Three weeks ago, against Colorado in the first game of the season, Nebraska had seven sacks. It was well-documented that the seven sacks were halfway to the 14 the Huskers had for all of the 2017 season. Nebraska lost the game, but there were signs of the Blackshirts living up to their name.
In the three games since, the Blackshirts have only had five sacks combined, including one each in the past two games. Ben Stille had the Huskers' only sack Saturday in a 42-28 loss to Purdue.
The Blackshirts didn’t get enough pressure on Purdue quarterback David Blough, so he was able to pick apart the Husker defense, completing 25 of 42 passes for 328 yards with no interceptions.
Nebraska linebacker Luke Gifford said Purdue’s backs and tight ends did a good job of helping to protect Blough, but said there are no excuses for not getting more pressure on the quarterback.
“I myself was terrible, to be honest. Brutal,” Gifford said. “I have to do a much better job, especially when we lean on me as a pass-rusher. There’s no excuses. I have to find something that works, and I’m going to do that.”
Nebraska also didn’t force a turnover, and has forced only three all season.
“We’ve had bad breaks, but when you’re a good team, you make your own breaks,” Nebraska coach Scott Frost said. “You make your own luck. It was 7-7, and their receiver (Rondale Moore) threw a ball up in the air and we were an eyelash away from picking it and scoring, and we would have been up 14-7. You gotta take advantage of those things.
“They threw enough fades with corners out there, if we go get one of those, it changes the game. When we sack somebody, instead of just sacking, we need to strip them; it changes the game. We gotta keep working, but you don’t win games when you’re negative in turnovers.”
The Blackshirts also got gashed for big plays. On Purdue’s first drive, the Nebraska defense was doing OK, but gave up two consecutive big plays, a 22-yard reception by Alexander Horvath and a 42-yard touchdown run by D.J. Knox.
It was another big play that led to a field goal on the Boilermakers’ second drive, a 48-yard pass to a wide-open receiver on a trick play.
Blough was also able scramble for 14 and 16 yards. Early in the second quarter, Purdue was averaging 9.8 yards per play.
In the second half, Nebraska scored touchdowns to cut into the Purdue lead, but the Boilermakers were able to answer each with quick touchdown drives of 90 and 75 yards. Running back Markell Jones was barely touched on a 6-yard touchdown run as Purdue took a 42-21 lead.
Purdue finished with 516 yards of offense, an average of 6.5 per play.
“They’re good on offense,” Frost said of the Boilermakers. “I think Coach (Jeff) Brohm did a good job. You don’t win a lot of games when you give up 42 (points). But a lot of the 42 was because we made stupid mistakes. Covering someone man on a tunnel screen and don’t cover the tight end and just let him run free. A lot of mistakes on defense. It isn’t effort; again, it’s dumb decisions, being undisciplined. And it’s not dumb kids, they just need to do it right all the time.”
Purdue didn’t do anything that surprised the Nebraska defense, cornerback Dicaprio Bootle said. Bootle had seven tackles and three pass breakups.
“Everything they did we expected them to do, it was just a matter of we had to stop it,” Bootle said.