It's that time once again. Your Nebraska Cornhuskers will play another Big Ten Conference game tomorrow at Memorial Stadium. This time, the Purdue Boilermakers make their maiden voyage into Lincoln to take on Big Red on a station that is owned by the Disney Corporation (ABC/ESPN).
What should we know about Purdue? Well, we asked HMIC Travis Miller of Hammer & Rails, the Purdue SBNation Community, what he thinks about tomorrow's matchup. He asked us some questions, and of course we obliged right here.
We thank Travis for his help and invite you to check out his site and follow him on Twitter to get his thoughts on the game.
1. The Boilermakers are playing better lately than their 3-5 record would look to an outsider. A victory vs. Illinois, keeping Michigan St. honest till the end and a 1 point loss to Minnesota have been your last three games. What is the overall feeling after the bye week for the team?
If anything, the bye week was a little discouraging because Minnesota went to Illinois and lost. Right now we kind of feel like we let that one get away since we led by 11 at halftime, but struggled offensively in the second half aside from a big run by Raheem Mostert.
You’re right that we’re playing better than the 3-5 record. There are many fans that feel it could be 5-3 had we made the switch to Austin Appleby earlier. Danny Etling was awful against Central Michigan (but so was the whole team) and even worse against Iowa, but against the Hawkeyes we still led 10-0 and were tied 10-10 going into the fourth quarter. If there is even a modicum of offense that becomes a win.
This team has made tremendous strides just to be competitive in the Big Ten after last year. The next step is finding a way to win games like the Minnesota and Iowa ones.
2. Danny Etling started off as the Boilermakers starter, but the last three games have been the product of Sophomore QB Austin Appleby, who has guided the offense to at least 31 points in three straight games. What’s the big difference with Appleby in the game?
Confidence, really. Appleby has busted his butt ever since Appleby became the starter last season. He pushed Etling in fall practice, but still didn’t win the job. Since then he has said and done all the things you want of a guy. He didn’t feel sorry for himself, but instead he worked hard and got better. Etling had some moments earlier this year, but by the Iowa game you could tell his confidence was wrecked. Once Appleby came in he played without the fear that Etling had, and it has made a huge difference.
3. Akeem Hunt has been your leading rusher this year, going for 600 yards in the first 8 games. How has he and Raheem Mosert been able to help carry the load so far this season?
They are both speedy backs that need some space, but if they get that space, they’re gone. Last season was a major dip for Hunt because the offensive line was so terrible, but for most of his career he has been one of those backs that can break any play. Mostert has primarily been a kick returner in his career, but he is the reigning Big Ten champion in the 60, 100, and 200 meters. He has the sheer speed to break a run if the blocking is there, and most of his TDs this year have come from that. He also hasn’t broken a kickoff return… yet. He has two TDs on kickoffs in his career.
4. Danny Anthrop has been the main man in the receiver department, going for 15 yards a catch and snagging 9 for 133 yards against Michigan State’s Secondary. What does he bring to the table that could worry the Huskers? Also, how has Hunt (29 catches) helped out from the backfield in the passing game?
Anthrop has kind of been one of those guys that is in the right place at the right time with a couple of his longer gains. The blocking has been there and his hands are probably the most reliable on the team. As for Hunt, he’s always been a valuable receiver out of the backfield. It is just a matter of getting him the ball in space.
5. The Defense has been not great by any means, especially in giving up yards through the air (247 per game). Talk to us about what the gameplan could be for this group as they take on Ameer Abdullah, but more importantly Tommy Armstrong and receivers like Kenny Bell and Jordan Westerkamp.
Does hoping for a sudden case of scurvy count? Honestly, the defense is a very young unit (just three seniors) with two promising freshmen playing at linebacker. Purdue’s starting middle linebacker, Sean Robinson, tore his ACL against Illinois and Ja’Whaun Bentley, a true freshman, has shifted over. He has a lot of promise, but he’s still a freshman.
The passing defense has been terrible especially on third down. We just cannot get off the field no matter the distance. How bad has it been? Reilly O’Toole converted a 3rd and 21 in the Illinois game after standing on the sidelines for three hours before that play. We ALWAYS leave someone open over the middle, no matter what, it seems. It’s infuriating.
6. The Boilermakers played the first 8 weeks and then received their first bye week. What’s the health situation of the team coming off the open date?
It is decent. I mentioned Robinson, but one of the other top linebackers, Joe Gilliam, is also out with a torn ACL. Both were seniors that were true leaders in the defense, so that is the biggest thing that has been missing. I think we have a few guys with some minor injuries, but nothing major. Receiver B.J. Knauf is also out with a busted clavicle, but that is the only major offensive injuries.
7. What’s the feeling about Darrell Hazell and his staff? He’s not been in West Lafayette long, and this year is much better than last year, but he’s still 4-16 as Purdue HC, with having only one truly successful year at Kent State in the 2 seasons he was there.
Things have turned a lot more in his favor in the last few weeks. We’re starting to see the results of what he began last year when he started tearing the program down, getting rid of the rot, and beginning a major rebuild. Now we’re at least up to being competitive in the Big Ten. Hopefully the rebuild continues past this level where Hope had the program and we can become a real threat to win some games.
8. This is the first trip ever for Purdue to Lincoln for a game. How many folks do you think will make the trip?
I have seen that a few will come that live in the area. I was originally going to come, but Mrs. T-Mill wanted to go to her Homecoming so we’re headed to Miami. I also think that before the season a lot of people saw this as a game where Purdue struggled, so they shied away. With it being a longer trip and everything there won’t be a huge Purdue contingent, but there will be some.
9. Anyone that you haven’t mentioned up top that we should keep an eye out for Saturday?
Keyante Green has been quiet the last couple of weeks, but the redshirt freshman has had some success this year as a between the tackles runner. DeAngelo Yancey and Cameron Posey were two of our top receivers last season, but have been mostly quiet of late. On defense I want to see what Gelen Robinson can do with some more snaps as a rush end. He is the son of Glenn Robinson (the Big Dog) and brother of Michigan basketball’s Glenn Robinson. He’s already gotten a pair of sacks as a true freshman and he was a two-time undefeated state champion wrestler in Indiana.
10. Alright, prediction time. Tell us how you think the game will go, and a winner with a final score.
I am really, really scared of the potency of the Nebraska offense. Purdue’s offense has gotten a lot better, but the defense is not doing a whole lot to give me confidence. I don’t think we’re going to win one of those 45-42 shootouts, but I don’t think we have the ability to hold Nebraska under 40. Something like 45-31 would not surprise me.