Tale of the Tape: Purdue
Don’t look now, but Nebraska’s jumped all the way up to 37th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing an average of 22.3 points per game. The quality of opponents – save for 9th-ranked UCLA – hasn’t been elite. In fact, after facing Minnesota in a couple weeks, Nebraska will have began its Big Ten slate with arguably the three worst teams in the conference.
When it comes to a 44-7 win in a freshman quarterback’s first start on the road, it’s what the Huskers had to do. Take care of business, move on.
The opponent quality angle can’t be disputed, but the Huskers have shown improvement on both sides of the ball since week one. After this week’s win, linebacker David Santos said it was the defense’s best communication game; that the Huskers were on same page “99 percent of the plays.”
Considering that the offense hadn’t prepared at all for a 3-4 defense (where the blame lies for that is another story), 44 points is just fine. Coach said when you’re prepared for a four-man defensive front and you get three, the checks instantly change from the game plan. The Boilermakers hit Nebraska with all sorts of new blitzes as well.
“They were drawing up blitzes in the dirt,” coach said. “The next team that plays them, their graduate assistants are gonna go nuts diagramming all these goofy blitzes.”
1ST QUARTER – 7:11 – Tommy Armstrong interception (YT 0:22:22)
Purdue wasn’t fooled by the wheel route the second time the Huskers threw it at them from the diamond formation. Unfortunately, it looks like Armstrong had his mind made up from the beginning where he was going with this play if you watch the freshman’s eyes. His mistakes continued when he elected not to simply throw the ball away with Ameer Abdullah not only blanketed in coverage, but with a Purdue safety helping.
“The bottom line is that you don’t throw into that coverage,” coach said. “You’re just asking for trouble.”
You can’t see it on the screen, but Kenny Bell broke off his post route into a deep dig in the secondary seam. That’s Armstrong’s second best option after throwing the ball away, coach said.
2ND QUARTER – 7:19 – Ameer Abdullah 28-yard touchdown run (YT 0:59:34)
Being the playmaker that he is, Abdullah turns what may have been a busted play blown up in the backfield into another long touchdown run. Arguably the best thing to happen to this play was the bobbled snap, which threw the timing off just enough to render Purdue’s five-man rush almost useless. The blitzing strong safety – who came unblocked – timed the snap almost perfectly, but overran the play that took just an extra split-second to develop.
“(Abdullah) was fortunate to be conscious,” coach said.
The safety barely gets an arm on Abdullah, which we know by know isn’t going to bring him down. A key block by Cole Pensick at the second level seals the inside for Abdullah, who makes one cut to the nearside and scores.
“That’s something to do against all the blitzing that they do,” coach said. “Sometimes you just crank it at them. You’ll have things like that – you’ll have a negative play, then the next thing, you’ll crease them.”
3RD QUARTER – 4:05 – Randy Gregory sacks Danny Etling 17 yards for a safety (YT 1:42:44)
Ever once in a while you hear “coverage sack,” but this one goes in the books as a coverage safety. Ciante Evans covers the crossing route and David Santos covers the flat nicely as the back begins to drift closer to the line of scrimmage. Etling has nowhere to go as Randy Gregory demonstrates the most important aspect of Nebraska’s defense against the Boilermakers – pressure from the front four.
From an X’s and O’s stand point, the play is sound as Etling sat in a considerable pocket until Randy Gregory beats his man one-on-one with his feet, coach said. You can’t ask a tackle to contain Gregory for that late into the down.
“The offensive tackle isn’t doing that badly of a job when you think about it,” coach said. “Then the quarterback panicked and ran backwards. (Nebraska’s) locked on receivers crossing. You don’t see anyone running free.”