Not So "Winnable": Purdue Handles Huskers 42-28
Feature image from @BoilerFootball
“We’ve got a chance to get reset next week,” Frost said. “This is a really good (Michigan) team we played. We get a game that we can win next week."
- Scott Frost, Nebraska HC
"I think everything that's said is heard, and our team needs to respond and understand that we've got to show up ready to play and this team will be licking their chops trying to get us." - Jeff Brohm, Superhero
If we would have told you Purdue would stand at 2-3 going into their bye week, before their game at Santa Lovie’s Illinois, you’d probably feel pretty good about the season. Purdue is set up for the 3-3 baseline we were hoping at the halfway point of the season, with a decent shot at three back-half wins to drive Purdue to its second bowl of the Brohm tenure.
But it’s been an adventure this far.
Purdue walked into Lincoln as 3.5 point favorites, after three opening losses by a combined 8 points and a dominant homecoming win versus Boston College. Fair to say that the beginning of Scott Frost’s Nebraska reunion has been bizarre enough to justify that line, and all of us at BS Headquarters picked a runaway Boilermaker victory.
It felt weird, but there wasn’t much behind-the-scenes nervous energy before the game. We were confident: this team was better than their 1-3 record, and though Frost will assuredly bring Nebraska around quickly, they’re floundering right now. Brohm and Co would undoubtedly take advantage and bring home the win.
Brohm’s Boilermakers delivered on our confidence, keeping the game out of reach from whistle to whistle with a final 42-28 victory. It was Purdue’s first victory in Lincoln.
We can’t stop often enough to highlight how great of a feeling this is, especially after the past decade-plus of inconsistent performances and outright embarrassment. Jeff Brohm has brought consistency and aggression and entertainment and, well, fun back to the Purdue brand, and it’s a truly wonderful ride.
Speaking of fun, the “winnable game” remark was not lost on the players, as Markell demonstrates here:
The story of the game: Two brilliant tactical coaches, facing off with teams they didn’t build themselves, throwing haymakers and hoping to land as many as possible. Big plays defined the day.
For Purdue, that story played out through DJ Knox’s ferocity, David Blough’s steadiness, and Nick Holt’s defensive aggression. Right off the bat, Knox announced it was his day, busting a 42-yard touchdown run.
Knox would finish with two touchdowns and 87 yards on 15 carries, his most impressive collegiate game yet. He also proved that he might be an Olympic long-jumper with this nonsense:
Purdue’s coaching staff finally trusted its running game to free things up for Blough, and they delivered. Knox was a beast, and the offensive line stunningly dominated Nebraska’s pass rush for most of the game. Though Markell Jones couldn’t get things going early, he was crucial as Purdue was trying to put away the game late, finishing with a surprising 59 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries.
But it was the big plays that defined today’s game, so we’re obligated to post this video of a Blough-to-Zico flea flicker:
A point of concern: Purdue would finish with only a field goal on that drive, and on their final drive of the first half after three gifted Nebraska flags (two warranted, one *shrugs*). Two Boilermaker touchdowns would have put the boot on Nebraska’s throat, but Spencer Evans converting both field goals was crucial for Purdue to play its style of football that was so successful today.
A point of excitement: David Blough remained excellent today, and Jeff Brohm finally leaned heavily on tight end Brycen Hopkins, who delivered (outside of one wide-open fourth quarter drop). 5 receptions for 103 yards and this gorgeous play design for a touchdown:
Let’s spend a second on this play, because it’s what makes Brohm special. A play-action, a lineman pulling to block for a strongside-rolling Blough, a wheel route and fade on either sideline to occupy the safeties. Four points of misdirection leading to a simple decision: Brycen Hopkins, wide open in the middle of the field, walking into the end zone for a touchdown.
Four points of misdirection. It’s not a trick play, but I was drooling.
Woah this is going to be a problem eventually: Adrian Martinez, Nebraska’s freshman QB, is going to be a superstar, and I’m very glad Purdue got a victory in Lincoln against him before he explodes. 25/42 for 323 yards, two touchdowns and one interception doesn’t seem like the best statline for a “star” QB, but watching the game felt like the opening scene of an eventual spotlight documentary. He was the center of Nebraska’s entire offensive plan, he freed up space for RB Devine Ozigbo to gash Purdue for 170 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries, and he used his running ability to free the Huskers from basically every 3rd-and-long situation they faced tonight (91 yards on 18 carries).
Oh, and he can make throws like this:
This kid isn’t a kid, he’s a demon waiting to be unleashed by a Nebraska offensive line that needs improvement. Throw in Scott Frost and we might have an issue on our hands in a year or two.
Huh, this was a thing Matt Millen really said in real life:
But the things that really matter:
A heartbreaking setback for Purdue sports’ heart and soul. I had the honor of meeting Tyler and his roommates during the Mizzou game, and they’re all really wonderful people. Nothing mattered that night aside from spending time sitting next to people we love, alongside 57,000+ of our closest friends on a beautiful summer night, cheering on our Boilermakers during an entertaining primetime game at Purdue.
That’s why sports matter. There’s nothing quite like an entertaining football team that binds a community, that gives loved ones an excuse to spend the day together, that gives people the extra energy to tackle ever-present challenges during their lives.
Count Boiled Sports as part of the team praying for Tyler’s health, standing behind him as he recovers, and advocating for an honorary Purdue degree.
It’s a joy to spend these Saturdays with all of you, gathered around our TVs and clapping like lunatics for this entertaining team hundreds (or thousands) of miles away. I wouldn’t have it any other way.