Going into this game, I thought Nebraska would steamroll Purdue; the Huskers strength in running the ball fit perfectly with Purdue’s weakness in stopping the run. And certainly after last year, there’s no way Mike Riley would give up on the run.
And I was right - for about four plays. Then the Blackshirts forgot how to cover Purdue’s receivers again, and Nebraska stopped running the ball. At halftime, it was 12 rushes and 18 passes...and the predictable result?
Purdue 14, Nebraska 10.
Unlike last year, there was a reason why Nebraska stopped running the ball: Nebraska’s beat-up offensive line simply couldn’t create any holes to run through. That’s downright alarming, considering that Purdue was ranked 124th nationally in rush defense. Purdue was giving up 264 yards each game; Nebraska could only rush for 157. 74 of that came in the fourth quarter.
Needless to say, this was not a good performance for the Big Red. That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with being 7-0; last year proved that Husker fans should appreciate each and every win. But performances like this one won’t work the next few weeks.
Below is our report card by position; as always, your feedback is welcome in the comments!
QB: Tommy Armstrong didn’t have a good second quarter, but the rest of the game? Absolutely solid. Nebraska doesn’t win this game without Armstrong. Grade: B
I-Back: Terrell Newby tried...and looked good on a couple of screen passes and when he found a little room to make something happen. But when he was being greeted in the backfield, he wasn’t going to get any positive yards. Most backs wouldn’t. Grade: C+
Wide Receivers: You really have to like the depth in Nebraska’s receiving corps, as De’Mornay Pierson-El and Brandon Reilly stepped up huge in this game. A special shout out to Pierson-El for making a play on that fake punt; for a second, I thought he might even intercept that...and can you imagine what the reaction to that would be? And Sam Cotton is establishing himself as Nebraska’s most consistent pass catcher at tight end. That being said, Nebraska sure misses Cethan Carter’s blocking. Grade: B+
Offensive Line: Nick Gates and David Knevel are no where near 100%; in fact, they looked like liabilities against Purdue. Eventually Cole Conrad replaced Knevel, and while he wasn’t much better, he at least made sure that Knevel wasn’t hurting himself more. Gates didn’t get subbed out, so I hope that continuing to play doesn’t cause his injuries to linger any further. Playing Gates at 50% isn’t helping the team, and Nebraska really needs him to get better. Maybe Mike Cavanaugh is right; the guys on the bench can’t help. But he said that last year, and some of those guys are playing this season - and playing well when healthy. But in this game, the line did not play well. Grade: F
Defensive Line: I thought the defensive line played OK; they did get three sacks, but it seemed in the first half that David Blough had too much time to throw. Carlos Davis looks like he’s going to be a bad, bad man before all is said and done. Grade: C+
Linebackers: Big tackle numbers, to be sure...but it seemed like they all were on tackles downfield. (Especially with Josh Banderas.)
Looking to set the record for tackles made six yards downfield. https://t.co/hmpv7ywbGO— Dan Hoppen (@danhoppen) October 22, 2016
Dedrick Young caught my eye with some nice pass coverage; that seemed to be a weakness of his last season, so it’s nice to see him develop further. Grade: B-
Secondary: #lockdownU was #breakdownU in the first half as Purdue’s receivers were wiiiiiiiiiide open nearly every time. Blough looked like Drew Brees in that first half as he sliced, diced and pureed Nebraska’s secondary. Things settled down in the second half, to be sure...but the first half was awful. Grade: D
Unspecial Teams: Everybody seated around me got a good chuckle at my expense at the start of the second half. When Tre Bryant fielded the kick in the end zone, I called for him to take a knee. Whoops. 59 yards later, everyone is laughing at me. Not so funny was watching Purdue block another Nebraska punt, though. Yes, it still went for 28 yards...but Nebraska’s three punts blocked is tied with UNLV for worst in the nation. Grade: C
Overall: D+ I’m sure some will wonder how I can give a "D" grade for a double digit win. Fair point. But if you consider a "C" to be an average grade, this performance probably belongs in the "Below Average" category. Hence, the D+. That being said, never apologize for being 7-0, Husker fans.
Elsewhere in College Football
Penn State: A Yes, good special teams can be an advantage.
Auburn: A+ What. The. ____. Bert.
Oklahoma/Texas Tech: B Defense Optional can be fun to watch, but tiring.
Houston: F Goodbye CFP Playoff and New Year’s Six. Hello Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl. (Maybe.)
Iowa: D That’s football.