RUNNING GAME (A)
Those were probably some of the hardest-earned 251 rushing yards you’ll ever see. Purdue showed many different fronts and defensive looks, according to Nebraska players and coaches, and that made for a difficult day in the trenches. “Half the time, I wasn’t even sure I was blocking the right person or not,” tackle Jeremiah Sirles said. “I’d just kind of come off the ball, and somebody would be there, someone would be here.” Yet Ameer Abdullah had 126 rushing yards, averaging 6.3 per carry, and the Huskers had three runs of 20 yards or more.
PASSING GAME (C)
A pretty rough day for Tommy Armstrong, but probably not surprising for a freshman. The good news: His errant throws and turnovers came in a game that didn't cost Nebraska, making it an easier-to-bear learning experience. There was some clear miscommunication in the passing game, and the receivers didn't help matters, at times, with three drops. Ron Kellogg, though, was brilliant on third-down throws. Again, Purdue showed different looks to try to confuse the QBs. “When they gambled and they were right, it wasn't very good for us,” receivers coach Rich Fisher said. “But when they gambled and we caught ‘em, we got big explosion plays in the passing game.”
AGAINST THE RUN (A)
Keep in mind that Purdue isn't a team very adept at running the football – it entered Saturday averaging 3.1 yards per carry and 87 per game – but still, Nebraska was sound, allowing only two runs of 10 yards or more. Helping matters was the fact Purdue basically had to abandon its running game after falling behind by a significant margin.
AGAINST THE PASS (A)
Nebraska did what you’d expect against a true freshman QB making his first start. The Huskers pressured and rattled him early and never let Danny Etling find rhythm or confidence. “I think early on, when we got the pressure on him and he’d been on the ground a few times, that sort of took him out of his game,” said Greg McMullen, who had one of Nebraska’s five sacks. “He’s not going to have that composure and poise a senior quarterback would.”
SPECIAL TEAMS (A)
That’s one of the best overall games Nebraska’s had on special teams in some time. Purdue is dangerous on kickoff returns, yet the Huskers, with the help of a couple of sound tackles by Colby Starkebaum, kept Purdue at its 15-, 8- and 20-yard lines on kicks the Boilermakers were able to return. Nebraska handled pooch kicks, punts and even a meaningless onside kick without any issues. And no missed PATs.
Tim Beck called a nice drive to start the game and turned to the run at the goal line when it made sense to do so. Also liked taking deep shots on the times Nebraska had a short field after a sudden-change situation, even if those plays weren't executed (See: Interception in end zone).
GAME MANAGEMENT (B)
No major issues, but it would’ve made more sense to let the first-quarter clock run out – there were six seconds – rather than take a timeout. Play clock wasn't an issue there. Yes, I’ll admit, it’s hard to criticize the QB rotation (or insinuate a controversy) when we see what we saw from Armstrong. However, after the first interception, I would've liked to see Armstrong go back out immediately rather than take his turn on the bench.
Said defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski: “I swear, this might have been the longest game in college football history today.” No, it only seemed like it. But guess what? Nebraska will take long and boring. While Purdue isn't very good, and seems to have maybe even regressed this season, the Huskers did what they should: Take control early and leave no doubt. Perhaps we’ll all enjoy a nice, quiet bye week now.