Well, this will be a crazy Saturday. Scott Frost got his first win against Jeff Brohm last year during a Covid season where people are saying it doesn’t count. However, previous to that Brohm was 2-0 against our staff, and even had a win against us starting a walk-on backup QB with no Rondale Moore. Brohm and his Purdue squad are basically mirror images of what Frost and Nebraska are, and they have been since both joined their programs. I have a ton of respect for Brohm as a coach, he just finds ways to win games he sometimes shouldn’t.
What will the Blackshirts see?
Going back to mirror images, while I like Purdue and their offense as it is basically exactly what we do (thus why Wandale came here, to be our Rondale Moore), they are struggling a bit this year. The Boilermakers are 99th in points per game at 22, and 66th in yards per game with 392. They can’t run the ball at all, and make their living with those short completions over and over. They throw the ball 60% of the time which is a ton, and that is top 10 in the country. Their QBs are completing nearly 70% of their passes and they are a top 15 offense in passing yards per game with 317. They also are rarely penalized, as they are averaging only 4.1 per game, good for 8th in the country.
So the negative I mentioned was their inability to run, but they also try playing 3 different quarterbacks at times. Jack Plummer is still there, but he has been unseated by Aiden O’Connell, who seems to be pretty composed until something goes wrong. Things really spiraled for him against Wisconsin once he threw that first interception. I’m hoping the Blackshirts get an early created turnover on him, as the Boilermakers are very turnover prone and it can get away from him in a hurry.
But the defense of Nebraska won’t have to do much in the way of preparing. Quite honestly, they could just go against our offense the entire time. This look familiar?
That’s basically Nebraska. But just like i’ve said all year with Nebraska’s offense, if they are too dependent on their QB to get the job done for them, it will be a long day. While their QB throws and Martinez tries running. They absolutely have to get their RB King Doerue going. It will be a tough task, as their OL is pretty beat up and a starting guard and starting tackle are TBD if they play this weekend. That bodes well for us. Further, their QB doesn’t really run anyway, as he has 14 yards on the season and Plummer has only 59 yards on 26 attempts. Nebraska defenses feast on immobile QBs, and they won’t have to worry about that this Saturday.
But Purdue does have a couple things the Blackshirts will have to watch out for. The first is their WR David Bell who has stepped in for the loss of Rondale Moore creating no drop off there.
If he has time to get the ball out to Bell, watch out. Especially keep an eye out for how Nebraska defends Bell. I’m not sure if Chinander has this in his arsenal, but could we see Cam Taylor-Britt shadow Bell no matter where he is on the field? I don’t think that’s likely especially with him bouncing between the slot and outside, but it may be interesting to see.
One other thing to watch out for, Purdue’s TE Payne Durham is very lethal as well. He has 32 receptions for 336 yards and 4 touchdowns and torched the Badger defense which is exactly like Nebraska’s. Also, if you remember, Michigan really hurt us with their TE delay game. Expect to see a lot more of that from Brohm and the Boilermakers. The first play of their offense I showed was Durham, and here’s another where he steps out to act like he’s helping block the OLB from Wisconsin, then leaks to the flat.
Keep an eye on if our LBs lose focus on the Purdue TEs if they act as if they are blocking for a bit. I really think between that TE and Bell, that is the only way they can hurt us.
I expect a really big day from the Nebraska defensive line with a few sacks and not much going on the ground for Purdue. But overall we shouldn’t have an issue with Purdue. If they could run i’d be much more worried. But their inability to do that along with being pretty banged up on the OL makes me very optimistic.
What does Purdue run defensively?
This is where we may have some trouble. If not for Purdue turning the ball over multiple times to the Badgers, that game is a lot closer. And Purdue even scored a defensive TD, so Purdue’s offense really did nothing, it was all up to the other side of the ball. They have a high draft pick on the defensive side of the ball as well, reminding us much of what we saw with Michigan and Hutchinson.
Karlaftis doesn’t have as much high end talent around him like the Wolverines did for their guy. But defensively they are very stout. They are 8th in the country in points allowed with 18 and 11th in yards allowed per game with 303. They are very mediocre against the run, ranking in the middle range trying to stop that. But they are very efficient against teams trying to throw on them, as they are 5th in the country in both opponent completion percentage 52.78 and opponent passing yards per game at 160.
What Purdue tries to do is just keep you to 3 or 4 yards per rush, and hope you make a mistake that backs you up and puts you in throwing downs. That is something that has really plagued Nebraska this season (and the last few years). Once they do that, they can unleash Karlaftis and their defense to rush the passer, which could spell bad news for us. They blitz from everywhere, and even when they don’t they have one of the best dudes in the country to get home against our average OTs.
Purdue will bounce between and odd and even front just like our defense does, but they ran a lot of 3-4 against Wisconsin. As long as we don’t let Karlaftis take over, we should be in good shape. Watch to see if we are sending TEs out on routes, or staying in to help on passing downs.
As i’ve said all along and for the entire season, if Nebraska is Adrian Martinez dependent to run, we are in trouble. Last game against Minnesota, once Rahmir Johnson left the game we had no hope of running the football. We have to establish Johnson on the ground and then let Martinez pick his spots to dice up the Boilermakers.
Summary and Prediction
Obviously this is a must win for Nebraska. I said it against Michigan State and it didn’t happen, I said it against Minnesota and it didn’t happen, but it will be different this weekend. I just don’t see much from Purdue except their defense. And with a bye week I like us scheming some stuff up against Brohm. I know that Frost has zero wins after a bye, but just like in gambling, that just means we are due!
To have any shot to get to a bowl, you have to beat Purdue. But the repercussions are even more than that. I worry about the team if we can’t get a win on Saturday and if they will fold up shop. Also, Purdue is the easiest game left on our schedule, so not beating them could spell disaster the remaining games this season. I just don’t see us struggling, and the fact that we will be able to lean on our defense while our offense figures out their counterpunches, that bodes well for us. This isn’t like playing Michigan or Ohio State where if we don’t figure things out fast we will fall too far behind. The game will be manageable from start to finish for us, unless we blow them out. Their offense just isn’t potent enough.
This is going to be one of those games that will be somewhat tough to watch from home in my opinion, unless you love good defense. If Nebraska and Purdue do not turn the ball over, it’s going to be a very low scoring game. Both offenses will have trouble getting big scores, so it will take some long drives to get things accomplished. But what killed Purdue against Wisconsin was their offense just continually turned the ball over and gave the Badgers a short field. If our defense forces those turnovers, it’s going to be a great day in Huskerland. Conversely, I don’t think Purdues offense can sustain drives on our defense if we give them a long field.
Frost needs to be ok playing field position now that our special teams look serviceable, and realize that our defense can handle Purdue. If we get up early by 14, this game is over, I don’t think their offense can get them back in it becoming one dimensional. They’ll try to run just because they have to, but they won’t be able to.
27-13 Nebraska. If turnovers happen that may look different. Go Big Red!