Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

Nebraska vs. Purdue, 10/28/17

Nebraska wide receiver Stanley Morgan (8) breaks away from Purdue safety Jacob Thieneman (41) in the first half Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind.

GWYNETH ROBERTS, Journal Star

RUNNING GAME (D)

Nebraska fizzled in this area on its first possession, deep in the red zone, which helps explain the field goal. That became a theme. Husker running backs simply couldn't find much room, although true freshman Jaylin Bradley did enjoy easily his best game (seven carries, 42 yards). Luke McNitt, after picking up a first down on third-and-1 in the first quarter, was stopped cold on fourth-and-1 at the NU 45-yard line early in the second quarter, giving the home team a shot of energy.

PASSING GAME (A)

Tanner Lee was simply superb — 32-for-50 for 431 yards. His poise during the final drive, with no timeouts, tells you a lot about his makeup. His 46-yard completion to Stanley Morgan on the first possession was against good coverage. But Lee often was under duress in the first half, thanks to so-so pass blocking. Even so, he made some excellent throws and showed the resilience of a veteran.

AGAINST THE RUN (C)

Richie Worship, a 6-foot, 260-pound sophomore, looked a bit too much like Marshawn Lynch for Bob Diaco's liking. He ran through arm tackles, as did backup D.J. Knox (5-7, 210). Knox plowed through Mohamed Barry on a third-and-1 en route to a 30-yard gain that set up a second-quarter touchdown. Purdue entered the game averaging 146.6 rushing yards, and had 123 by halftime (it finished with 199). Credit NU for clamping down in the second half.

AGAINST THE PASS (C)

Cornerback Chris Jones' pass-interference penalty helped lead to Purdue's first touchdown, and receivers too often ran free. Jones redeemed himself with good coverage to thwart David Blough's pass attempt on third-and-goal from the 3 early in the third quarter. Blough finished 16-for-28 for 164 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions.

SPECIAL TEAMS (C)

Lincoln Southwest grad Isaac Armstrong filled in exceptionally well as the place-holder as Zack Darlington missed the game because of illness. On the other hand, Knox's 34-yard kickoff return was a punch to the Huskers' mid-section as the visitors were trying to gain momentum in the third quarter. Then, the Boilermakers surprised the Huskers with a fake punt, which worked out, as Dicaprio Bootle was flagged for pass interference.

PLAY CALLING (B)

Danny Langsdorf showed guts going for it on fourth-and-1 at the Nebraska 45 early in the second quarter. But when McNitt was stopped short, Purdue picked up a hefty dose of momentum. But give the play-caller credit for the game-winning TD pass, as Morgan slipped inside the hashes after running routes to the outside much of the night.

GAME MANAGEMENT (D)

Husker center Michael Decker's holding penalty helps explain why the offense's initial drive stalled in the red zone. Junior left tackle Nick Gates twice was called for holding. Cole Conrad got into the holding act in the fourth quarter. NU had five penalties in the first half and finished with nine for 95 yards.

OVERALL (B)

It can't be an "A" because Nebraska "didn't play perfectly," as Mike Riley put it. Far from it. But the comeback was gutsy. And Lee's performance was sterling.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.

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