GAME NOTES: With a showdown against Wisconsin looming, the 17th-ranked
Nebraska Cornhuskers will need to stay focused when they host the Purdue
Boilermakers in a Big Ten Conference matchup this Saturday.
With a record of just 3-5 overall, including a 1-3 mark against conference
foes, Purdue is far from the Big Ten elite. The Boilermakers have lost three
of their last four games, all in conference, including a 39-38 heartbreaker at
Minnesota last time out.
Nebraska’s season has been filled with much more success. The Cornhuskers
stumbled a bit out of the gate, but have been rolling of late, with wins in
back-to-back games against Northwestern (38-17) and Rutgers (42-24). In all,
they are 7-1, with a 3-1 league ledger. Their lone loss came on the road
against Michigan State. However, the Cornhuskers are very aware that they need
to remain locked in against Purdue.
“We have to prepare the right way. They look a lot different from last year.
They have some of the same guys, but they play a lot harder,” Nebraska
quarterback Tommy Armstrong, Jr. said. “We have to put ourselves in the right
situation heading into this week.”
There is not much history between these two programs. Saturday’s duel will be
just the third between them and the first ever at Memorial Stadium. Nebraska
won last year’s tussle, 44-7. Purdue won the only previous matchup, claiming a
28-0 victory back in 1958.
Purdue is in the bottom half of the Big Ten in terms of offensive production,
ranking eighth in scoring (28.3 ppg) and 10th in total offense (362.8 ypg).
Part of the problem has been inconsistency at the quarterback position, both
in performance and personnel. Austin Appleby started once again in the last
game, and he completed 16-of-26 passes for only 153 yards and two
interceptions, although he did manage to find the end zone three times. On the
season, he is averaging just over 100 yards per game, although he has
completed 60.4 percent of his attempts. Appleby can also make moves on the
ground, as he illustrated against Minnesota with 79 yards and a touchdown.
Danny Etling has more than 150 pass attempts this season, but he has only
completed 54.9 percent of them for 800 yards and nearly as many interceptions
(five) as touchdowns (six).
Danny Anthrop (34 receptions, 536 yards, four TDs) is the most targeted player
on the roster. He leads the team in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown
catches. In fact, he is the only PU player with more than 200 yards.
Akeem Hunt is second on the team with 29 receptions, but he has been more
important as a rusher, leading the team with 540 yards and five scores on 104
carries. However, it was Raheem Mostert who really piled up the yards against
Minnesota, finishing with 115 yards and a touchdown on only five attempts.
Hunt still impressed in the outing, producing 98 yards.
Of course, all of Mostert and Hunt’s work went for naught, as the Purdue
defense permitting 450 yards to the Golden Gophers. The Boilermakers are now
allowing 31.2 points and 429.2 yards per game, ranking 11th and 12th in the
conference in each category, respectively.
Purdue’s toughest test of the season may be coming this weekend, as it must
find some way to stop Nebraska star RB Ameer Abdullah. No one has been able to
do so this season. Rutgers certainly didn’t, as it let Abdullah amass 341 all-
purpose yards, including 228 on the ground. Abdullah leads the country in
rushing (1,249 yards) and is second in rushing touchdowns (17). He is clearly
one of the favorites for the Heisman Trophy right now.
“Ameer is not caught up in all of that stuff right now,” Nebraska coach Bo
Pelini said. “But hopefully he’ll finish out this year the way he wants to
finish it out individually and team-wise. He’ll be able to look back on this
with a lot of pride with the things he’s been able to accomplish. It’s pretty
Armstrong, Jr. may not be dominating the competition as much as Abdullah is,
but he certainly deserves some of the credit for Nebraska’s ranking as the
second-best offense in the Big Ten (514.8 ypg). As a passer, he has only
completed 54.5 percent of his attempts, but he has tallied 1,709 yards and
twice as many touchdowns (12) as interceptions (six). On top of his passing
stats, Armstrong, Jr. has also contributed 501 yards and three scores on the
On the edges, Kenny Bell (33 receptions, 572 yards, two TDs) and Jordan
Westerkamp (30 receptions, 542 yards, four TDs) get the most work. In fact,
Abdullah (13 receptions, 169 yards, two TDs) is the only other player with
more than 10 catches.
Offense alone has not carried Nebraska, as the team ranks fourth in the Big
Ten in scoring defense (20.4 ppg) and sixth in total defense (339.8 ypg).
Pardon the cliche’, but Nebraska’s toughest opponent this weekend is itself.
As long as Abdullah keeps trucking along and the Huskers remain focused and
limit their mistakes, expect a relatively easy victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nebraska 38, Purdue 20