gregory hit Westercamp so hard that the indentation of his body is still visible on the field. Westercamp's mustache was also knocked clean off of his face and hasn't been found. He did, of course, hang on to the ball, but ended up just short of the first down, forcing a punt.
Both teams traded punts for most of the half with Nebraska almost scoring just before halftime. De'mornay Pierson-El returned a punt 74 yards, stepping out at the one-yard line (as all Huskers have been instructed to do, in order to pad Abdullah's touchdown statistics). Ameer punched it in from the one, but it was called back, due to a penalty by Chongo Kondolo (who's name translates to "false start" in several languages).
Abdullah then ran it in from the 6, only to have it called back again, this time on a Jake Cotton holding penalty. This started a series of touchdown runs by Abdullah of 16, 21, 31, 36, 46, 51, 61, 66, 76, 81, 91 and 96 yards, all of which were called back, due to alternating penalties by Cotton and Kondolo who were attempting to block Gregory on those plays. The clock ran out on a scoreless tie with the Huskers facing first and goal from their own 4-yard line.
As Purdue began their first offensive drive of the second half, Gregory was lined up at wide receiver. Unfortunately for Purdue, it took some time for Gregory to relax his defensive instincts and he sacked his own quarterback three consecutive times, with the third one knocking Austin "someday I'll work at" Appleby out. On fourth down Gregory lined up to punt and kicked the ball out of the stadium, resulting in a touchback.
The tide seemed to be turning in Purdue's favor as Gregory picked off Tommy Armstrong's weekly "pass to no one" and returned it for a touchdown in a run that can only be described as "Rob Gronkowski meets Tommy Frasier vs. Florida". Somehow Jake Cotton was called for holding twice on the play, both of which were declined.
Things almost got worse for Nebraska on Purdue's next drive as Gregory threw what looked to be an 80-yard bomb for a touchdown. The play was illegal however, as Gregory also CAUGHT the pass. At this point, with a seven-point lead and Gregory clearly tiring, Purdue took him out on offense to give him some rest. This led to several consecutive three and outs and the end of the third quarter.
The Huskers opened the fourth quarter in an unusual formation. Abdullah was lined up behind center as the only skill position player. Everyone else was an offensive lineman (including what looked to be a much older man with a push broom mustache in Jake Cotton's uniform).
As the ball was snapped to Abdullah, all ten of the offensive lineman focused on blocking Gregory, leaving Abdullah to fend for himself against the rest of the Purdue defense. This led to a fourteen play; eleven-minute drive and Abdullah's twentieth one-yard touchdown run of the season. Gregory recorded twelve tackles on the drive.
With time running out, everyone in the stadium was expecting an on-side kick. Purdue ran Gregory out there on the return team. Bo Pelini countered with a brilliant counter strategy, sending all six quarterbacks on Nebraska's roster to one side of the field (and burning the redshirts of AJ Bush and Zack Darlington). Mauro Bondi then kicked the ball to the opposite side of the field leading to a Nebraska recovery. Bush and Darlington are expected to be given injury redshirts after Gregory went right for them on the kick. He just can't stop destroying quarterbacks.
Nebraska's "Jumbo Barney" formation marched down the field to score on the last play of the game. NEBRASKA 13- PURDUE 7. Gregory finished with 77 tackles, 9 passes batted down, an interception, and, as he put it "A great deal of regret that I didn't go to Nebraska".