Marc Lebryk, USA Today Sports

Nebraska vs Purdue Primer

A banged up No. 8 Nebraska squad will host a Purdue team that beat them last year. Will the Huskers avenge their loss from a year ago and improve to 7-0?

Date: Saturday, October 22

Kickoff: 2:30 p.m.

Venue: Memorial Stadium. Lincoln NE

Network: ABC/ESPN 2

The No. 8 Nebraska Cornhuskers (6-0, 3-0) head back home after surviving a late scare in their game against Indiana last week. The Huskers will host a Purdue team (3-3, 1-2) that beat them last season to chalk up their only Big Ten win on the year, and also just one of their two wins on the year. Nebraska fans and players certainly haven’t forgotten last year’s matchup, but Nebraska defensive coordinator Mark Banker has made it a point not to play off of emotions.

“For one thing, you never do anything out of vengeance, because that becomes the focus,” Banker said. “The bottom line is we need to beat the next opponent that we play and that’s Purdue.” 

Nebraska’s defense had a very efficient game last week, as they held the Hoosiers to just 88 yards on the ground and also recorded two interceptions. The Blackshirts will have their hands full as they take on a Purdue offense that is number one in passing in the Big Ten. Nebraska head coach Mike Riley is well aware of how Purdue’s offense has been their strong suit this year, and how it affected them last year.

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“Purdue is offensively, they’re one of our conference leaders. They lead the league in passing, they’re fourth overall offensively,” Riley said. “They moved the ball up and down the field against us a year ago. Ran a ton of bootlegs against us, misdirection plays that hurt us, quarterback hurt us last year by throwing and running the ball himself.”

Part of the Boilermaker’s success is credited to their sophomore quarterback David Blough. Through six games, Blough has 1,756 yards through the air and 12 touchdowns, which leads the Big Ten in total offense. The young quarterback has, however, thrown the ball into the defense’s hands 10 times and is facing a Nebreaska defense that is ranked fifth in the country in interceptions.

Blough’s favorite target to throw to is senior wide out DeAngelo Yancey. Yancey leads the team with 24 receptions for 391 yards and three touchdowns. His speed poises him as a deep threat down field and his 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame makes him a big target to throw to. It will be likely that the Huskers sick their NFL prospect corner Chris Jones to lock down Yancey, but the senior had a respectable five catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns against Nebraska a year ago.

Nebraska’s theme of success has directly stemmed from their 4th quarter dominance on their opponents so far. Through six games, the Huskers have outscored their opponents 88-16 in the 4th quarter, which has them as one of the best in the nation. Offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf’s offense is also averaging a little over 87 yards rushing in the final quarter. Head coach Riley has credited this success to both the physical and mental state his team is in right now.

“This team has not faltered in the fourth quarter and looking tired, I think that we have worn some teams out and played better than them in the fourth quarter,” Riley said. “Is that because of the mentality of the team, is that because of the shape they’re in? I’m not sure, but something’s there like that that I appreciate.”

A big concern for Nebraska for the second week in a row is their injuries. The Huskers added a few more to their injured list last week against Indiana, including starters David Knevel and Nick Gates. After already digging deep in their offensive line rotation, Nebraska cannot afford to have both of these men miss this week. Langsdorf understands how big of a loss it would be if both of these men were out.

“We’re working through that. We’re so thin that it’s a concern against a good defensive front,” said Langsdorf. “You can look at the stats, and they’ve given up rushing yards, but we’re beat up. We’ve got make sure that we get some guys healthy and get them into the game.”

Purdue is coming off a coaching change this week after letting head coach Darell Hazell go after a 49-35 home loss against Iowa. Wide receivers coach Gerad Parker will serve as their interim head coach for the remainder of the year, and this week’s matchup against the Huskers will be his first game as their head coach.

The History:

This will be just the fifth meeting overall between these two teams, and each squad holds a 2-2 record. Purdue won the most recent meeting when they shocked Nebraska in West Lafayette last season. This will be Mike Riley’s second meeting against Purdue, but the first against interim head coach Gerad Parker.

What A Win Means For Nebraska:

A Nebraska win would maintain their undefeated record and would put them at 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the Big Ten. This would be Mike Riley’s first win over the Boilermakers and would avenge their embarrassing loss from last season. A win would also keep Nebraska’s playoff dreams alive, as they would head into Madison next week undefeated.

What A Win Means For Purdue:

A Purdue win would put the Boilermakers over .500 with a 3-2 record. More importantly, it would be interim head coach Gerad Parker’s first win in his first game. An upset over the No. 8 Huskers would be a great resume builder for Parker and it could solidify a permanent role with just this one win. 

Nebraska Players To Watch On Offense:

This week will be an interesting one for the senior from Cibolo, Texas. It was evident last week Armstrong has not fully healed from his foot injury he suffered three weeks ago in their matchup against Illinois. The senior played his worst game of the season, finishing just 10-of-26 with two interceptions. What was more concerning than his stats was his noticeable limp Husker fans saw more than a few times. The 6-foot-1, 220-pounder’s mobility and throwing ability were affected last week, and it will be interesting to see how he responds this week. Nebraska needs their quarterback healthy, especially this week as most Husker fans remember how backup Ryker Fyfe played last year against Purdue.

Newby has continued to show each week that he can be the guy the Huskers lean on in the 4th quarter. After taking over in their late win against Illinois, the 5-foot-10, 200-pound Los Angeles native was a big factor on the Huskers’ final drive last week that helped them get into field goal position, as well as eat some clock on the ground. It appears that the senior has finally put all the pieces together for his final season, as he is having his best year yet on the ground. With Ozigbo still not 100% and Armstrong Jr. still sore, the offense could heavily be ran through Newby.

Nebraska Players To Watch On Defense:

The senior captain has continued to impress this season as he is making the most of his final year in Lincoln. Gerry is tied for the lead in tackles for loss, and has 37 total tackles on the season, along with two interceptions. Last week, it seemed that the 6-foot-2, 220-pounder was all over the place making plays, as he ended the day with eight tackles total and two behind the line of scrimmage. He is also proving my theory of being the glue that holds this defense together, and Banker noted, “He really helps other players with his talk on the field and knowing the offense better than the offense does.” The Sioux Falls native, along with the rest of the secondary, could have another big game this week since Purdue likes to air it out.

Williams has truly come out of his shell this season, and according to Banker, is battling for a starting position each week. The 5-foot-11 safety from Georgia is tied for the lead among the blackshirts in interceptions, and also has 21 tackles and four pass breakups on the year. Last week may have been his best game on the year where he had a 13-yard sack and recorded the game-winning interception to seal the deal for the Huskers. Look for the sophomore to have yet another big game against a quarterback who has already thrown 10 interceptions on the year.

The 6-foot-2, 295-pound defensive lineman has really stepped up this year and has lived up to his hype thus far. Davis has done a nice job filling in the role of the injured Mick Stoltenberg here and there throughout the season. The redshirt freshman has proven to be a quick learner, and Banker has praised his work saying, “anytime he’s been in he’s played really well.” Davis’ stats won’t jump out as anything spectacular on the year, but it’s the Missouri native’s presence up the middle that has shut down most team’s run game and has led to this blackshirt defense being one of the top defenses in the Big Ten.

Reasons To Be Concerned: It appears that there is not one, but two elephants in the room concerning Nebraska fans. The first being that this Purdue team embarrassed the Huskers just a year ago when they picked up their only Big Ten win against Nebraska in a 55-45 home win. The second obvious reason is that Nebraska is hurting this week. The Huskers have more than a handful of people hurt, and if they don’t play or aggravate their injury early on, Purdue could take advantage.

Injury Report For Nebraska:

OT) Nick Gates (ankle) Doubtful

Gates joined the club of hurt offensive linemen for this Nebraska squad last week in their matchup against Indiana. Riley mentioned that the sophomore from Las Vegas played through his injury to help Nebraska pick up the win. Gates’ did not practice on Wednesday, making an appearance by him doubtful. 

OT) David Knevel (ankle) Questionable

Knevel went down in the first play of the game last week against Indiana with an ankle injury and did not see the field after that. Much like Gates, the junior’s return will be based on how he feels during this week’s practice. He did practice on Tuesday and Wednesday. After being bombarded with injuries throughout the season, Nebraska’s offensive line cannot afford to lose their starting tackle.

QB) Tommy Armstrong Jr. (foot) Probable

The senior quarterback hurt his foot three weeks ago when the Huskers scrambled up a win against Illinois. Armstrong Jr. was then put in a boot during their bye week, and was seen limping more often than not in their last win against Indiana. After having perhaps his worst game of the season, Husker fans have to wonder just how healthy that foot really is, as it appeared to affect both his throwing and running ability. Riley mentioned that he is good to go this week, but it will be interesting to see if he plays the whole game, or if he has a limited role.

RB) Devine Ozigbo (ankle) Probable

Ozigbo was one of the many to get banged up in Nebraska’s win against Illinois. After having a clutch bye week to rest, the sophomore I-back practiced the following week and made his return in the second half last week against the Hoosiers. The Texas native was limited in his carries a week ago but should be back to his usual role this week. 

TE) Cethan Carter (elbow) Out

Carter went down on his first catch in the first quarter against Illinois three weeks ago. The senior tight end has not practiced since then and missed their last game against Indiana. It appears that he will not have the green light this week, but his return next week against Wisconsin could be a definite possibility.

WR) Jordan Westerkamp (back) Doubtful

The senior wide out was injured a few weeks ago in the last home game against Illinois late in the second half. After having a bye week to rest and sitting out their previous matchup against Indiana, Westerkamp still won't likely play against Purdue. Riley stated that the Illinois native “felt a lot better” earlier this week. 

Quote To Note:

“I’ve already said this many times, intentions of this team are great and they work hard and they want to win and they want information, and the coaches I think continue to work and stay the course. Those are key factors in hard times, and then they’re also key right now.  We [have to] just stay the course, find a way to get better, win the next game, and then go from there.” – Nebraska Head Coach Mike Riley 


With multiple key starters being injured for the Huskers, this game could go one of two ways. The Huskers could continue the trend of playing an ugly game and pulling away in the fourth quarter, or they could finally pick up a blowout win. I’m going to go with the latter since Nebraska is due for a statement win in terms of the scoreboard margin. I think Langsdorf stick’s to the run game more than usual this week, and puts most of the offense on the shoulders of Terrell Newby. It could be a slow start, but the No. 8 team in the country will have no problem against a Purdue team that is second to last in the Big Ten West. This will be a no-doubter for Husker fans, and Nebraska will control the game and win by at least three scores.

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