Nebraska vs. Purdue, 10/28/17

Nebraska's Tanner Lee (13) sets up to pass while Nick Gates blocks during the fourth quarter of Saturday's game against Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium.

FRANCIS GARDLER, Journal Star

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — They won't hang it in an art museum.

In fact, any pictures of the Nebraska offense might just be discreetly tossed in a dumpster after the Huskers' 25-24 victory against Purdue that seemed to come out of nowhere.

But in the fourth quarter Saturday, when execution had to be perfect, when plays had to be made, Nebraska rose to the challenge.

And that looked pretty good to the guys wearing red.

"I don't know exactly what to say," said offensive lineman Jerald Foster, usually not one at a loss for words. "We kept pushing, we kept doing what we were supposed to do. Obviously, we wanted to score (touchdowns). I don't know how many field goals we got, but we wanted to score on all of those, so getting into the end zone on that last one was something we were all happy about."

"That last one" will be talked about for a while. But Nebraska's 70-yard march in the final 82 seconds wouldn't have mattered had NU not found at least a little something earlier in the final quarter.

Nebraska rolled up 203 yards on four fourth-quarter possessions. Most of them came through the air, sure. Tanner Lee was masterful. The final drive "was just beautiful," offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said.

But the beauty of the end served only to cover up the ugliness of the beginning. Nebraska mustered just 40 rushing yards against the nation's 70th-ranked run defense. Five times the Huskers drove into the red zone. They came away with four field goals and were stopped on downs on the fifth attempt.

Many of those red-zone issues, Langsdorf said, stemmed from an inability to find any creases in Purdue's run defense.

"We didn’t run the ball down there against the coverage looks that they gave us. And a couple times they had some drop coverages, so they’ve got a lot of people. So if you can’t handle the nose tackle, then they drop eight, you’re going to have a hard time, and that’s what it was," Langsdorf said.

"So we had to fight through some stuff, we battled through some injury problems, and the guys just kept playing, and the ones that went in blocked their guys and came through in the end."

While the running game never got started enough to even be described as sputtering, Nebraska may have found a spark in true freshman Jaylin Bradley.

The Bellevue West graduate carried seven times for 42 yards — all in the second half — and caught three passes for 31 yards in his most extensive action of the season.

"Earlier in the week, Coach (Reggie) Davis was saying 'We're going to put you out there and see what you can do,'" Bradley said. "So I had to show them what I could do, and I did pretty good, I guess."

Bradley's first carry, from near midfield halfway through the third quarter, went for 13 yards. Four plays later, he ripped off a 20-yard scamper around the left side that ended up accounting for exactly half of Nebraska's rushing yards.

He touched the ball on three consecutive plays on Nebraska's first drive of the fourth quarter, catching passes for 10 and 13 yards and running for 3 more yards.

"We wanted to get him more touches, and I thought he responded," Langsdorf said. "I thought he gave us a little spark on a couple runs that he hit (in the second half). He gave us some good minutes."

Bradley did miss a blitz pickup that led to a sack of Tanner Lee and a butt-chewing from Davis on the sideline, but the 6-foot, 180-pounder responded by showing the ability that made him the most electrifying high school player in the state a year ago.

"Jaylin went dumb today, and I liked it," junior running back Devine Ozigbo said. "Jaylin's going to be a beast here. He's just going to grow and continue to get better, and I think people saw that today."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7436 or cbasnett@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.

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A Ravenna native, Chris covers the University of Nebraska men's basketball team and assists with football coverage. He spent nearly 10 years covering sports at the Kearney Hub and nearly four years at the Springfield News-Leader in Springfield, Mo.

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