Well, that game was certainly worth the price of admission, wasn’t it? Time to break it down!
1.) Tanner Lee deserves all the props. A career-high 431 yards passing, poise in a pocket that was gutted by injuries and on that game-winning drive, he truly looked like a guy worthy of the preseason hype. If his receivers shore up their drops, Nebraska not only wins this one going away, but the goal of racking up wins over the remaining Big Ten West opposition appears very realistic.
2.) I’m not going to advocate for Bill Moos bringing the Air Raid with him from Washington State. However, I will gladly agree with a friend of mine in regards to what Nebraska would be wise to do moving forward:
Nebraska needs to embrace being a throw first and throw often team rest of year. Let's go
— James Stevenson (@JamesStevenson) October 29, 2017
Why should Mike Riley and Danny Langsdorf consider this as a legitimate option?
3.) Most importantly, the offensive line play is atrocious as a whole and relying on it to get a power run game going at this point in the season will prove fruitless. If I’m calling plays, I feel far more comfortable with Lee’s ability to hit his wideouts and checkdowns with the occasional drop or two than I do calling for three handoffs in a row. Sorry, Run The Ball Guy®. This is where we are.
4.) While Michael Decker is no All-American, we did see why he gets the nod over Cole Conrad at center. There were far too many whiffs which allowed Purdue to blow up screens and put pressure on Lee while Conrad held down the spot. The line’s struggles aren’t all on him, though. It seems like Nick Gates only continues to regress as the season goes on. Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned in the past, there really is no better option and yes, that is a sad state of affairs.
This is a line that can give Lee enough pass protection most of the time and might be able to spring a running back free here and there. It is not a strength. That said, while it may not be the best orange in the bushel, it’s still one that needs to have every ounce of juice squeezed from it.
5.) The only running back that seems to be playing with passion 100 percent of the time anymore is true freshman Jaylin Bradley. Ozigbo is a brusier, but I’ll refer back to an offensive line that will do him no favors. Mikale Wilbon is money in the screen game, but that’s gone to hell in a handbasket. Bradley may be young and will make freshman mistakes, but he looks enthused to be on the field and shows like he could give the run game an occasional spark.
I anticipate seeing all three moving forward, but it wouldn’t shock me to see Bradley utilized even more as time goes on.
6.) Did you know?: Stanley Morgan only needs to average 87 yards per game for Nebraska to have its first 1,000-yard receiver in history.
7.) Aside from Morgan’s usual heroics, Nebraska’s receivers still hurt drives with drops and I sincerely doubt they’ll face a team with a bigger case than Purdue moving forward. If you told me these guys would clean things up moving forward, I’d be tempted to say Mike Riley comes back in 2018 because Moos can’t fire him if he wins at least seven games including four of his last five. Well, I mean, he can, I just don’t know how wise that would be.
8.) Defensively, Nebraska knows what it’s getting from the front seven. The youth movement including the Davis brothers, Damion Daniels and Ben Stille are all refreshing to watch.
9.) Are the Blackshirt defensive backs an absolute abomination when playing zone coverage? That’s the only reason I can think of for Bob Diaco to continue trotting his secondary out man-to-man.
10.) Special teams rock the house yet again. Drew Brown and Issac Armstrong (filling in for an ill Zack Darlington) along with Caleb Lightbourn helped frame this victory. Hell, Brown was the offense for a good chunk of the evening.
So, here were are. Nebraska won a game it should’ve won and it has another next week as the Big Red comes home for the Battle of NU.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about what would become a thrilling comeback 25-24 win over Purdue wasn’t how it was won or that it was won at all. First, fans were pissed because Nebraska opened as an underdog. As the game went along, that anger became red-hot due to performance, and rightly so. However, what’s most peculiar is that after Nebraska’s largest fourth-quarter comeback in history, people were — and are — snarky, if not still angry.
Could this be an indication of impatience when it comes to Riley not giving more evidence as to why he should be fired? Maybe. However, regardless of what side of that argument you stand on, a comeback win against Purdue isn’t going to save Riley’s job. He needs a glowing portfolio as the season closes out.
Justin Jackson and Northwestern will be a good test. The Blackshirt run defense has a tall order in defending one of the best running backs in the conference and, as always, Moos will still be watching.
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