On a brisk afternoon, the Nebraska Cornhuskers shut down the Purdue Boilermakers, winning 31-14. It is the first the Huskers have won three straight since 2016. Now with the win, it puts them only one win away from becoming bowl-eligible for the first time since 2016.
Here are four takeaways from Saturday’s win.
Takeaways From Nebraska’s Win Over Purdue
Defense Played Lights Out
The Blackshirts stole the show on Saturday, shutting down any offense Purdue attempted to get. Nebraska held the Boilermakers to less than 100 passing and 100 rushing yards for the first time since 2012. The Blackshirts had eight tackles for loss, including a sack, forced a fumble, and got two interceptions, both coming from junior defensive back Tommi Hill.
They shut down Purdue’s running attack from sophomore Devin Mockobee. Mockobee was a huge reason why the Boilermakers won against the Huskers last year, rushing 30 times for 178 yards and a touchdown. Saturday, he only rushed 7 times for 43 yards and fumbled.
The defense has been the story this year and has played a big role in why Nebraska is sitting 5-3 on the season.
Special Teams was Good
Maybe the highlight of the day was the blocked field that senior cornerback Quinton Newsome took back 68 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. That wasn’t the only highlight. Freshman kicker Tristan Alvano hit his career longest field goal, on a 55-yarder to go up 24-0 with 12 minutes to go. Senior punter Brian Buschini once again had a good day, punting five times and averaging 45.6 yards per punt.
Offense Got Things Going Despite Injuries and Turnovers
The Nebraska offense got things rolling on Saturday, scoring two touchdowns in less than two minutes in the second quarter. One of those came on one of the longest touchdowns of the year; a 73-yard pass from sophomore Heinrich Haarberg to freshman wide receiver Jaylen Lloyd.
Haarberg threw for 122 yards on 6 of 11 passes and two touchdowns against Purdue. He also rushed 19 times for only 22 yards. Freshman running back Emmett Johnson led the Huskers in rushing yards with 76 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown. Johnson’s touchdown came on a 28-yard rush with 3:54 left in the fourth, which sealed it for Nebraska.
The offense has played particularly well, despite having many injuries at many positions. Specifically at the wide receiver position, many inexperienced players have gotten chances and have taken advantage of that.
Matt Rhule has made Significant Progress
Head coach Matt Rhule took over a program that hasn’t seen the postseason since 2016. A team that hasn’t won more than five games since then as well.
In his first season in Lincoln, Rhule and the Huskers have five wins going into November. They have four games to go to get one more win.
More interesting is that Nebraska is now in the thick of it for the Big Ten West, a four-way tie for first. More or less, Rhule has made progress in his first season at Nebraska, and achieving more success than he did in his first years at Temple and Baylor.
Now looking ahead to the rest of this season and the next few seasons, the road doesn’t get any easier. With the 2023 season, the final one with divisions, the Huskers, and 17 other schools will be competing for the conference.
Despite that, they shouldn’t look too far ahead as there is a lot of season left for not just Nebraska but any team in the Big Ten to make noise. The Huskers have a great opportunity to do so, but the question is, can they take advantage of that?
We will learn more next Saturday, Nov. 4, when Nebraska takes on the Michigan State Spartans in East Lansing at 11 a.m.
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