Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Play of the Game: Chubba Purdy’s Interception

November 05, 2022

The Huskers couldn’t have asked for a better start to Saturday’s game against Minnesota, jumping out to a 10-0 lead early and shutting out the Golden Gophers in the first half.

However, the offense ground to a halt, the defense wore down and Minnesota scored 20 unanswered to take the lead en route to a 20-13 win. The dagger came early in the fourth quarter.

This week’s Play of the Game is Chubba Purdy’s interception.

The Golden Gophers kicked a 49-yard field goal to take a 13-10 lead less than a minute into the fourth quarter. For the first time all day, Nebraska had to play from behind. The Huskers went six straight drives without scoring including five straight three-and-outs.

Needing a spark, the ensuing drive got off to a rough start with a delay of game after the kickoff. On first-and-15, Purdy — starting in place of the injured Casey Thompson — tried to hit Trey Palmer up the middle, but the pass went a little high and through Palmer’s hands. The defender put a lick on him afterward and the back judge initially threw a flag for targeting, but he picked it up after consulting with the other officials.

On second down, the Huskers kept the ball on the ground with Anthony Grant, but Minnesota stuffed him at the line of scrimmage, setting up a third-and-15. 

Nebraska lined up in 11 personnel with two receivers to the right, one to the left and the tight end lined up off the line tight to the formation. Palmer started in the slot on the right side of the field.

We don’t get a clear picture, but it looked like Palmer ran a deep mesh route with the left receiver, running a cross-field corner route while crossing paths with the other receiver. It’s hard to see exactly what the coverage is, but the play ends up with one defensive back trailing Palmer closely and another underneath.

The offensive line gave Purdy plenty of protection and a clean pocket, but the ball comes out late and is under-thrown. It was just a really poor throw, and Terrell Smith, the defensive back that was hanging out underneath the route, picked it off at the Nebraska 33.

Seven straight Mohamed Ibrahim runs later and the Gophers run were in the end zone. Minnesota scored 10 points in less than five minutes to double up the Huskers.

Nebraska made a quarterback change at that point, inserting Logan Smothers and sticking with him, and he gave Nebraska somewhat of a chance, orchestrating a field goal drive then leading another drive out near midfield after the defense forced a punt, but Nebraska stalled out, failed on fourth down and Minnesota ran the clock out.

“I thought he saw it early, but I didn’t I didn’t think he saw it towards the end of the game, so that’s why it was the change to Logan,” Mickey Joseph said. “I thought Logan gave us a better chance.”

By “it,” Joseph was referring to the defensive coverages and Purdy’s offensive progressions.

Purdy’s interception put the finishing touches on a rough first start in a Nebraska jersey. He finished 6-of-16 for 41 yards and the pick and ran the ball six times for 24 yards and a touchdown. He completed three passes for 19 yards and ran it three times for 26 yards and the score on the first two drives before leading seven straight empty possessions.

Joseph said he and offensive coordinator Mark Whipple were on the same page regarding the quarterbacks and who should be playing, but also admitted they “probably should have” turned to Smothers earlier.

“We figured we had to throw the ball downfield, and then when he wasn’t seeing it, then we had to make a change,” Joseph said. “But in this league you can’t do that, you can’t go six straight three-and-outs in this league. You can’t do it, because they’ll eat the clock up.”

The Huskers squandered a great start nearly three full quarters of offensive ineptitude calumniating with the turnover — the only one of the game — that gave Minnesota a short field, which the Gophers took advantage of to score and put the game all but out of reach for Nebraska’s Thompson-less offense.

That’s why Chubba Purdy’s fourth-quarter Interception is this week’s Play of the Game.

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