WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Nebraska football writer Parker Gabriel offers his extra points from the Huskers' 31-27 loss against Purdue.
Turning point: Darrion Daniels’ first-quarter interception was nearly a turning point in favor of Nebraska. Instead, by no fault of his own, it goes down as a turning point the other way.
The Huskers failed to score a touchdown from inside the 5 after Daniels’ pick, settling instead for a field goal. That was a harbinger of what was to come on a frustrating day for the offense.
It was over when: Not until sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez’s final pass attempt of the day was batted into the air and fell harmlessly to the turf for a turnover-on-downs with less than a minute remaining and the Huskers trailing by four.
You’re asking for a loss, though, when so many opportunities get squandered and when the defense gives up scores on Purdue’s final three drives.
That, collectively, served as the nail in the coffin for Nebraska.
Quotable: Junior defensive lineman Ben Stille on the frustration of blowing leads the past two weeks and going into the final three games at 4-5 instead of potentially 6-3.
“Obviously extremely frustrating. It’s about a 365 day-a-year job, and so you work for this your whole year and so to be losing over stupid stuff, it’s extremely frustrating,” junior defensive lineman Ben Stille said. “You put four years of your life into it and for it to come down to stupid stuff, people not doing their job, little things, tackling, things that we know how to do, it’s obviously extremely frustrating.
“Everyone makes mistakes, everyone’s been there. I don’t think anyone’s out there intentionally trying to screw the game up, you know what I’m saying? You’ve got freshmen that just got out of high school, you’ve got 17-, 18-year-old kids and they know they messed up. You do what you can, but if guys messed up in the game, they know they messed up.”
Game ball: Purdue tight end Brycen Hopkins is known as one of the best tight ends in the Big Ten, and he showed why on Saturday. The 6-foot-5, 245-pound senior finished with eight catches for 97 yards and three catches for 42 — including a 26-yarder on a perfect throw from walk-on Aidan O’Connell — on Purdue’s game-winning drive alone.
Hopkins is big-time.
Game ball: Boilermakers head coach Jeff Brohm. As the game went on, Brohm kept finding ways to get the ball into his playmakers hands. No better example than on the final play of that deciding drive. Freshman wide receiver David Bell had been largely held in check by the Husker secondary, finishing with seven catches for just 23 yards.
Brohm called a timeout before a third-and-goal play and dialed up an end-around to the standout rookie. He used running back King Doerue and O’Connell to get Nebraska flowing to the field side and O’Connell made a good play fake before pitching it to Bell, who could have walked into the end zone to the offense’s left.
Brohm is a well-respected offensive mind and he pushed the perfect button at the perfect time with the game on the line.
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Hat tip: Secondary coach Travis Fisher often touts the versatility of his players and it was on display in the form of junior Dicaprio Bootle on Saturday. With Cam Taylor-Britt out due to illness, Bootle started at safety for the first time since one game his redshirt freshman year and appeared to play well.
Bootle is a smart, tough-minded player and he handled a position change seamlessly.
Husker head coach Scott Frost after the game said of the junior from Miami, “Dicaprio is one of the guys I’ll go to battle with any time.”
Deep connection: Martinez hit junior JD Spielman for 42 yards to help put NU in position to re-take the lead at 27-24 in the fourth quarter for the longest pass play of the game. Spielman also had catches of 40 and 21 and finished with six grabs for 123 overall. Spielman has 689 receiving yards through nine games and needs to average 103.6 per game to become the second receiver in history — and the second in as many years — to hit the 1,000-yard mark in a season for NU.
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18: Yardage difference in NU’s starting field position (own 41) and Purdue’s (own 23)
1: Turnover differential for the Huskers, who forced two and gave away one.
3: Critical misses in the passing game for sophomore Adrian Martinez: a sure touchdown to Kanawai Noa up the left seam, a big play to tight end Jack Stoll up the right seam and a ball behind Stoll on a late crossing route.
3: Straight losses for Nebraska, which felt good heading into its first bye week 4-2 after a last-second win against Northwestern and now must find at least one upset win in order to qualify for a bowl.
2: Field goals made in a game for just the second time this season (Northwestern).
0: Times before Saturday NU had a perfect game in the field-goal department, thanks to a 2-of-2 outing from sophomore Barret Pickering.
39: Nebraska attempted a season-high 39 passes against Purdue.
8: Third-down conversions in 14 attempts for Purdue, which missed its first three and then went 8-of-11. The Boilermakers’ quarterbacks combined to go 8-of-9 for 90 yards on third downs.
218: In the past two weeks, opposing quarterbacks have completed 16-of-19 for 218 yards on third and fourth down against Nebraska.
Parker joined the Journal Star as the University of Nebraska football beat writer in August 2017. He previously covered Montana State athletics for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2012.