Husker Fall at Purdue
West Lafayette, Ind. - An injury-riddled Nebraska team turned the ball over five times and suffered a 55-45 loss to Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium on Saturday.
The Huskers, who slipped to 3-6 overall and 1-4 in the Big Ten, played without injured starting quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr., as Ryker Fyfe took the loss in his first career start despite throwing for 407 yards and four touchdowns. He also threw four interceptions and lost one fumble, and those five turnovers were converted into 28 points by the Boilermakers.
The Huskers, who were also without the services of injured wide receiver Alonzo Moore, took an additional hit to the receiving corps with a first-half injury to De'Mornay Pierson-El. The Big Red offense took another hit in the first half with the loss of starting running back Terrell Newby.
Purdue capitalized on Nebraska's injuries and turnovers to give Coach Darrell Hazell his first home Big Ten Conference victory in three seasons. The Boilermakers improved to 2-6 on the year and 1-3 in the Big Ten.
Despite the personnel challenges on offense and the turnovers, the Huskers outgained Purdue, 484-457 in total yards on the day. The Big Red trailed 42-16 entering the fourth quarter, but refused to quit.
Behind 199 passing yards from Fyfe, who completed 10-of-14 passes in the final period, the Huskers rallied for 29 points in the fourth - the second-best point total in the quarter in school history, trailing only 30 points at Hawaii on Dec. 4, 1982.
Wide receivers Brandon Reilly and Jordan Westerkamp had big days for the Big Red. Westerkamp hauled in nine receptions for 123 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown catch with 30 seconds left to make the final margin.
Even after that score, Nebraska kept battling, recovering an on-side kick to regain another possession, before watching time run out.
Westerkamp's touchdown catch followed on the heels of an eight-yard touchdown run by Purdue's Markell Jones with 1:02 left, which pushed the Boilermaker margin to 55-38, but kept the Big Red in the game. The Huskers blocked the Purdue extra point and returned it for an apparent two points, but were flagged for an illegal forward pass on the return. Had the return counted, the Huskers would have trailed by just two scores at 55-40 and would have had the ball with the chance to tie after the on-side kick recovery by Tyrin Ferguson.
Reilly, who had five receptions for 88 yards, had pulled the Huskers within 49-38 with his eight-yard touchdown catch with 3:27 left, but the Nebraska defense was unable to get a stop to give the offense a chance to cut into the lead.
Nebraska opened the fourth quarter with a Fyfe to Lane Hovey 17-yard touchdown pass to trim the Purdue lead to 42-23 just four seconds into the final period. The Blackshirts held Purdue to just one first down on the ensuing and cashed in another quick score on Andy Janovich's one-yard run with 11:39 left in the game to cut the margin to 42-31.
Purdue maintained possession for more than five minutes on the next drive, but the Huskers got a stop on fourth down to put the ball back in the hands of Fyfe and the offense with 6:11 left on the clock. But on the first play of the drive, Fyfe's pass was deflected and intercepted by senior cornerback Frankie Williams and returned 42 yards to the Nebraska 6. Jones scored on the next play to make it 49-31 and put the game out of reach.
Senior cornerback Anthony Brown grabbed the first three interceptions of the game for the Boilermakers, while Garrett Hudson added the first big defensive play of the day for Purdue with his 27-yard fumble return after a fumbled snap by Fyfe in the first quarter. Brown tied a Nebraska individual opponent record, becoming the first opposing player to intercept three passes since Alabama's Bobby Johns had three interceptions in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2, 1967.
Nebraska took an early lead with Drew Brown's 41-yard field goal with 7:53 left in the first quarter to cap a 12-play, 70-yard drive and give the Huskers a 3-0 edge.
However, Purdue quarterback David Blough answered with a 56-yard scoring run with 5:06 left. Blough, who entered the game with just five yards rushing on the season, went untouched to the end zone to give the Boilermakers a 7-3 lead with 5:06 left in the opening period.
Blough finished the day 28-of-43 for 274 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions on the day. He added 82 yards rushing on 10 carries, while Jones managed a game-high 92 yards and two scores on 23 totes. As a team, Purdue outgained Nebraska on the ground, 183-77.
Nebraska's first turnover occurred on the ensuing drive, after Fyfe had marched the Big Red to the Purdue 33 and faced a 3rd-and-5. Following the fumble recovery, Purdue took over at the Nebraska 16 and capitalized five plays later with Blough's three-yard touchdown pass to Danny Anthrop to make it 14-3 Purdue with 13:48 left in the half.
Fyfe answered with his first touchdown pass on the next possession, a 20-yard strike to Stanley Morgan Jr., who sparked the Huskers with his 42-yard kickoff return to begin the possession. However, Brown's PAT kick was blocked and Nebraska trailed 14-9 with 11:52 left in the half.
The defenses exchanged stops on the next three possessions before the Huskers took over at their own 7 with 7:26 left in the half. On 2nd-and-11 from the NU 6, Fyfe threw his first interception to Anthony Brown at the NU 22. Five plays later, junior wide receiver Domonique Young scored on a four-yard run to make 21-9 Purdue with 4:12 left in the half.
Brown got his second interception of Fyfe with 57 seconds left in the half, but the Boilermakers were not able to convert that miscue to points before halftime.
Nebraska started strong in the second half, as Fyfe marched the Huskers 75 yards in eight plays capped by an Imani Cross nine-yard scoring run to trim the margin to 21-16 with 12:04 left in the third.
But Purdue answered with a 13-play, 80-yard drive of its own, capped by Blough's five-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Jurasevich to make it 28-16 with 7:42 in the quarter.
Nebraska's next drive stalled after one first down, and Purdue delivered the biggest offensive play of the day on 2nd-and-9 from its own 17 when Blough connected with junior wide receiver DeAngelo Yancey on an 83-yard touchdown pass to make it 35-16 with 5:19 left in the quarter.
On Nebraska's next play from scrimmage, Fyfe was picked off for the third time by Brown, who set the Boilermaker offense up at the NU 19. Five plays later, Blough hit Yancey from nine yards out to give Purdue a 42-16 edge heading into the fourth. Yancey finished with five receptions for 111 yards and two scores.