LINCOLN — On an otherwise dreary day for Nebraska, Devine Ozigbo was one of the few shining stars for the Cornhuskers.
Ozigbo rushed 17 times for a career-high 170 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday as Nebraska dropped to 0-4 on the season with a 42-28 home loss to Purdue. The 6-foot, 235-pound senior running back logged his fifth career 100-yard game and had scoring runs of 18 and 23 yards.
Ozigbo didn’t make an appearance at his team’s postgame press conference, but several of his teammates said they were impressed — albeit not surprised — by his performance.
“I expect nothing less from Devine,” Nebraska freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez said. “He’s a great player and a guy that’s always been a grinder in the weight room, on the field, and I’m glad he had an opportunity today to show that a little bit.”
Ozigbo rushed 14 times for 60 yards and a TD in the season opener against Colorado, but had received limited opportunities in Nebraska’s past two contests. He rushed nine times for 25 yards against Troy and carries six times for 5 yards at Michigan.
Nebraska coach Scott Frost said there was no mystery why Ozigbo received a heavier workload against Purdue.
“It’s pretty simple: (Maurice Washington) missed practice all week because he was sick,” Frost said. “So we weren’t going to play anyone that didn’t practice, and Devine practiced better than anybody else. When he got hot, he was a warrior today, and I’ll go to battle with him.”
Despite the loss, Nebraska managed a season-high 582 yards of total offense. Martinez was 25 of 42 passing for 323 yards and two TDs with one interception, while wide receiver JD Spielman had a career-high 10 receptions for 135, catching a pair of 21-yard scoring passes.
Ozigbo averaged 10 yards per carry and his longest run of the day was 35 yards. His 170 rushing yards easily topped his previous career high of 112 yards on the ground at Wisconsin in 2017.
“(Ozigbo) was running hard — he always has ran hard — and I’ve got to give him credit,” Nebraska sophomore tight end Jack Stoll said. “The O-line did a phenomenal job and Adrian, obviously, making the correct reads. Offensively, as a unit, everyone was working hard and Devine was just willing to run the ball and be a downhill back. He had a phenomenal game and I’m just really excited to see what he can do the rest of the season.”
One week after being limited to 39 yards rushing on 30 attempts in a 56-10 loss at Michigan, Nebraska had 259 ground yards on 39 attempts for a 6.6-yard average against the Boilermakers.
“I am happy with the production we had today,” Nebraska senior guard Jerald Foster said. “The outcome is not what I wanted, but we ran the ball well.”
Nebraska trailed 20-7 at halftime, but scored 21 second-half points. Not enough to win, but Stoll said the Huskers hoped to build some positive momentum and confidence for next week.
“With our offense, I have faith in Coach Frost’s scheme and I’ve got faith in all of our coaches,” Stoll said. “We’re just going to keep going out there and we’re going to keep fighting, no matter what the score is and until that clock reads zero, we’re going to keep playing because we definitely feel like we have a shot.
“Obviously, it didn’t click well enough because we still lost the game. It is promising to see a little fire in everyone and we’re just going to have to carry it over into next week.”
Nebraska’s offense was penalized six times for 61 yards, which is something Stoll said the Huskers have to correct. NU committed 11 penalties for 136 yards overall.
“We’ve just got to become a smarter football team,” Stoll said. “Obviously, having as many penalties as we did is something you can’t have. We’ve just got to turn this thing around by not only playing hard, but playing smart.”