Junior quarterback Adrian Martinez won this week’s quarterback carousel and was named starter ahead of the game. He proved he was good for it, too. Martinez had no turnovers and passed downfield more, averaging eight yards per pass attempt and completed 24 of his 31 passes.
The only knock on Martinez from the win was his lack of decision making at times, and this led to improvising on the fly when it wasn’t needed. Sometimes that led to great plays like his 13-yard touchdown run, other times it resulted in incompletions or short passes.
On the ground, Martinez had two touchdowns and ran 13 times. Some of his rush attempts came from improvisation, but overall Martinez kept the quarterback position stable.
Running Back: C+
Senior running back Dedrick Mills returned from his injury and led the team in carries with 16. Mills had a short touchdown, but overall did not have a noteworthy game with only 60 yards.
With Mills’ return, he was the primary running back for the game and the other backs only had two carries in total. Mills also fumbled a third quarter hand-off on a second and four that forced a third and 10. That forced Nebraska to punt and launched a Purdue comeback attempt.
Wide Receivers: A
Sophomore receiver Wan’Dale Robinson did not get a touchdown, but his play helped lead to two scoring drives in the second quarter. A 25-yard catch on third down led to an eventual Nebraska field goal in the second quarter, while another long third down catch led to Nebraska’s third touchdown of the game.
Robinson also had his best statline of the year with 9 receptions and 114 yards. Unlike other gamedays, however, Robinson was not the only receiver to show today. Receivers were targeted 22 times against Purdue, hauling in 20 catches with multiple receivers complementing Robinson. Freshman Zavier Betts had five catches for 36 yards, while senior Levi Falck had five catches for 39 yards.
The ground game disappointed against Purdue, but the receivers made life easier for Martinez by converting third downs and making plays when needed.
Tight Ends: C
Seniors Austin Allen and Travis Vokolek were not targeted much against Purdue. That still did not stop them from making an impact as Allen had a 37-yard catch and run in the fourth quarter that eventually got Nebraska three points and extended the lead to 37-27.
Like the offensive line, the tight ends struggled while run blocking and this culminated with an illegal blocking penalty called on Allen. On second-and-seven at Purdue’s 14, Allen dove at a Purdue defender’s side at the line of scrimmage, and instead of first-and-goal at Purdue’s one, Nebraska lost 15 yards and settled for the field goal.
That was the same drive as Allen’s only catch of the game.
Offensive Line: B
Sophomore center Cam Jurgens’ snaps were not all over the field against Purdue, a hopeful sign of progress. While Jurgens’ snaps were not the main culprit of the offensive struggles this time around, the line had penalty issues of their own.
Redshirt freshman tackle Bryce Benhart was pushed into a sack and committed the first of two consecutive Husker holding penalties in the fourth quarter. Benhart held on second-and-one, and then senior guard Matt Farniok held the play after that created a second-and-21.
That was the low point for the offensive line as Nebraska would have achieved first downs on both plays were it not for the penalties. Purdue then committed another penalty to give Nebraska an automatic first down, washing away the penalties.
The offensive line's usual strength — running — did not appear against Purdue, as the Boilermakers ended the game with six tackles for losses. Nebraska had 40 carries for 111 yards, a season-low. In pass protection, the pipeline held up much better and committed just one penalty on 31 passing attempts.
Defensive Line: B+
One trend on Husker Twitter this week was the suspicious lack of holding calls against Nebraska during Frost’s time. Purdue’s offensive line was called for holding four times, giving the Husker defensive line some breaks.
Senior defensive end Ben Stille had 1.5 sacks and, with sophomore linebacker Garrett Nelson playing more with his hand in the dirt, Nelson got his first career sack. The defensive line also forced Purdue to be one-dimensional, holding the Boilermakers to -2 rushing yards.
The only issue with the defensive line was creating consistent pressure throughout the game, as Purdue quarterback Jack Plummer had too much time to throw.
One thing Purdue did right was attack Nebraska’s linebackers through the air. Sophomore linebacker Luke Reimer was the target for a 20-yard Purdue touchdown by sophomore tight end Payne Durham in the third quarter.
The linebackers’ coverage was spotty at times, giving up a couple of third-and-longs from checkdowns. Other times, the linebackers held their own, such as senior linebacker Jojo Domann, who had to cover sophomore receiver Rondale Moore at times.
What the linebackers did well was shut down any resemblance of a Purdue ground game. The defensive line moved the Boilermaker line around while the linebackers finished what the Husker defensive line started at the line of scrimmage.
Junior cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt and senior cornerback Dicaprio Bootle did very well. The two cornerbacks mostly bottled up sophomore receivers David Bell and Rondale Moore when tasked with man coverage. The two receivers had only two catches go for at least 10 yards, shutting down the common explosive plays from the two.
Moore had 13 catches for 78 yards while Bell had 10 catches for 132 yards and a touchdown, though this doesn’t tell the full story. A collision between Taylor-Britt and senior safety Marquel Dismuke was partly responsible for Bell’s 89-yard touchdown catch that cut the lead to 34-27 in the fourth quarter.
After the collision, Taylor-Britt had two key pass breakups on Purdue’s final two drives. The first came on a third down that ended Purdue’s second drive, and the other breakup on the first play of Purdue’s final drive that was meant for Bell downfield.
Bootle and Taylor-Britt's most impressive performance of the season came against one of the hardest receiving duos to defend in the Big Ten. The performance of these two gave Frost his first win against Purdue.
Dismuke blew a devastating hit to his own teammate, Taylor-Britt, that led to an 89-yard touchdown catch for Purdue. Dismuke’s hit could have changed the game, but Nebraska held Purdue to -1 yards after that catch.
Dismuke and Williams held up well in run support, assisting the linebackers in sniffing out any ground play and like the corners, shut down any deep plays.
After Purdue’s last touchdown, the safeties helped with denying any chance of a Purdue comeback.
Special Teams: B+
Despite Purdue blocking a punt, Nebraska’s special teams had its best performance of the season.
Falck blocked Purdue’s first punt of the game and recovered at Purdue’s 1-yard line, which ended up giving Nebraska a quick 7-0 lead. On Purdue’s next punt, Taylor-Britt returned to Purdue’s 32 and a sideline interference penalty started Nebraska’s second drive at the Boilermaker 17-yard line.
Senior kicker Connor Culp hit his longest field goal of the season with a 49-yard kick in the second quarter. Culp hit all three of his field goals and has turned the Husker kicker spot into a strength.
Nebraska’s special teams flipped the game and despite a major mistake at the end of the first half, the special teams was one big reason why Nebraska beat Purdue.