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The Morning After: Purdue

The opinions and takes are flying this morning after yesterday's debacle.

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Tom Shatel, Omaha World-Herald: Debacle at Purdue speeds up timetable for Mike Riley, Shawn Eichorst

This will be a stain you don’t wash out, the gum on Mike Riley’s shoe that won’t come off. Another fire alarm game.

There are losses and then there are losses that are events. Purdue 55, Nebraska 45 is one of those.

It goes with 70-10 at Texas Tech in 2004, 40-15 at Kansas (the first loss at KU) in 2005, 45-14 to Oklahoma State in 2007 and the Wisconsin bookends: 70-31 and 59-24.

But there was one big difference with this one, played out before a lonely, half-empty Ross-Ade Stadium.


This was not Mike Leach running it up because he could, the beginning of Mark Mangino’s Orange Bowl run, Mike Gundy’s offense or Wisconsin’s Big Ten champs.

This was to the basement Boilers, who ranked 103rd nationally in offense, 97th in defense and near the bottom in everything else.

This was Purdue’s second Big Ten win in three years, and coach Darrell Hazell’s first Big Ten win at home. First.

And it was not a fluke.

Steve Sipple, Lincoln Journal-Star: After latest loss, NU leaders face tough decisions

Mike Riley often paces the sideline alone.

Alone in his thoughts.

He paced and looked at the grass at the end of the third quarter Saturday, his Nebraska football team trailing Purdue by 26 points — an obscene number for a litany of reasons.

I watched him for 30 seconds and wondered what he was thinking at that moment.

After Purdue's 55-45 victory was complete, Riley said Husker coaches just need to keep pushing forward.

At the same time, "You'd be naive not to know this is not a good thing," Riley said after his team fell to 3-6 (1-4 Big Ten).

It's an awful thing for Nebraska as a state. It's awful for the university and its proud athletic program. The Husker brand keeps taking hits, in large part because of crunching blow after crunching blow on the gridiron, essentially since late 2001.

Mike Carmin, Lafayette Journal & Courier: Boilermakers finally click in home victory

The last time Purdue won a home game against a conference opponent? Try 2012 in Danny Hope's final game as the program's head coach.

Now, this nine-game home losing skid is over. So is the 12 straight losses to FBS programs and the overall nine consecutive Big Ten setbacks. The 55-45 victory over Nebraska showed that the Boilermakers can have an identity on offense and that the defense is in the play-making business as well.

"It clicked," said cornerback Anthony Brown, who had three interceptions, two setting up a pair of touchdowns.

For one week, the Boilermakers don't reside in the basement in the Big Ten West Division standings. That spot is reserved for the Huskers, a once proud program that is seemingly lost under first-year coach Mike Riley.

Brian Bennett, Nebraska bottoms out in 55-45 loss to Purdue

Early in the afternoon on Halloween, the screams of terror you heard were coming from Nebraska fans everywhere.

Mike Riley's first year as Cornhuskers coach had already been a nightmare, with a 3-5 start and several heart-wrenching close losses. But there was still another subterranean level for this once-proud program to reach, and they found it Saturday in West Lafayette.

Purdue entered Week 9 with a 1-6 record and having lost 18 of its 19 Big Ten games under head coach Darrell Hazell. Yet the Boilermakers clearly looked like the better team in a shocking 55-45 victory at Ross-Ade Stadium.

How bad was it for Nebraska? Purdue led 42-16 in the third quarter before holding off a mild Huskers rally. There should be a going-out-of-business sale on black shirts in Lincoln after the Boilers hung a double-nickel on the Huskers defense.

Sam McKewon, Omaha World-Herald: Why can't - or won't - Nebraska run the ball?

Nebraska has now thrown more than 40 passes four times this season, compared with three times total in the previous five seasons. Of the seven games when the Huskers have thrown it 40 times or more in that span, their record is 1-6. And in 10 games since 2010 in which the Huskers averaged fewer than 3 yards per carry, their record is 2-8.

A failure — or unwillingness — to run the ball is thus a losing formula for Nebraska football.

After the game, coach Mike Riley insisted Nebraska has a desire — and ability — to keep it on the ground.

"I’m telling you: We want to run, we need to do better, and we will," Riley said.

So what about the last two weeks? Is it that Nebraska can’t run the ball? Or won’t?

"Your answer is both," Riley said, meaning that when Nebraska struggles to run the ball, it turns to the pass out of necessity.

Travis Miller, Winning is fun

So what now? At 2-6 a bowl is still very much a longshot and Purdue won today mostly because Nebraska was awful, but it is the type of win that can build a team's confidence. There is no reason Purdue can't beat Illinois next week to move to 3-6. Then you get Northwestern, Iowa, and Indiana where the only truly stunning result would be a shock win in Iowa City.

Okay, so maybe I am getting ahead of myself. At least now we can look forward to Illinois where we can keep a trophy and maybe get on one of those winning streak things.

Brandon Vogel, Hail Varsity: Nebraska Football, A real ghost story

It’s Halloween, it’s OK to be afraid.

For the future of Nebraska football, that is. Based on the present. Based on the convergence Saturday of perhaps Darrell Hazell’s best day as Purdue’s football coach – he took over in 2013 and doubled his total number of conference wins today – and Mike Riley’s worst day thus far as Nebraska’s head coach.

We can talk about turnovers and talent, balance and backup quarterbacks, close losses and coaching, but those are all feeling a little well worn at this point. The only two really clear conclusions to be drawn on a gray day in Ross-Ade Stadium were these: Purdue is not a very good football team. Nebraska is worse.

Not to totally murder the Halloween metaphors here – oops – but Nebraska football felt like a ghost story more than ever on Saturday. Or at least more than any modern-day fan of the program remembers.

Dirk Chatelain, Omaha World-Herald: What now, Huskers?

In 2003, Nebraska fired a 9-3 coach and replaced him with an odd fit who went 5-6. At least in ’04 Nebraska had a top-5 recruiting class to look forward to. At least there was a blueprint (flawed as it was) for reconstruction.

Riley is a class act. And a respected football coach. But this... is... not... working. This is getting worse, not better.

Nebraska is lost in a maze. The question is, what now?


Nebraska basically has two options: Fire the athletic director now, then the coach at the end of the season, as it did in 2007. Or ride this thing out. Those are the options.

Your heart says clean house, right? Start over. You can’t stand another Saturday like this. I don’t blame you one bit.

But what does your head say? Practically speaking, Nebraska has no choice but to endure this disaster for three more weeks. Hope like heck that Riley can make the proper offseason decisions to turn it around in 2016.

That means a significant roster purge. That means a hard look at his closest assistant coaches. That means changing the way you practice. That means stricter discipline.