Huskers Halt Boiler Momentum
Even after losing two straight, it was tough to deny that things felt different around Purdue's football program. Versus MSU, Purdue fought hard and made it a game and in Minneapolis, Purdue had a lead until late in the game before giving a road conference victory away. Today in Lincoln, it was different from the jump.
Purdue's special teams had been generally solid this season, but Nebraska saw something on tape that led them bring the heat on Meadows early. So following Purdue's first offensive possession, the Huskers blocked a punt. A play or two later, it was 7-0.
On the next possession, Purdue went three and out again...and then the punt was returned to inside the 30. Purdue's defense held on the one on a fourth and goal attempt that lost Nebraska the ball and their starting RB, Abdullah to a knee injury.
It looked like Purdue had regressed to its ways of 2013...an assured 14-0 deficit was suddenly a 7-7 game after a few more possessions...and it felt like our Boilers might be ready to take the next step. But just as quickly, as Purdue shored things up, Nebraska's second string back, Cross, along with Armstrong helped to put Nebraska up by two scores heading into the half.
Purdue's defense was tough; unexpectedly for big chunks of the game...today was the day in which the offense and special teams would wet the bed.
The stats don't tell the story of this game. Purdue had more yards than Nebraska and nearly as many first downs...But two blocked punts hurt our Boilers...and the offense's inability to make plays left them perpetually in third and long situations. The play calling took over where Shoop and Hazell left off in the second half of the Minnesota game. And Appleby looked rattled at times for the first time as a starter. He ended the day 18/46 with 216 yards, 1 TD thrown, 1 running and 2 interceptions. The most noteworthy was an ugly forced pass to Yancey in the endzone...A truly awful pass and assessment of the defense...but horrible effort by Yancey on the other end of the ball as he pretty much watched the Nebraska DB catch it without fighting at all for it.
Landon Feichter had two interceptions and Purdue's young linebackers showed a lot of improvement...but the defensive ends couldn't read the option; a problem that reared its head too many times today. Plus, they were worn down by the pounding of Nebraska's running game; that seems to be awful news heading into next week's game versus Gordon and Wisconsin.
This game was costly. Purdue didn't capitalize on multiple opportunities to get back into the game and made far too many mistakes. In what could be Purdue's final chance to beat a ranked opponent, Purdue came up well short. But more costly than the 35-14 loss was that of Anthrop's injury. After being Purdue's only receiver to consistently catch the ball this season, Anthrop went down with what looks to be major damage to his knee. Following his second circus catch of the game, he was left on the ground grabbing his knee. Moments later, he was vomiting on the bench before being helped off of the field.
Along with Anthrop, Williams left the game with a head injury...and Hunt played the entire game in spite of looking like he might leave the game with a similar injury.
Many Purdue fans have asked me if we should be concerned with the fact that it took the coaching staff so long to start Appleby. Of course, I believe that should give us all pause. But another personnel move continues to bewilder me. As Holmes dropped balls, Sinz sat on the bench for the majority of the game. When given the opportunity in the third quarter, Sinz had two straight catches. Granted, no player on Purdue's roster has more athleticism than Holmes...but nobody has been more productive this season (except for Hunt) than #84.
Losing week after week makes it tough to keep up the team's morale for the coaches...but this staff needs to find a way to make massive improvements before Purdue returns to the field next week against Wisconsin. A bowl game, of course, is still possible if Purdue wins out...but winning only one game looks more likely as things stand tonight.
Purdue will face its 5th running back (Gordon) in the nation's top-10 in rushing yards next week. Hopefully a few lessons have been learned in the failed attempts to stop three of the other four run-heavy teams.
A friend of mine correctly pointed out that Anthrop was hurt on a punt return (in relief of the injured Williams) and the Sinz catches were late in the 4th. I tend to not go through the play-by-play transcript of the game after games like this...The way I look at it, most of you are either die-hards or my Mother...so you get the gist of it. That said, my apologies for the errors.