WEST LAFAYETTE – All of the hype was just that.
Purdue coach Darrell Hazell said his team had some newfound energy after a bye week and wholesale changes in the Boilermakers’ offense and defense.
It didn’t seem so Saturday, when Nebraska routed Purdue 44-7 at Ross-Ade Stadium.
A retooled offense, led by freshman Danny Etling in his first career start, was hapless. The defense suffered as a result, and even without starting quarterback Taylor Martinez, who sat out with a turf toe injury, the Cornhuskers (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) racked up 435 yards.
It didn’t come off of them overexecuting us. It came off of us not making our plays and not executing ourselves, senior cornerback Ricardo Allen said. Everything they did, we saw on film the day before.
Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah, who was eighth in the country with 138 rushing yards per game entering Saturday, had 126 yards and a touchdown. His backup, Imani Cross, ran for 56 yards and two scores.
Purdue (1-5, 0-2) went the entire first quarter without a first down. It didn’t cross into Nebraska territory until a pass interference penalty brought the Boilermakers to the Cornhuskers’ 49 in the middle of the fourth quarter.
They turned the ball over on downs four plays later.
We knew they were going to bring pressure, sophomore center Robert Kugler said. We thought we had a good plan to stop it and, at times, we just didn’t execute like we should have.
The loss gave the Boilermakers their first 1-5 start since Danny Hope’s inaugural season with the team in 2009. But that team had four losses of seven or fewer points during its start.
Hazell’s squad has lost three in a row by 30 or more and squeaked by Indiana State – a Football Championship Subdivision team without its starting running back – 20-14.
Saturday was the worst performance yet, as Purdue had more punting yards (306) than offensive yards (216).
You’ve got to find out where the breakdowns were, and it seems like they were in different locations every time, Hazell said. That’s the frustrating part.
Etling was just 14 for 35 for 184 yards and threw an interception and a touchdown. He was sacked five times, including once for a safety by Cornhuskers defensive lineman Randy Gregory, a former Purdue recruit, in the third quarter that made it 30-0.
The lone bright spot for Purdue was freshman receiver DeAngelo Yancey, one of eight newcomers to play prominent roles Saturday. He had five catches for 146 yards and a touchdown.
I’ve got to play better, Etling said.
The whole team does. But it might be too late to turn around this season.
We’re not in a great spot right now, Hazell said. That’s the reality of it. We don’t feel good about it, nor should we, but there’s only two ways you can go. I know our football team. They’ll work to get out of this hole.