Purdue football: Report card following loss to Nebraska
Purdue experienced one of the worst opening five minutes in recent team memory on Saturday. That went a long way in determining Saturday’s outcome vs. Nebraska in Ross-Ade Stadium. The Boilermakers fell behind 14-0 in the opening minutes, then saw its rally once again come up short.
Purdue lost 37-27.
In the first five minutes:
• Purdue had a false start on the second play, stalling the first drive.
• Its punt was blocked on the fourth snap.
• Nebraska scored off the short field on the next play.
• On the ensuing possession, Purdue QB Jack Plummer was sacked on third down.
• On the next punt, Nebraska had a big return, then picked up 15 additional yards on a sideline penalty.
• The Boilermakers missed four tackles on the Huskers’ following touchdown run.
• On the extra point, Purdue had 12 men on the field, a penalty.
It was ugly and, while it got better, the Boilermakers still lost their fourth consecutive game.
Following are grades:
Passing offense: C+
Plummer finished with 334 yards on 33-of-47 passing with three touchdowns, including an 89-yarder to David Bell that helped give the Boilermakers a chance in the second half.
That bomb to Bell — he threw it up and let the sophomore star beat two Cornhuskers — was one of several solid throws by Plummer. On Purdue’s first TD, he found King Doerue up the left seam, right between two defenders. It was a great play call, with Rondale Moore catching Nebraska’s attention underneath. Plummer also had a nice toss to tight end Payne Durham, who dove for the pylon for a score.
But the Boilermakers had other issues in the passing game, like multiple holding calls on Greg Long, the right tackle who was replaced after his mistakes. And the sacks; while there were only three of them, each was of critical importance. The first two came on back-to-back possessions, the Boilermakers’ second and third of the game, giving the Huskers early momentum. The third was on yet another third down, but this one was a three-man rush by Nebraska vs. five Purdue offensive linemen. And Plummer avoided a fourth only after lateraling a ball to an offensive lineman Purdue’s last offensive play.
The sacks were crippling.
We have to give a nod, though, to Bell, who made some of the greatest catches you’ll see, yet again. The best was the non-catch, when he one-armed a reception just out of the back of the end zone at the end of the first half, but his foot was out of bounds.
Rushing offense: F
Purdue rushed for minus-2 yards.
Even taking out Plummer’s sack yardage, it’s bad. Purdue gained only 34 yards, 21 of those by Zander Horvath. The Boilermakers were bad in short yardage, with Horvath being stuffed on a first-half third-and-1 — a replay might have shown that Horvath actually cleared the yardage needed, but alas, the officials never looked. He then was blown up on the next fourth down. Purdue got zero push on the right side of its line, giving Horvath no room to find a crease.
Horvath netted 21 yards, including a long of nine, on seven carries.
Overall Offense: D+
Purdue scored 27 points without a turnover, but its struggles early — namely the consecutive possessions with a sack — gave Nebraska early momentum. And the Boilermakers could not overcome it.
Purdue could not run the ball, which contributed heavily to its 3-of-13 mark on third down and 1-of-3 on fourth.
Passing defense: D+
The Boilermakers gave up 253 yards passing to an offense that doesn’t pass well.
And while there were moments of positivity — safety Tyler Coyle gave Purdue a big play with his fourth-down pass breakup late — there weren’t nearly enough. Purdue again largely failed to get after the quarterback, with only one sack. That came with Jack Sullivan simply steamrolled his way to Adrian Martinez.
Purdue tried to blitz a few times, but none hit, like on a failure to get a stop on a third down in the third quarter. That was a critical spot when Nebraska kept a drive alive.
The Boilermakers got crossed up on Martinez’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Wyatt Liewer in the third quarter. The Cornhuskers shifted to overload the right side and had three receivers vs. only two Purdue DBs. Safety Cam Allen was late to adjust and Nebraska waltzed in for the TD. Bad.
Rushing defense: C-
Purdue missed at least four tackles on Martinez’s 13-yard touchdown run, Nebraska’s second score.
The tackling, in general, was only marginal. Purdue allowed 111 yards rushing on 40 carries, but also three touchdowns. Needing a stop at the start of the third quarter, Purdue instead allowed Nebraska to go 75 yards on 11 plays for a touchdown and 27-10 lead. Of the 11 plays, eight were rushes for 48 yards.
Overall Defense: D+
The Boilermakers gave up 37 points and couldn’t get off the field at critical times.
Some of those were quite frustrating, like when Dedrick Mackey picked up a late-hit penalty on a second-and-21 early in the fourth quarter. Nebraska went on to score, giving it a two-possession lead with seven minutes left.
Nebraska owned time of possession, with nearly 34 minutes, including 12 in the fourth quarter. In back-to-back weeks, the opponent has had the football for basically 25 of 30 minutes in fourth quarters.
Special teams: D
What a mess.
Purdue walk-on freshman Brendan Cropsey won an open competitive for the punting job during the week. And on his first attempt, Purdue had a blocking issue off the left side, and perhaps in the shield. The block set up Nebraska’s first score.
Purdue’s second punt, a 36-yarder, was returned 27 yards, plus 15 more tacked on because of a Purdue sideline interference penalty. It netted minus-6 yards.
After Nebraska scored, the Boilermakers had 12 men on the field for the extra point. Later, J.D. Dellinger had a kick out of bounds.
Purdue had a couple of positives: Dellinger hit two field goals, including a 46-yarder, and Jackson Anthrop blocked a punt to set up a short field goal.
Before the game, one had to wonder where Purdue was mentally, having lost three straight games and with a handful of opt-outs, mostly by backups.
Well, it wasn’t in a good place, and that’s on Jeff Brohm and Co.
Arguably, the Boilermakers are regressing with each progressive week. That’s not a good sign at all in Brohm’s fourth season in West Lafayette. Purdue is breaking down in every single facet, with little to offensive consistency, very little defensive play-making and shaky special teams.
The Boilermakers have lost four consecutive games for the first time since 2004, and there’s little sign that Purdue will come out of the tailspin soon.
It’s not doing much to help itself, with physical breakdowns and mental mistakes — 11 penalties for 126 yards — that are frustrating to watch.