LINCOLN — Nebraska’s offense was able to keep the Huskers in the game despite being down the whole game and having to overcome its own mistakes.
Nebraska was outscored by Purdue 20-7 in the first half and fell to 0-4 after a 42-28 loss at Memorial Stadium.
Despite one interception, Adrian Martinez completed 25-of-42 passes for 323 yards and two touchdowns. He set career highs in all categories and he also ran for 91 yards on 18 attempts.
“I think Adrian grew a bunch today. I saw a guy today that looks like he kind of figured out he can win a game,” Nebraska head coach Scott Frost said. “Our starting quarterback is a true freshman, he didn’t play as a senior in high school. So inevitably there is going to be some growing pains. But that’s my guy and we are going to ride with him, and this is my team and I’m going to ride with them.”
Nebraska scored on its first drive of the game which ended with an 18-yard touchdown by Devine Ozigbo. But Purdue responded right after with a 42-yard rushing touchdown of its own.
All of Nebraska’s points in the second half came within three possessions and right after a Purdue touchdown.
Nebraska had to stay with it once Purdue (2-3) extended its lead to 27-7 with 8:25 left in the third quarter.
Nebraska’s offense scored 21 points in its next three possessions and stayed within two scores.
“As the game goes on we make adjustments, obviously I felt more comfortable,” Martinez said. “I never gave up, I never lost faith in our team (or) in our ability to win that game.”
Two minutes after Purdue scored, Martinez and the Huskers drove down the field in six plays and ended the drive with a Martinez to JD Spielman connection for a 21-yard touchdown.
Right after Purdue drove down the field to extend the lead to 14 points, it took three plays for Nebraska to get back down the field and into the end zone in 47 seconds after starting on its own 31-yard line.
“I felt like the offense was turning and doing what we were supposed to do during that third quarter,” Martinez said.
Again, Purdue scored another touchdown but Nebraska responded right back with a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to make it a 35-21 game.
The Nebraska defense got a pivotal stop in the beginning of the fourth quarter, giving the Huskers an opportunity to cut into the lead.
With 10:44 left in the game, Nebraska started on its 9-yard line and was able to get to its own 47-yard line after a 23-yard rush by Martinez, a 5-yard run by Devine Ozigbo and a 6-yard pass to Jack Stoll.
On the fourth play of the drive Martinez stepped back to pass, was looking downfield and threw a ball ntended for Spielman. The ball sailed on him and it landed in the basket of Purdue cornerback Simeon Smiley.
“I’d like to have back the interception,” Martinez said. “That could have been a turning point for us.”
The one turnover was the one mistake Martinez made, but the offense moved backwards most of the game because of penalties. There were five penalties called on the Nebraska offense with four holding calls and a then a personal foul on Jerald Foster in the first quarter.
“We have penalties that we need to get corrected,” Nebraska offensive-lineman Jerald Foster said. “We can’t have the penalties and the mistakes we are making.”
Even though the Nebraska defense gave up 516 yards to Purdue, on offense it were able to gain 582 yards and had 31 first downs. It’s the most yards Nebraska has had since Sept. 26, 2015, when the Huskers had 610 yards of total offense against Southern Miss.
“We were shredding them at times, and this is the second time we’ve lost I think with almost 600 yards of offense,” Frost said. “That’s not supposed to happen, but it happens when you make all the mistakes. It happens when you beat yourself, it doesn’t matter how many yards you have when you beat yourself.”
Ozigbo rushed for a career-high 170 yards and two touchdownse. Coming into the game, Ozigbo had only rushed for 90 yards for the season but with Maurice Washignton out because of a sickness, Ozigbo was able to step in and executed.
“When he got hot, he was a warrior today and I’ll go battle with him,” Frost said.
In Nebraska’s opening drive Ozigbo carried the ball four times for 41 yards, including the 18-yard touchdown to get the Huskers out on top.
“It was fast, it was great,” Foster said. “We got caught up in the next couple of drives, but I think we showcased that well at the start.”
Nebraska couldn’t score the rest of the first half, but Spielman reached 1,000 receiving yards in his 15th career game, the fastest player to reach 1,000 yards receiving in Huskers history.
Spielman finished with 10 catches, 135 yards and two touchdowns. Martinez also found Stanley Morgan Jr. and Stoll for a combination of eight times and a total of 120 yards.
Morgan Jr. has caught at least one pass for the 30th consecutive game, which is the fourth-longest streak in Nebraska history.
Compared to last week’s meeting at Michigan, Martinez, the offense and defense battled with Purdue even though they were down the whole second half.
“I’m so proud of the guys, the way they fight,” Frost said. “Devine Ozigbo, the way he played today, Adrian Martinez, to continue to be willing to take shots, run the ball, zip it downfield. JD (Spielman) had to come out, we had to put him back in. ... Stanley (Morgan Jr.) wants to win as badly as anybody I’ve been around. ...I’m proud of those guys.”