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Play of the Game: Purdue's Game-Winning Touchdown
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Play of the Game: Purdue’s Game-Winning Touchdown

November 02, 2019

New week, same story.

Once again, Nebraska found a way to lose a game in which it had a chance to take control early and and run away. Instead of holding a comfortable margin late in the game, the Huskers found themselves needing to make a play to secure the victory.

They couldn’t make it, on either side of the ball but in this 31-27 loss, we’re going to focus on the deciding score.

This week’s Play of the Game is is David Bell’s 9-yard go-ahead touchdown with just over a minute to play in the game.

Nebraska’s defense had been up and down all game. The Huskers had a lot of success early and put the offense in some good situations, but the Huskers failed to capitalize. Jeff Brohm and the Boilermakers figured some things out late in the first half, putting together two long drives to take a 14-10 lead at halftime. 

The Blackshirts only gave up 34 yards and 3 points in the third quarter, but they couldn’t sustain that success in the fourth, even after Purdue lost its starting quarterback (who was the back-up before an injury) and had to turn to its third-string guy. A 13-play, 78-yard touchdown drive gave the Boilermakers a 24-20 lead with just under seven minutes to play in the game. 

Adrian Martinez came alive to lead a nine-play, 71-yard touchdown drive that he finished off himself with a 4-yard plunge. The score gave the Huskers a 27-24 lead but left 4:21 on the clock, and it put the pressure right back on the defense.

The Boilermakers marched right down the field, picking up good-sized chunks of yardage along the way. Purdue entered the red zone having faced just one third down, a third and very short on the third play of the drive. 

A 10-yard gain set Purdue up at the Nebraska 14-yard line. On first down, King Doerue ran the ball for 3 yards. On second down, Doerue picked up two more yards. Nebraska took a timeout to stop the clock with 1:14 remaining, then Brohm took one of his own after he saw the way Nebraska lined up against his offense.

This is what Brohm came up with during his timeout. 

Purdue sent Milton Wright on a jet sweep from left to right, and he took the cornerback on that side of the field, Braxton Clark, with him. Quarterback Aidan O’Connell faked the handoff to the deep back, Doerue, then gave it to Bell looping back from the left side.

JoJo Domann flew in off the right side but bit hard on the fake, taking down Doerue. The defensive end on that side, Ben Stille, lined up inside of the left tackle and got pinned inside when Bell came back that way. Both inside linebackers ran up the middle, leaving no one to stop Bell on the edge. He jogged the last 5 yards into the end zone.

Brilliant play call by Brohm and whether the issue was with the scheme or the execution or both, Nebraska didn’t have an answer for it.

“I’ve been in a lot of games at Nebraska already where if we make one more play we win the game,” Scott Frost said. “One more play right there. Again, the defense played well enough to have the game put away in the first half and the offense didn’t. Special teams made plays at times and at other times we didn’t. We have to get to a point where all three phases are playing well. That’s on the coaches, that’s on me, that’s on players, everybody. These are games we should win.”

The Huskers got the ball back with 68 seconds left and promptly went four-and-out to seal Purdue’s victory.

Despite Nebraska giving up 31 points to a team that had scored just 26 the previous two games combined, I’d put more of the blame for the loss on the offense. Nebraska had a chance to put the game away early and couldn’t. Because of that, it came down to the final two minutes, and once again, the Huskers couldn’t make the one play it needed to make.

That’s why Purdue’s go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter is this week’s Play of the Game.

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