Considering the amount of pain and suffering that Nebraska’s roster is currently dealing with, I didn’t expect the Huskers’ battle with Purdue to be a grand thrashing. I saw predictions that came close to beating the 24-point spread and said, “Uh, no.”
In a perfect world, the Big Red jumps out to a 28-point lead and puts in the backups (in some cases the backups’ backups) and allows them to gain some valuable experience.
Nuh uh. Not today, not next week, not for the rest of the season, save for maybe the bowl game.
See if this sounds familiar:
Nebraska comes out and looks absolutely great for part of the first quarter. Then the sputtering starts and carries over into the second stanza which usually leads to the opponent sneaking back into the game.
Adjustments are made at the half and the third quarter looks at least a little better for the Huskers before they absolutely lock things down in the fourth quarter until the clock strikes zero.
Head coach Mike Riley seems to be getting a little tired of this repetition.
“We are extremely happy to win the game.” he said in the postgame press conference.
“We struggled in a lot of ways and we just had to stay with it. I thought we did settle down after the first quarter. Defensively we gave up big plays, it didn’t look very good in the first quarter. We became more consistent defensively as the game went on. Offensively, it was hit or miss all day. Not enough consistency, but enough plays to score and win the game.”
In a word: ugly. Nebraska won ugly. Standard Big Ten style “damn that win was ugly.”
A key problem with getting the Husker offense going is the that the line is battered, bruised and — to quote former Nebraska offensive lineman Dr. Rob Zatechka — “has as much depth as the Platte [River] during a drought season.”
However, on the other side of the ball, the Blackshirts are playing lights-out defense for the most part. Yes, they did surrender a 44-yard pass in the first quarter and an 88-yard touchdown pass that put Purdue ahead 14-10. However, they also held the Boilermakers to 24 yards rushing, and safety Kieron Williams interrupted Purdue’s passing attack with two interceptions.
A tip of the cap must go to true freshman punter Caleb Lightbourn, who had arguably the best game of his career. The Huskers busted out some rugby-style punting and were the beneficiaries of three balls downed inside the Purdue’s 20-yard line out of an attempted five kicks.
What did we learn from Nebraska’s 27-14 win over the Boilermakers? Nebraska can be extremely hobbled on the offensive line, lack one of its best receivers in Jordan Westerkamp along with one of its best run blockers in tight end Cethan Carter, and still win. Let’s not forget that they’ll eventually make their way back into the starting lineup.
Yes, I’ve already heard how mighty Wisconsin is going to grind the Cornhuskers into dust next Saturday. However, the Wisconsin team that I’ve watched extensively this year does not look like a world-beater to me. The Badgers have a very good defense, but to dismiss the Huskers’ chances would be foolhardy.
Why? They know how to win ugly just like Wisconsin or Ohio State or any other team on their schedule. I’m not suggesting that the Huskers will go undefeated or even beat the previously mentioned teams, but a win’s a win, warts and all.
No matter what year it is, Nebraska will take those. The Huskers have the opportunity to snag several more in 2016.