Junior quarterback Adrian Martinez turned on the burners and bursted down the middle of the field for a 15-yard pick up and first down on third-and-one to begin the second half of Nebraska’s 37-27 win over Purdue.
Martinez capped off an electric 11-play, 75-yard drive by punching in a one-yard touchdown, one of his two rushing touchdowns of the day, giving the Huskers a three-score lead at 34-13.
Nebraska entered halftime with a 27-13 advantage and marched down the field out of the break with four first downs, 48 rushing yards and Martinez going 3-of-3 for 27 yards. He went 23-of-30 for 242 yards and one passing touchdown against the Boilermakers in the game.
“It was really good, especially coming out in second halves in previous games, we had came out like that," sophomore wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson said. “It was really good to see us just go right down the field and march the ball down the field and score.”
The tone for Nebraska and Purdue’s battle at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Indiana, was set when Husker senior wide receiver Levi Falck blocked a punt and sophomore linebacker Simon Otte recovered the ball on Purdue’s 1-yard line. Senior running back Dedrick Mills earned the first touchdown of the day on the very next play. In addition to the punt block, Falck had 39 yards on five receptions.
Purdue’s special teams continued to struggle when Husker junior defensive back Cam Taylor-Britt returned a punt following a three-and-out to Nebraska’s 32 yard line — a Boilermaker sideline interference penalty then placed the Huskers at Purdue’s 17-yard line.
Martinez, who rushed for 45 yards on the game, shed multiple tackles on his way into the end zone on the ensuing 13-yard touchdown, making it 14-0 Huskers with over 10 minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Nebraska’s defense held Purdue junior running back Zander Horvath to 21 yards on seven carries and sophomore quarterback Jack Plummer to -23 rushing yards on the night — equaling a team total of -2 rushing yards. The defense forced three three-and-outs and didn’t allow a single rushing yard in the first half.
Husker senior kicker Connor Culp improved his team to 17-0 with six minutes left in the first quarter with a 25-yard field goal.
Boilermakers senior kicker J.D. Dellinger made a 45-yard field goal with one minute left in the first quarter after Purdue was unable to overcome two holding penalties.
Culp kicked a career-long 49-yard field goal after Nebraska was slowed down by Purdue’s defense to the tune of a six-yard tackle for loss. This was followed by an incomplete pass to Robinson. Earlier in the nine-play, 44-yard drive, Robinson reined in a 25-yard pass from Martinez, his longest of the day. Robinson had 114 yards on nine catches and five rushing yards.
“He is one of our best, if not, the best playmakers on our offense,” Martinez said about Robinson postgame.
Boilermaker redshirt freshman T.J. Scheffield responded with a 42-yard kick return to place Purdue’s offense at its own 44 yard line. Following a 22-yard catch from senior wide receiver Jackson Anthrop, sophomore running back King Doerue caught a 20-yard pass from Plummer for a touchdown; 20-10 Nebraska.
Multiple firsts came for Husker sophomore wide receiver Wyatt Liewer in the form of a 10-yard touchdown for his first career catch and touchdown the following drive, improving Nebraska’s lead to 27-10.
The end of the first half continued to sing the same song of big special teams plays and penalties. Both Nebraska defensive back senior Deontai Williams and junior linebacker Caleb Tannor were charged with unsportsmanlike conduct on a third-down conversion to junior Rondale Moore that ended on Purdue’s sideline.
After a three-and-out, Nebraska sophomore punter William Przystup had a punt blocked but fell on the ball at the Husker 20-yard line. Purdue jogged into the locker room for intermission down 27-13 thanks to a last second 27-yard field goal by Dellinger.
After the second half began with Nebraska’s cleanest and fastest drive, ending with a touchdown from Martinez, the Husker defense forced a Purdue punt. This gave Nebraska a shot at improving their lead to three scores, ensuring its second win of the season.
However, the Huskers were unable to convert on third down and were 6-of-15 overall on such downs against Purdue. A miscommunication on a handoff between Martinez and Mills led to a fumble recovered by Mills. Robinson came close to earning a first down, but was marked inches short after Nebraska head coach Scott Frost challenged the spot.
Getting its second wind, Purdue scored touchdowns on its following two drives. Sophomore tight end Payne Durham brought in a 20-yard pass in a two-minute drive to cut the deficit to 34-20.
Sophomore wide receiver David Bell caught a 89-yard touchdown pass to close the gap to 34-27 with 12:16 left in the contest. Both Taylor-Britt and senior defensive back Marquel Dismuke laid on the field after colliding with each other on the pass coverage. Bell ended the day with 132 yards on 10 receptions.
Then came one of the weirdest drives in college football.
The drive began with a kick return from freshman wide receiver Alante Brown that drew three flags; a holding call on Nebraska junior tight end Kurt Rafdal, an unsportsmanlike conduct call after the play on Purdue’s junior linebacker DaMarcus Mitchell and a review for targeting that was not confirmed.
This drive consisted of two offensive holding penalties, an unnecessary roughness call on junior defensive back Dedrick Mackey, a pass interference call on sophomore cornerback Cam Allen and an illegal block below the waist by Husker junior tight end Austin Allen. On the previous play, Allen caught a 37-yard pass from Martinez. After 65 combined yards of penalties, not including the kickoff, Culp sailed in a 32-yard field goal for a 37-27 Nebraska lead with seven minutes remaining.
“On that long drive when we had a bunch of penalties, it was pretty chaotic,” Falck said. “We knew we had the chance to burn the clock out and win the game and I think we did a really good job of overcoming those penalties to get the win.”
Purdue had 11 penalties for 126 yards, and the Huskers had nine for 107 yards.
Nebraska’s defense came up big with a forced turnover on downs to hand its offense the ball with 1:41 left in the game and only three kneels away from the Huskers second victory of the season.
In previous games this season, Nebraska was unable to overcome struggles on special teams and self-inflicted penalties in all phases of play, but it was able to overpower those issues, and Purdue, in their first road victory of the season.