Most thought it couldn’t get much worse. It did on Saturday. In front of a crowd of less than 32,000 on the road, Nebraska lost 55-45 to a Purdue squad who is 6-26 under head coach Darrell Hazell. The score wasn’t as close as it appeared.
Without junior starting quarterback Tommy Armstrong, Nebraska (2-6, 1-4) threw for 407 yards behind junior Ryker Fyfe, but the first-time starter also threw four interceptions.
“It is a game of taking care of the football and taking advantage of your own field percentage,” said first-year head coach Mike Riley. The Huskers have six losses before the month of November for the first time in program history.
“His (Fyfe’s) performance was like our teams,” said Riley. “It was a mix bag. I thought he really made some throws and plays…for the most part I’m really proud of him. I think in the end, it will make us stronger down the road, him getting to play.”
Despite Purdue ranking just No. 92 in the country in stopping the run coming into the contest, the Huskers only managed 77 yards on the ground, averaging just 2.8 yards per carry.
“I’m telling you, we do want to run, we need to do better and we will,” said Riley, who watched his backup quarterback throw 48-times on the road. “We were taking too many losses on runs. You really have to have patience to do that and when you get behind, you really don’t like it. That is what happened to us.”
Meanwhile the Huskers’ defense struggled to slow Purdue freshman quarterback David Blough. The Texas native threw for four touchdowns, hitting on 28 passes for 274 yards. Blough also ran for 56 yards on the Boilermakers’ second drive for a rushing touchdown.
“We actually held up for a long time defensively making some plays, but whether it was third or fourth down, they capitalized,” said Riley. “Giving them short fields was a big deal.
“I thought he (Blough) made some plays that were very nice. Just savy plays…I thought he just managed the game well.”
Down 42-16 at one point in the third quarter, the Huskers managed to score 15 unanswered, pulling within 42-31. After Nebraska stopped a 9-play Purdue drive to get the ball back, Fyfe threw his fourth interception on a tipped pass by wide receiver Brandon Reilly. Purdue would return it 42-yards, needing just a six-yard run on their first play of the drive to go up 49-31.
One of the brighter spots on the day for Nebraska was the play of the young true freshman Aaron Williams and Stanley Morgan
Williams, a safety, started in place of Byerson Cockrell who attended a funeral of a family member. Williams recorded seven tackles for loss.
Morgan, who got a chance to return kicks, had a 42-yard return in the second quarter, setting good field position for the Huskers down 14-3. Five plays later, Morgan took a Ryker Fyfe pass on the flats for 20-yards into the end zone.
The freshman’s touchdown didn’t come without a cost. Fellow wide receiver De’Mornay Pierson-El, who missed the first four games of the season with a foot injury, hurt his left leg on the touchdown celebration. A screen capture of Pierson-El’s leg on social media was not pretty looking and his status for next week and the rest of the season is in doubt. He was carted off the field and Riley said the team would know more on Sunday.
Pierson-El wasn’t the only Nebraska player to go down with injury. Starting running back Terrell Newby missed the entire second half with an ankle injury. Newby rushed 10 times for 56 yards before leaving the game.
Riley was asked during his post-game press conference if he had a sense of the frustration from fans, alums, and supporters of the program? Also if he worried about the frustration spilling over to his players?
“I hope that is not the case," said Riley, regarding his players feeling a spill over effect. "We are just going to keep coaching them..I think you would be naïve to not know this is not a good thing. We just have to keep going with them. That is what they need the most right now, some more coaching. We have to see what we have healthy body wise going forward.”
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Josh Harvey has been the publisher of BigRedReport.com since 2011. You can follow him on Twitter at @joshharveyscout.