“Winning football games is a real challenge in 2017, you could look all over the country,” Bob Diaco said back then, when he was Nebraska’s defensive coordinator. “To come on the road in the Big Ten, to strain against all odds, against all odds, all odds, it’s been a challenge.”
One must wonder what he thinks of winning football games in 2020. Diaco, now Purdue’s defensive coordinator, won’t have to go on the road this week, but the Boilermakers (2-3) are trying to pull out of a three-game swoon, the latest loss at the hands of Rutgers which possessed the ball for 13 minutes in the fourth quarter of a one-score game last week. Diaco’s defenses, intensely focused on not allowing the big play and keeping things in front of it, are sometimes like that.
But statistically speaking, Purdue’s defense is equal to or perhaps slightly better than Nebraska’s in a handful of key categories.
Nebraska (1-4) has lost two straight as it heads to West Lafayette in search of some momentum to close the season. The Huskers have an offense that’s still lagging in the big-play department, but is pretty good at moving the ball on a down-by-down basis. If you’re a “styles make fights” person, Saturday’s game offers a lot of intrigue.
Winning it, however, will probably come down to something more basic here near the end of a strange season.
“It’s about grit. It’s about wanting to win the rest of the season,” quarterback Adrian Martinez said. “All we have now is Purdue this week and we have to make the most of it. And our guys are going to come out with fire and intensity this week to get it done. That’s what culture is. That’s what the desire to win is, and we’re going to come with that type of attitude this week because we have to.”
We talk through all of that and more on the latest episode of the I-80 Preview, Huskers-Boilermakers edition.
The I-80 Preview podcast is a Hurrdat Media production.
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.