Opponent Preview: Purdue
The Nebraska football team hits the road for the first time this season when it travels to West Lafayette, Ind., for a Big Ten matchup with the Purdue Boilermakers on Saturday.
Purdue is 1-4 this season and 0-1 in conference play, while the Huskers bring a 4-1 overall record and a 1-0 mark in Big Ten action into Saturday's contest. Nebraska will be seeing a new-look Purdue offense on Saturday, when true freshman Danny Etling makes his first career start. Youth has been a theme for Purdue under first-year Head Coach Darrell Hazell, and coming off a bye week, Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini says the Huskers could see some different things from the Boilermaker offense.
“I think they are going with a young quarterback. I think they are obviously young in their development," Pelini said. "The staff has only been together for five games. They’ve had a week off. We could see some different things. You just have to go off of what you’ve seen up to this point and be ready to make adjustments. You could see a lot of different things. We just have to be ready to adjust.”
Purdue was off last weekend, as the Boilermakers have had two weeks to prepare for their Big Ten home opener against the Huskers. Purdue is 1-4 this fall, with its lone win coming over Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) opponent Indiana State. The Boilermakers are 0-4 against Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) opponents this year, losing those four games by an average of nearly four touchdowns per game.
Due to the slow start, first-year Head Coach Darrell Hazell announced a quarterback change last week, tabbing true freshman Danny Etling as the new starter, replacing fifth-year senior Rob Henry.
Henry started each of Purdue’s first five games this season, helping the Boilermakers average 301.6 yards of total offense per game and 17.0 points per contest. Both of those marks rank among the bottom 15 teams in the FBS ranks. The Boilermakers average 214.6 passing yards per game and 87.0 rushing yards per contest.
Henry is completing 53.6 percent of his passes this season, but has thrown six interceptions and just four touchdowns. With the announcement of Etling as the starting quarterback, Henry switched positions to safety. Etling is completing 48.7 percent of his passes with two picks and two touchdowns. He threw for 241 yards in his career debut against Nrothern Illinois two weeks ago. On the ground, Akeem Hunt is Purdue’s leading rusher, averaging 38.6 yards per game.
Defensively, Purdue is allowing 413.6 yards per game and 36.6 points per contest. Each of the Boilermakers’ four FBS opponents have scored at least 31 points while averaging 42.3 points per game. Purdue is allowing opponents to rush for 183.2 yards per game and nearly five yards per carry, while the Boilermakers are surrendering 230.4 passing yards per game.
Safety Taylor Richards is Purdue’s leading tackler with 31 stops this season, while Bruce Gaston leads the team with 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.0 of Purdue’s 9.0 sacks.
On special teams, Cody Webster is averaging 45.3 yards per punt and the Boilermakers are allowing just 4.0 yards per punt return to rank second nationally in net punting.
Saturday’s game will mark just the second meeting between Nebraska and Purdue on the football field. Purdue shut out Nebraska, 28-0, in the only meeting on Sept. 27, 1958 in West Lafayette. Purdue is the only Big Ten team that Nebraska has never defeated.
Purdue Head Coach Darrell Hazell
Darrell Hazell is in his first season at Purdue and his third season as a head coach overall. He picked up his first win as a Boilermarker on Sept. 7, when Purdue defeated Indiana State, 20-14. Overall, he owns a 1-4 record at Purdue and a 17-14 career record.
Hazell came to West Lafayette from Kent State, where he served as head coach in 2011 and 2012 and compiled a 16-10 record. In 2012, Kent State finished 11-3 and played in its first bowl game in 40 years. The 2012 Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year, Hazell’s Golden Flashes set a school record with 11 victories and defeated No. 15 Rutgers to post the program’s first win over a ranked team. In 2011, Hazell guided Kent State to a 5-7 record with wins in four of the final five games.
A 27-year veteran of the college coaching ranks, Hazell previously coached at Rutgers (2001-03), West Virginia (1999-2000), the U.S. Military Academy (1997-98), Western Michigan (1995-96), Pennsylvania (1992-94), Eastern Illinois (1988) and Oberlin (1986-87 and 1989-91).