How do the Huskers light up the scoreboard?
1. Some PO'd linemen ready to push back after a week of tough critiques. Bring the nastiness, sure. But that mean streak needs to come with good technique, winning leverage battles, sustaining blocks and wearing out a defense that ranks last in the Big Ten in defending the run.
2. Ryker Fyfe knows this offense fine. He's got a quick release. And when he's on, he throws as well as anyone on the roster. He also is more mobile than some would guess. But you know his heart will be pounding through his chest when he takes that first snap. He might have to fight that urge to force that big play. He doesn't have to win this thing by himself. And a punt beats an interception.
3. Receivers who don't just make the catches they should — they had eight drops a week ago — but make a few you don't expect, too. Help No. 17 out. And don't run those third-down routes a yard short of the sticks.
4. A big return or two. Whether it comes from De'Mornay Pierson-El or a kick-return unit tired of being dead-last nationally, you'd like to see Nebraska pop one. Purdue has been really bad on special teams. A house call seems due.
5. Protect that football like it's your pair of headphones. It's going to be rainy. Footing on a grass field could be tough. It can't be an excuse. Purdue ranks 102nd nationally in points per game. Don't give a short field to an offense that needs it.
How do the Blackshirts shut 'em down?
1. Take the football away. Purdue has given it away to foes 18 times in seven games. The Boilermakers have lost the football more than all but eight teams in college football.
2. Heat up Purdue quarterback David Blough. He's completing only about 48 percent of his passes in Big Ten play. You'd figure he's not at that point in his career where he's going to be Mr. Precision if, say, Maliek Collins drills him a few times.
3. Challenge those Boilermaker receivers. According to those who cover the team, they've struggled to get off against press coverage. And if a senior like Daniel Davie could make that big play to spark his season, that'd be a nice bonus.
4. Some big-time work by the few healthy Husker linebackers still left. They've got a big job not letting Purdue running backs get rolling in the passing game. The top two Boilermaker backs have 33 catches between them. Purdue will try to isolate those guys in space against guys such as Josh Banderas, Dedrick Young and Marcus Newby. That trio needs to be disciplined all day long.
5. Emotion. Lots of it. Even though the Huskers played pretty well defensively for three quarters last week, there was just something missing. You want to see attacking defenders who are slapping each other on the helmet after big hits. It's probably going to be a small crowd. Bring your own energy to the party.
ALL EYES ON THEM
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RYKER FYFE, QB, NO. 17: However it goes, Mr. Fyfe is now part of the club. A walk-on who started at quarterback for Nebraska. Might as well go out and win the thing and make the day really sweet.
AARON WILLIAMS, S, NO. 24: Senior Byerson Cockrell is missing this game because of a death in the family. The true freshman Williams has played in every game, but his role is bigger than ever at that back end with Nate Gerry.
SAM FOLTZ, P, NO. 27: He was hard on himself last week for not pinning a few punts deep. If Foltz could find the right touch this week, which he is fully capable of, it could be the difference.
NUMBERS TO THROW OUT AT THE HOUSE PARTY
1: Combined wins Darrell Hazell and Mike Riley have in the Big Ten. Purdue has lost 18 conference games under Hazell, with the lone win last year against Illinois.
17: Number worn by the Husker quarterback who started the last time NU played on Halloween. That was Cody Green. Also his first start. Nebraska jumped out early and won 20-10 in 2009 at Baylor in a half-full stadium.
96: Rushing yards Wisconsin had against Purdue two weeks ago. As bad as the Boilermakers have been against the run (198.1 per game), they held down the Badgers.
There's a Husker party if …
This time the Huskers run it 48 times. And well. … Ryker Fyfe doesn't throw a pick six like fellow No. 17 Cody Green did in his first start. … You don't hear about the year 1958. The last time Nebraska lost to Purdue. That was the first loss of seven that year. … Red pants. C'mon. For all us old people over 30. … A team with passion, playing fast, motivated just because it's wearing the red "N."
Sunday brunch stinks if …
David Blough decides to copy Clayton Thorson's scramble moves. … Darrell Hazell getting a Gatorade bath. … Purdue Pete shows up at your doorstep for Halloween. That big-eyed, blank stare will keep you up as much as a loss to Illinois.
BC's best guess: Huskers 27, Boilermakers 22.
This is painful for Husker fans to realize a game against 1-6 Purdue could be a tussle. But at this point, what would make us predict otherwise? With an inexperienced starting quarterback, soggy weather and a Husker running game with plenty to prove, it has all the makings of another four-quarter game that keeps Nebraskans squirming. In this Husker season, and with all those injuries, you take any win by any margin and skip out of town.