When asked about quarterback Chubba Purdy at Tuesday’s press conference, multiple Huskers praised his confidence.
Captain and edge linebacker Garrett Nelson was one of those players, expressing little doubt about the redshirt freshman’s mentality. Wide receiver Alante Brown pointed to his confidence as a thrower as one of his biggest strengths.
Despite that praise, head coach Mickey Joseph’s evaluation of Purdy’s performance against Illinois took on a different tone.
“He plays nervous sometimes,” Joseph said. “I just want him to breathe and calm down because if you go back to his high school film, he’s playing with a lot of confidence, you go back and watch that, you can see him playing with poise. He’s got to have more poise behind the center when he goes in the game. He wants to make a play so bad that he makes a bad play.”
Purdy was the quarterback for the entire second half against Illinois following an injury to Casey Thompson. He had appeared in three other games prior for the Huskers — once finishing out a blowout loss against Oklahoma and twice filling in shortly for a banged-up Thompson against Rutgers and Indiana.
His stint on Saturday was both his longest, along with having the tension of a close game. Purdy struggled in his time on the field, completing just three of eight pass attempts for 15 yards and an interception. He was also sacked twice on Nebraska’s final drive. The Huskers gained just 29 yards in the second half, 15 coming as result of an Illinois penalty.
Thompson is day-to-day, according to Joseph, and there’s a chance the team will have to rely on Purdy again as the starter on Saturday against Minnesota. Him and Smothers have split first-team reps, and coaches are focused on how they can help Purdy remain confident on the field.
“Talk to him every play, say something to him every play,” Joseph said of his plans to prepare his quarterback. “‘Hey, you’re doing this, that’s a great job, okay, you’re doing this, that’s a great job.’ Just remind him of situations that he’s in because remember now, he hasn’t played a lot of college football.”
Purdy and Smothers have played a combined 10 games in their college football careers, each having one start. Joseph said that Purdy is more of their “drop back” thrower, while Smothers’ strength is his mobility.
Nelson also complimented Purdy’s arm while saying both quarterbacks run well. He said the extra encouragement will be a positive for Purdy, even if he doesn’t see it as a complete necessity.
“That guy has enough internal confidence that I wouldn’t think he would need that but I’m sure the support’s awesome,” Nelson said. “Like I said, if he’s the guy, he’s going to do a great job, full faith.”
The faith in Purdy extends beyond Nelson and the coaching staff, too. Tight end Chancellor Brewington, who caught one of the quarterback’s completions on Saturday, has known Purdy’s family for a while. While the two have only really gotten to know each other know, they’re both from Arizona and their fathers both played baseball in the San Francisco Giants organization in the 1990s.
With the quarterback situation still up in the air going into Saturday’s game, Brewington has full faith in Purdy if he’s called upon, or anyone else who sees the field.
“Chubba’s a great kid and he’s going to bounce back from whatever, I’m certain of that,” Brewington said. “I got faith in him and faith in the team. But I still got faith in anyone who goes in, we’re well-prepared and that’s been the theme of these past couple weeks is just execute whoever’s in, got to execute and they know that.”