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Nebraska vs. Purdue: Storylines

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1. Oh, Danny Boy

Frosh v. frosh. What Nebraska’s Tommy Armstrong has over Purdue’s Danny Etling is a year of experience and two starts under his belt. What the true freshman Etling has to his advantage is the unknown. There’s only one half of a college game on the quarterback to study. Pulled from his redshirt in Purdue’s last game, he had the kind of mixed results you’d expect for a debut – 39 passes, 19 completions, two touchdowns, two interceptions. The advantage of youth is sometimes you don’t know enough to be intimidated. But if Nebraska can consistently put hits on the young QB – paging Randy Gregory – you have to expect Etling might get a little trigger-happy, perhaps throwing the football where he shouldn’t. “How much we pressure is going to be dictated a little bit by how they’re trying to attack us,” said defensive coordinator John Papuchis. “But we’ll give him enough multiple looks that his first start won’t be easy.” It shouldn’t be. Nebraska’s defense may rank 97th nationally, but Purdue’s offense is 117th. A week ago, the Blackshirts took a step up the ladder after a rough September. They can’t afford to fall back this week, not against this offense, not against a quarterback who was in a prom tux a few months ago.

2. Feed Ameer

Armstrong and Ron Kellogg III have not taken long to figure out their best friends. It’s NU's front five and Ameer Abdullah. No need for the Huskers to get cute this weekend. Give No. 8 a healthy amount of feedings and see what happens. How good is Abdullah’s season so far? He's ninth nationally in rushing yards per game with 138.0. And Abdullah only gets stronger as the games go on. So the Huskers would be wise to stay patient with the running game, even if Purdue’s defense comes out fired up after a bye week with a chance to restart its season. Early game emotion goes only so far. At some point, if Abdullah keeps getting touches, you’d suspect the yards will pile up.

3. The most favorable stat of all

Remember when Nebraska was always losing the turnover battle? Not the story this year. The Huskers have actually broken even or won in the turnover category in each of the first five games. The Husker defense, for all its warts, has already caused 12 turnovers. Nebraska is currently plus 5 in turnovers for the year, best in the Big Ten and 18th nationally in turnover margin. Purdue? Last in the Big Ten and 107th. The Boilermakers will have to completely flip that stat Saturday to have a chance at an upset. If the Huskers secure the ball, it’s hard to foresee them not securing a victory as well.

4. No sleepwalking

The Husker show goes on the road for the first time this season. A hostile environment isn’t expected, considering tickets to the game are being sold online for less than $4. But there can be danger in walking into a sleepy atmosphere, too. You don’t want to have to wait to hear that big Purdue drum beating to wake you up. The Huskers should not be lulled to a false sense of security by the Boilermakers’ 1-4 record. The bottom line is, Nebraska has not arrived to the point yet, particularly defensively, to just stumble through the motions. Nebraska seemed to gain confidence from its performance against Illinois. Here’s a chance to add another block to the foundation. These are pivotal weeks. Better use October to make those walls sturdy enough to stand up to the winds of November.

Reach Brian Christopherson at bchristopherson@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. Follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.

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