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Recap: Nebraska Pulls Out the Thriller with a 25-24 Comeback Win Over the Boilermakers

You can put away the torches and pitchforks for another week.

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Purdue Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

This wasn’t a game that inspired much confidence that the ship is righted, but it is a “W”. For most of the game, it looked like it would be a very different result. Credit this team for not giving up or throwing in the towel. The defense fought hard the entire game and seemed to lose another player to injury just about every series.

The offense looked somewhat disinterested and definitely inept at times, but they came through when the chips were down.

First Quarter

Purdue won the toss and elected to receive the ball. Drew Brown’s kickoff sailed through the end zone for a touchback.

David Blough drew the start for the Boilermakers after spending a couple weeks in a backup role. The Blackshirts forced a three an out after two runs and an incomplete pass.

The short punt was fair caught by De’Mornay Pierson-El at the 35, giving the Huskers decent field position. One big play action pass play to Stanley Morgan got the Huskers into the red zone. It looked like Tyler Hoppes converted the first down on a third and ten, however center Michael Decker was called for holding. Decker was also injured on the play. On third and 20, Cole Conrad snapped the ball for the Ozigbo draw play which gained a yard or so.

Drew Brown’s 44 yard field goal attempt was good. There was 11:42 left in the first quarter. Nebraska’s normal holder, Zach Darlington was not with the team (flu) and backup punter Issac Armstrong was the holder.

Huskers 3 Purdue 0

The kickoff was returnable and Purdue brought it out to the 20.

Purdue’s big back Richie Worship (6’0; 260 lbs) carried for nine yards and two plays later found a big hole up the middle to get past midfield, followed by another five yard pickup to the Husker 35 yard line. Ben Stille and Khalil Davis sacked Blough for a short loss, followed by a Purdue false start, bringing up third and 13. The long pass was incomplete, which was fortunate as it looked like the receiver had a step on Chris Jones.

Pierson-El fair caught the punt at the 17 yard line.

Decker stayed on the sideline but was moving around trying to get loose. The running game was absolutely putrid for Nebraska as it felt like all the runs were getting stopped for no gain or a loss. Nebraska punted.

Jackson Anthrop fair caught the ball at the Purdue 35.

Purdue broke out the option with DJ Knox for a six yard gain. The drive stalled there and was forced to punt.

Pierson-El fair caught the punt at the 18 yard line.

The rather predictable Husker offense trotted onto the field and back off after three plays, including offensive pass interference on Stanley Morgan. Michael Decker was back at center but would later leave the game (this time for good) and not play in the second half.

Lightbourn’s punt was fair caught at the Purdue 39 with 2:32 left in the first quarter.

Purdue used misdirection on their first couple of plays followed by an incomplete pass to go three and out.

Pierson-El fair caught the short (32 yard) punt and Nebraska took over at the 25 yard line. On fourth and inches, Riverboat Riley sent his 6’4” quarterback on a sneak and converted the first down.

Second Quarter

After three more plays, the same situation came up, but this time, the McNitt carry went backward and Purdue took over on downs at the Husker 45 yard line. Tanner Farmer, the Husker right guard, was injured on the play.

David Blough took a shot at a wide open Isaac Ziko (again, Chris Jones on the coverage) but the ball bounced around and fell to the turf. A flea flicker got the Boilers near the red zone. On third and seven, Blough took another shot at the end zone, picking on Chris Jones who was whistled for pass interference.

On the next play, Worship rumbled into the end zone from four yards out. The PAT was good.

Purdue 7 Nebraska 3

There was 12:30 left in the half.

J.D. Spielman returned the kickoff to the 31 yard line and was a desperation tackle away from a lot more yardage.

On the following series, we had a Mikale Wilbon sighting. A pass play on third and one (and Husker Nation collectively screamed “NOOOOOO”) was incomplete but Purdue was whistled for pass interference. Tanner Lee was sacked, fumbled, and Matt Farniok stood above the ball watching it bounce around before another Husker recovered it. On third and 13, JD Spielman broke some ankles as it looked like he would be short, but recovered and picked up the first down. One the next play it looked like Tyjon Lindsay was going to be dropped for a loss, but a stiff arm later he managed to make something out of nothing and pick up three yards.

On the next play, Tanner Lee shook off a would-be sack and found Tyler Hoppes around the ten for a long gain. The Purdue defender grabbed Lee’s facemask in the process for half the distance, giving Nebraska first and goal just inside the five. Pierson-El dropped the touchdown pass on third and goal and Drew Brown came out for the 21 yard field goal.

Purdue 7 Nebraska 6

There was 7:04 left in the half. If the Twitter meltdown was to be believed, the Huskers were still under 10 total yards rushing.

The Boilermakers returned the kickoff to the 21 yard line. David Blough wasted no time in going after Chris Jones (again), but the pass was mercifully dropped (again). Freedom Akinmoladun batted a pass down and Blough tried to scramble on third and 10, but was dropped by Khalil Davis to bring out the punting unit.

Purdue shanked the punt (26 yards), giving the anemic Husker offense the ball on the Purdue 48. There was a Jaylin Bradley sighting, but his run was called back for offensive holding (Nick Gates). In the absence of an effective run game, Danny Langsdorf resorted to the short passing game. It was not successful and Nebraska couldn’t capitalize on great field position.

Caleb Lightbourn’s punt was fair caught at the Purdue 14 yard line. There was 4:20 left in the half.

On the first play of the Purdue series, Antonio Reed was injured. Fellow safety Aaron Williams had been spotted on the sideline without a helmet earlier, so the secondary was getting thin. Purdue upped the tempo and tried to keep the Blackshirts on their heels. They worked their way down the field and got into the end zone on a five yard David Blough touchdown run. The PAT was good.

Purdue 14 Nebraska 6

Nebraska was still under 10 yards total rushing. Husker football had eight yards rushing in the first half. I know Purdue is greatly improved, but it feels like the beginning of the end for this season. It sucks, but it is what it is.

Third Quarter

Nebraska got the kickoff, made it to the red zone, and the result was predictable.

Purdue 14 Nebraska 9

Drew Brown’s kickoff was returned by Worship to the 26 yard line.

Aaron Williams made an appearance for the Blackshirts but was clearly in pain after making a tackle (left arm/shoulder). The Boilermakers continued to march down the field and another Blackshirt defender went down (Lamar Jackson) trying to arm tackle a Purdue player.

The Blackshirts made a goal line stand and forced a field goal after facing a second and goal with inches to go. Given the final score of the game, this stand loomed large by holding the Boilermakers to three points instead of seven.

The kick was good.

Purdue 17 Nebraska 9

Sideline reports indicated both Decker and Farmer were done for the night.

Tanner Lee connected with Tyler Hoppes for a long gain. He also just barely converted a third and one with a quarterback sneak to keep the drive alive. Jaylin Bradley gave the run game a spark as he was consistently able to get the edge on Purdue’s defense, including a run to the nine yard line.

Any guesses how this possession ended?

Purdue 17 Nebraska 12

There was 2:06 left in the third quarter.

Brown ended up having to make the tackle on the kickoff return as Purdue marched it out to the 40 yard line. They promptly moved past midfield. The Blackshirts lost yet another DB, Eric Lee. Lamar Jackson was back on the field.

Purdue continued to not-connect on long bombs down the field, a very fortunate turn of events for Nebraska. Josh Kalu tackled a Purdue receiver short of the sticks on a third and long. In no-man’s land (too long for a field goal and little to be gained punting) they converted, but were called for offensive pass interference. Purdue trotted out the punt team.

Purdue faked the punt. The pass was incomplete but Dicaprio Bootle was called for PI (not knowing it was a fake and trying to block his guy). Sideline reports indicated that the fake punt was a point of emphasis all week from the coaches. Purdue got new life on the 34 yard line. Blough got them into the red zone on a 17 yard pickup on a zone read. (Update: Based on rule excerpts being shared around social media, it appears that the PI call should not have been made. Of course, I’m not an expert by any means, but can you imagine the meltdown if the Huskers had lost game?)

Fourth Quarter

The Boilermakers quickly made good on the red zone possession and went in for the touchdown. The kick was good.

Purdue 24 Nebraska 12

Our former interim AD filled us in on his gametime activities.

J.D. Spielman returned the kickoff to the 29 yard line. The Husker offense was under the gun to put some points, more than three anyway, on the board.

Jaylin Bradley was starting to put the offense on his back and churn for yards on the ground and the short passing game. Time was not on the Huskers’ side as there were 12 minutes left in the game.

The Huskers finally found the end zone on a Tyler Hoppes catch on a ball thrown by Tanner Lee off his back foot. Drew Brown’s PAT was good.

Purdue 24 Nebraska 19

There was 11:03 left in the game.

Drew Brown’s kickoff was returned to the 16 yard line. An pass to the Purdue tight end was knocked free by Marcus Newby. It was called incomplete. Nebraska called a timeout but didn’t challenge the play. It was an odd situation in that using a valuable timeout seemed like a bad call unless Coach Riley intended to challenge.

Chris Weber nearly picked off the third down screen pass, but the ball fell to the turf, forcing a punt.

De’Mornay Pierson-El fair caught the punt at the Nebraska 38 yard line. There was 10:05 left in the game.

Jaylin Bradley continued to line up in the backfield with Tanner Lee. Stanley Morgan drew a defensive holding call. A couple of negative plays, including one in which Bradley went out for the checkdown instead of staying in to pickup the blitz resulted in a Tanner Lee sack and punt.

Purdue started the drive on their 29 yard line.

Nebraska’s defense forced a three and out with a stout show of runstopping by the Husker DL.

DPE fair caught the ball on the 21 yard line.

On the first play, Tanner Lee rolled out and completed one to Stanley Morgan (his fifth catch of the day) who made a defender miss and moved the Huskers out to midfield. Ozigbo came in at the running back. My assumption is that Bradley’s whiff on the blitz made the coaches nervous. The Huskers hadn’t run the ball successfully all night, but they sure as hell needed their quarterback to remain upright and comfortable if Nebraska was to get back in this game.

Cole Conrad was called for holding, moving the Huskers back to a first and 20 back at the 40. The Huskers had been flagged nine times for 95 yards. JD Spielman caught a ball from a Tanner Lee who was being taken down as he let the ball go. A facemask on Spielman added 15 more and moved Nebraska into the red zone. There was 5:29 left in the game.

On fourth and six on the 15 yard line with 3:48 left in the game, Mike Riley went for it. The pass fell incomplete in the end zone. Purdue took over on downs.

Purdue converted one first down and clock continued to run. Nebraska used one of their two timeouts to stop the clock at 2:22.

*At this point, I received notice that my sons were back two hours earlier than expected from the National FFA Convention and I had to make a mad dash to pick them up, so you get the short version of the story.

The Blackshirts forced the punt and Nebraska got the ball back with 1:22 left in the game and no time outs.

In a remarkable turn of events, Nebraska’s offense ran the two-minute drill to perfection. They took advantage of every soft spot in the zone, got out of bounds (mostly) and protected their quarterback.

A lot of Huskers deserve kudos on the drive, but it was Stanley Morgan who caught the game-winner in the end zone with 14 seconds to spare. The two-point conversion failed.

Nebraska 25 Purdue 24

The Boilermakers ran a couple of desperation plays, but the Blackshirts kept everything in front of them and the game ended.

  • The Blackshirts forced six 3-and-outs by the Purdue offense.
  • Tanner Lee becomes the second straight Husker quarterback (Ryker Fyfe; 2015 407 yards) to pass for 400+ yards at Ross-Ade stadium. His 431 yard performance is tied for fourth all-time at Nebraska for passing yards.
  • Junior receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. caught six passes for 112 yards – three shy of his career high.
  • Senior tight end Tyler Hoppes caught five passes for 105 yards, both of which were career highs.
  • Senior kicker Drew Brown connected on four field goals in tonight’s game, including a season-long 44-yarder to open the scoring, his 21st career field goal of at least 40 yards. With his four field goals, Brown increased his career field goal total to 57, tying his brother, Kris, for second place on the NU career field goals list.
  • True freshman tackle Brenden Jaimes started his fifth game tonight. The five starts are the most ever by a Nebraska true freshman offensive lineman.
  • True freshman receiver Tyjon Lindsey and sophomore linebacker Mohamed Barry each made their first career starts in tonight’s game.

I don’t think much of Husker nation is celebrating this one, rather they are breathing a sigh of relief. Up next is the Northwestern Wildcats. You know, the team that never plays exciting games with Nebraska.