Casey Thompson didn’t have much room for error.
For much of the game between Nebraska and Purdue, both defenses were at the mercy of the opposing offense. The Boilermakers amassed 608 yards and 43 points, while the Huskers put up 476 yards and 37 points.
By the end of the game, Thompson could do nothing but watch as Purdue wiped the last six minutes off the clock on its final drive. The quarterback and his offense, which featured a school record-breaking performance from Trey Palmer, never got one more shot.
While the inability of the Husker defense to come up with a game-changing play shone through in the end, several mistakes from the offense kept them from completing the comeback throughout the contest. Thompson threw two interceptions, missed a throw for a surefire touchdown and pass protection remained an issue for the offense.
“Hit and miss,” Thompson said postgame in describing his performance. “I think as an offense, we played okay, I mean we were inconsistent but we scored a lot of points on a good football team, good defense, but I feel like I have to play better, we have to all play better.”
The quarterback noted the discrepancy between his team’s offense and Purdue’s in the game. The Boilermakers ran 101 plays, nearly twice as many as Nebraska’s 52, and held the ball for 42 minutes and 42 seconds.
“Can’t make any mistakes when you play a team like that,” Thompson said.
The Huskers did make those mistakes. One of the first major miscues came with over five minutes to go in the second quarter. Purdue had taken a 17-10 lead after Nebraska quickly made up a 10-0 deficit on its first two possessions of the period.
With the chance to keep the offensive momentum going, Thompson rolled out right on the first play of the drive. He targeted Vokolek, who was running open 15 yards down the field. However, Thompson, who took a big hit as he threw, didn’t get enough air on the ball and it was intercepted by the linebacker.
“I saw him for a second, and I kind of knew that the linebacker was underneath, and I just got to make a better throw and throw it a little bit higher over him,” Thompson said. “Any time you throw over the middle you have to be able to not let people jump up and pick it off.”
That led to a field goal for Purdue. The next drive, Thompson was sacked on back-to-back plays to complete a three-and-out, and the Boilermakers turned that opportunity into a touchdown.
Down three scores, the Huskers would need to make big plays to have a chance at a comeback, and oftentimes, the offense came through. Thompson had a 31-yard rush to set up a Nebraska field goal before halftime. After the half, he hit Palmer for a 37-yard opening-drive touchdown to cut it to 27-20.
But then, the errors kept coming. With a chance to tie, Palmer dropped a pass and the Huskers went three-and-out, then Thompson overthrew Alante Brown in the endzone on the next drive, forcing Nebraska to settle for a field goal.
The teams traded touchdowns once more and Purdue added a field goal to go up 37-30. With another chance to knot the score up, Thompson threw a deep ball for Palmer — who scored on a 72-yard reception the last drive. This time, they didn’t connect, as a well-position defensive back grabbed the ball out of the air for the interception.
Thompson said his receiver could’ve had another touchdown if he hit him in stride, but he lost power on it as result of the pressure. The Boilermakers came up with four sacks in the game and more hits on Thompson as he threw, and the quarterback said after the game he wants to improve on throwing through pressure.
Purdue scored a touchdown following the pick, and a 55-second Husker touchdown drive didn’t have an impact on the Boilermakers being able to convert a fourth down and third down on the next drive and end the game. After an opening drive interception, Purdue quarterback Aidan O’Connell made the key plays when he needed to without the miscues that plagued Thompson.
“That guy don’t make mistakes with the football,” head coach Mickey Joseph said of O’Connell postgame. “And I said before, we had to execute in all three phases of the game, and I got to get that fixed. This is on me.”
Thompson’s recollection of the points off turnovers was off postgame — the Boilermakers scored nine points off the two interceptions — but his sentiment reflected how costly the miscues ended up being in a game where the defense struggled.
“Both of our turnovers that Purdue got led to six points for them,” Thompson said. “We lost by six.”