WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — After shredding Nebraska’s pass defense for 304 yards Saturday, Purdue went with some dipsy-doo to secure its third victory of the season.
Boilermakers coach Jeff Brohm wasn’t sure another pass would work. He figured — correctly — that Nebraska’s defense would be bold in its approach, willing to take a risk to save a touchdown.
So a reverse to a freshman, with another freshman selling a fake into the middle of the line that had the Huskers biting, was the play that earned the Boilermakers a 31-27 win that doubled as Nebraska’s fourth loss in five games.
Purdue running back King Doerue sold his fake so well that he was tackled by a Husker defender. David Bell took the toss from Aidan O'Connell and went nine yards with a two-linemen escort into the end zone for what proved to be the winning points with just 1:08 remaining in the game.
“I knew they’d probably be aggressive on the call, so throwing a pass would be a little risky,” Brohm said. “This is a play we’ve worked on in that plus 10-yard area quite a bit. You’d like to get all-out pressure and blitz and hope that they bite down on the fake, then toss it to the guy on the reverse.
“It worked exactly the way we hoped. There’s some (bad) things that could happen, but we wanted to take the risk. I thought it was a fairly safe play, even though it was a reverse and you’re tossing it in the air.”
Nebraska took a timeout prior to the play to set its defense. Purdue then lined up and took a timeout of its own after seeing how the Blackshirts lined up.
Brohm said the reverse was called during the timeout and there was no need to make any changes. The Huskers didn’t change their look after Purdue’s timeout.
“Sometimes you do like to get a look and make sure you get the look you want,” Brohm said. “They did have a blitzer off the edge that was a little concerning to the side where we were running the reverse. We had the speed sweep motion to try to suck the corner all the way across, but also get that blitzer to suck down on the run.
“We were pulling a guard to sell the power run, and he did. He sucked down, and we tossed it. They came back with the same look we saw before the timeout and it worked.”
Two Purdue quarterbacks carving up the NU secondary despite the Huskers getting three sacks put the Boilermakers in position to win.
Purdue’s passing performance of more than 300 yards was the second against Nebraska’s defense in as many weeks. Indiana threw for 351 yards in its 38-31 victory on Oct. 26 in Lincoln.
Nebraska now has given up more than 300 yards either passing or rushing in four of its past five games. Ohio State posted 368 rushing yards in a 48-7 rout, while Minnesota went for 322 on the ground two weeks later.
Though the Boilermakers started slow, they picked up steam in the second quarter. Nebraska took a 10-0 lead in the opening 15 minutes as Purdue had just one play that went for double-digit yardage — a 15-yard pass from Jack Plummer to Brycen Hopkins.
The chunk plays began to pile up for Purdue in the second quarter. In addition to passes of 26, 17 and 16 yards, Plummer escaped for runs of 18 and 19 yards, while Doerue tore off a 25-yarder to help Purdue grab a 14-10 halftime lead.
“You have to try to get a few chunk plays to score points,” Brohm said. “I know we had some long drives, but a couple of key plays got us going there.”
Knowing the Huskers have a strong trio on the defensive line, Brohm said the Boilermakers needed to exploit weaker parts of the Nebraska defense.
“I think when you look at Nebraska, they have three really big linemen that can clog up the run a little bit,” Brohm said. “You have to be able to mix a few runs in, but I don’t think maybe they have the speed rushers that can get to the passer quite as fast.
“In the end we tried to throw the ball and spread them out a little bit. We tried to do a little bit of both.”
Keeping an eye on Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez was key for Purdue’s defense, and Brohm was happy with the way that worked out. While Martinez completed 22 passes for 247 yards, the Boilermakers kept him in check when he tried to run.
Martinez gained 58 of Nebraska’s 128 rushing yards on 12 carries. That’s the part of the game where Purdue most wanted to limit the Huskers’ dual-threat quarterback.
“You have to make sure your eyes are on the quarterback, probably make the quarterback throw more than he wants and take away his running lanes,” Brohm said. “He was able to escape outside a few times. When he did, he had some big plays.
“When we kept him in the pocket and didn’t allow him to run outside, we had a little more success. I think that’s what you have to do with a dual-threat guy is just kind of make him do some things he’s not as good at and force him to do that. Because when you let him play his game, he can be lethal.”
Defensive end Derrick Barnes said Purdue defenders followed their coaches instructions in keeping an eye on Martinez.
“We’re really taught to just keep him inside out,” Barnes said. “We always have a guy on him. If it’s read-zone, we always have somebody on the dive or somebody on the quarterback, so we just want to make sure we know where he’s at all the time.
“They actually didn’t run as many read-option and power runs,” Barnes said. “Other than that, everything was dead-on.”