Game Day: Nebraska vs. Purdue

Looking to step up

Nebraska coach Mike Riley may still be in the honeymoon with all things Husker, but Nebraska’s football team has put itself in a tough spot, now facing a steep hill to reach a bowl game or any of the goals that it set for itself before the season. Even if 1-6 Purdue, the Huskers’ opponent Saturday morning at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Indiana, is the weakest team on Nebraska’s schedule, odds mount against NU. Obstacles grow.

READ MORE »

2-Minute Drill by Jon Nyatawa

Nebraska rush offense vs. Purdue rush defense

Nebraska tried various methods to get something going on the ground against Northwestern, but managed just 82 rushing yards. The Huskers still rank 33rd nationally at 4.94 yards per carry. But can they be physical and assertive enough against Purdue's big-bodied front? The Boilermakers are allowing 210.2 rushing yards per game during the past three years — but they've held NU to 4.02 yards per carry in their last two meetings.

Nebraska pass offense vs. Purdue pass defense

The health status of starting quarterback Tommy Armstrong is in question, so that'll make a big difference. With him at the helm, he's led the Huskers to a No. 36 ranking in passing yards per game (260.6) — though they're only averaging 7.1 yards per attempt. Not as efficient as they would like. And now it may be Fyfe's turn. Purdue's Leroy Clark is the man to watch (he has two interceptions and team-high six pass break-ups).

Purdue rush offense vs. Nebraska rush defense

Purdue has relied mostly on two backs — freshman Markell Jones (5.9 yards per carry) and sophomore D.J. Knox (3.8 yards per carry). But Knox is hurt. And the Boilermakers still rank just 123rd nationally with 21 rushes of 10-plus yards this year. It won't be any easier against the Huskers, whose defensive line and linebackers have reacted aggressively and instinctively to run game action all year. NU ranks 33rd nationally at 3.51 yards per carry allowed.

Purdue pass offense vs. Nebraska pass defense

David Blough is an inexperienced redshirt freshman quarterback with receivers who haven't yet proved to be big-time game-changers. But Nebraska's opponents have all enjoyed some level of success against the Huskers, who're giving up 321.1 passing yards per game (126th nationally) and who have allowed 43 pass plays of 20-plus yards (128th). Watch out for Jones in the pass game — Purdue likes to get the ball to its backs in space.

Special teams

Nebraska's averaging just 15.8 yards per kickoff attempt, which ranks 125th nationally. Purdue's given up lots of kickoff return yards, though — 24.41 per attempt (110th). The Boilermakers have just 11 total punt return yards on five attempts. De'Mornay Pierson-El is starting to get back on track, though he's still not his old self just yet. Purdue kicker Paul Griggs has made three of his eight field goal tries. Drew Brown's hit his last four, all of which have been longer than 40 yards.

Intangibles

The Boilermakers have lost their last nine Big Ten games. They're just 1-18 in league play under coach Darrell Hazell. Not good. But they nearly upset Michigan State this month and battled against the Spartans last year. They lost a one-point game to Minnesota in 2014. This could be Purdue's chance at a momentum-boosting win. And this program knows it. A humbled and frustrated NU team better be ready to match the hunger and fire of these upset-minded Boilermakers.

Key matchup: Nebraska receivers vs. Purdue defensive backs

If indeed the injury to their starting quarterback is severe enough to knock him out of Saturday's game and the Huskers must turn to backup Ryker Fyfe, the NU receivers will need to step up. They've been up and down the last few weeks, making the tough catches look easy but also botching the routine ones. The Boilermaker secondary can be vulnerable at times. Nebraska needs to win the one-on-one battles, consistently.

Our take

It'll be a noon kickoff in a half-full stadium with nothing on the line but pride and hope. Both programs are in need of a win. They may be desperate to get it, too. Purdue's three years into a rebuilding process, so the pressure is mounting. Nebraska's sudden dropoff isn't something that its loyal fan base will tolerate long. It may be sloppy, it may be unconventional and there may be head-scratching mistakes. But somebody's got to win. NU's the one with more talent.

Our prediction: Nebraska 24, Purdue 21

Live updates

#Huskers on Instagram

Videos

Extras

Live: TBL pregame, postgame

"The Bottom Line" pregame show with Mike’l Severe will start broadcasting live at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, then tune in after the game for a complete breakdown and call-in show with Mike'l and Joe Ganz. Click here »

Game notes

Check out a PDF of the game notes for the Nebraska-Purdue matchup provided by the NU Athletic Department. Click here »

Husker History

Find information on every win, loss and tie in Husker history. With historical World-Herald front pages, photos, stories, key stats and more, our ever-growing Husker History Database is your new home for archiving one of the nation's most tradition-rich programs.Click here »

On social media

Check out the Big Red Today page on Facebook to discuss the latest news with the top Husker fans, and follow us on Twitter to get instant updates and analysis whenever news breaks. Plus, look back at historical moments in Nebraska football by following @HuskerHistory on Twitter.

BRT app

IPhone and Android users, get your Husker updates on the go by downloading our free Big Red Today app from the App Store and the Google Play store. Omaha.com/BRTapp and Omaha.com/android

Recruiting updates

Visit the Big Red Today recruiting page to find the latest updates on potential future Huskers, including player cards for those athletes already committed. Click here »

Email alerts

Sign up for the Big Red Today email newsletter to get the Husker news, analysis, daily headlines and more delivered to your inbox. Click here »

Big Ten coverage

Look for additional updates on our Big Ten page to get the best coverage of the conference from both The World-Herald and some of the best writers from across the country. Click here »

Big Red Today coverage

Husker running back Greg Bell hitting practice hard in hopes of winning starting spot

Hit it and get it. Nebraska running back Greg Bell doesn’t want to dance in the hole, slow down for a second or, truth be told, even talk about himself. Too much competition. Too big of a reward if he…

Husker notes: Tight ends shine in NU's scrimmage; Tyjon Lindsey catching on and more

One popular opinion among Husker offensive coaches Wednesday was that the tight ends solidified their reputation as much as any unit following Sunday's live-action scrimmage.

Shatel: With Scott Frost's new-school approach, curse words aren't in Husker coaches' vocabulary

New School is now in session. Here are the rules: No dog-cussing the players. No bullying or personal shots about their appearance. If you must chew, do so with a positive message. Teach. Look forward.

Tom's Takes: Nebraska's offensive line is adding physicality to its DNA

Nebraska offensive line coach Greg Austin offered a pretty insightful analysis of where the offensive line is two weeks before the Akron opener. There's good news. And could-be-better news.

As decision looms, Nebraska's quarterbacks still have moments of inconsistency

There are days Mario Verduzco grades film of Nebraska quarterbacks and likes what he sees. Good ball placement. Strong body language. Quick tempo. Then there are workouts like last Thursday and Friday, which the Husker QB coach labeled "kind of…

Husker practice report: Nebraska quarterback battle will continue into next week

Nebraska wrapped up its 11th workout of training camp Wednesday morning inside the Hawks Center. Afterward, offensive coordinator Troy Walters said Scott Frost — with input from his staff — will pick a starter soon between Tristan Gebbia, Adrian Martinez…

Want to make an all-Husker fantasy football team? Well, you can't. But here's something close

If you're looking for a nostalgic Husker pick in your upcoming fantasy football draft, here's your guide.

Sights and sounds from Nebraska football practice, Aug. 15

Nebraska kicked off practice early Wednesday morning. Media were allowed to watch about 40 minutes. Here's what we saw and heard.

Husker coach Mario Verduzco says QB battle still 'highly competitive'

Nebraska quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco gave some insight into the quarterback battle on Sports Nightly Tuesday evening.

Allure of scholarships leads in-state players to lower-level programs instead of Huskers

Interstate 29 represents one of Scott Frost’s biggest in-state recruiting headaches. FCS schools in the Dakotas can’t compete with a Nebraska scholarship offer, but they can damage the Huskers' depth by taking players that may have otherwise walked on at…

In his first fall camp at Nebraska, aspiring dentist Tre Neal already knows the drill

Tre Neal, the Husker with more knowledge of the defense than anyone after transferring from UCF, has risen to the top of Nebraska's production chart that keeps score of plays made and not made in practices by members of the…

Mississippi transfer Breon Dixon wants to 'bring physicality' to the Husker defense

Breon Dixon can’t breathe. He’s cornered by reporters on the second floor of the Hawks Championship Center, gasping for air. “We’re looking way better I’d say as a team, as an offense …” out of breath, he trails off and…

Husker notes: Closing in on defensive starters; Tight races in secondary and more

Nebraska’s defensive coaches have a good grasp on who will be in the top two units after a major scrimmage Sunday, defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said Tuesday.

TBL: Blackshirt legend Grant Wistrom happy to deliver message to Huskers

Former Blackshirt Grant Wistrom believes Scott Frost is the right coach for the Huskers.

Nebraska coach Scott Frost says 'we’re never going to swear at kids' on Jim Rome Show

In the wake of reports about Maryland football’s toxic, bullying culture toward the players, Nebraska coach Scott Frost said Tuesday on the Jim Rome Show he’ll never try to motivate his team through intimidation.

Everything you need to know before attending Nebraska football Fan Day

The lines are sure to be long for Scott Frost's first Fan Day as head coach of the Huskers. Here's everything fans should know before attending the event.

'High intensity' talk from Jason Peter, Grant Wistrom inspires Husker defense

The pep talk worked. After Nebraska legends Jason Peter and Grant Wistrom talked to Husker players Friday night, the team had its most-spirited practice of training camp the following day.

Tickets available now for Husker Nation Kickoff Luncheons in Omaha, Lincoln

Tickets are on sale now for next week's Husker Nation Kickoff Luncheons in Lincoln and Omaha.

Husker practice report: Carlos Davis, JoJo Domann among players impressing in camp

Nebraska's defensive coaches have a good grasp on who will be in the top two units after a major scrimmage Sunday, defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said Tuesday. The next week is about trying to identify starters.

Nebraska has structure in place to avoid problems plaguing Ohio State, Maryland, says A.D. Bill Moos

Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos said Monday on his monthly radio show there's a structure in place to make sure the athletic department avoids problems like what's currently plaguing Ohio State and Maryland.

Police arrest two more, including teen boy, in burglary at Husker coach Scott Frost's home

Police arrested a 20-year-old man and a 16-year-old boy on suspicion of burglary, according to a news release from the Lincoln Police Department.

Past Husker coaches weren't sold on in-state talent, so Nebraskans thrived at Iowa instead

What happened in Giltner is a prime example of Nebraska’s in-state recruiting failures over the past 15 years. Another instance of a program that lost track of its identity and abandoned its roots.

Shatel: The image-conscious Big Ten isn't looking so good these days

If anyone asks you about being in the Big Ten these days, say, “We just got here, and we really don’t know anybody.”

Scott Frost considers intense new warmup to be a 'rite of passage' for Huskers

The dynamic warmup — or “stretch” as Scott Frost calls it — is a far cry from the static, stationary stretches employed under former coach Mike Riley. Setting the tone for the fast-paced action of practice, the new warmup is…

Barfknecht: With all the scandals, nothing is 'hunky-dory' for Jim Delany's Big Ten

Three weeks ago, we sportswriters scurried to our seats at Big Ten media days, sat upright in our chairs and kept our eyes forward to soak in Commissioner Jim Delany’s “hunky-dory’’ speech. But things haven’t been so hunky-dory since that…

Concussions turned a 200-pound fullback into a reluctant cross country runner

Beau Wood should’ve been Perkins County High School’s starting fullback and defensive end. Instead, he had become a reserve — on the cross-country team.

Nebraska high schoolers are turning away from football and embracing ... cross country?

Auburn had 81 players on its 2006 state championship football team. Last fall it had 29. Dozens of kids have turned away from football and found an alternative — cross country.

Husker Rewind: Ready to run the ball? Nebraska has its deepest stable of backs since 2011

Sam McKewon zeroed in on as many Husker running backs ran by. Collectively, it’s best bunch NU has had since 2011, when Burkhead started and Abdullah, Green and Heard backed him up.

Maryland puts coach DJ Durkin on administrative leave amid football investigation

Maryland placed head coach DJ Durkin on administrative leave on Saturday while the school scrutinizes allegations of poor behavior by the football staff, apparent misdeeds that came to light following the death of a player on the practice field.

As populations plummet in northeast Nebraska, kids still dream of becoming the next Russ Hochstein

Hartington, a town resisting the forces of rural decline, hasn’t boasted a Husker football letterman since its All-America guard 17 years ago. But Scott Frost is back in Lincoln and there’s hope that the drought may end soon, perhaps with…