LINCOLN — The 2013 Nebraska offensive line seems to fit the profile of the legendary Husker units that Bruce Gaston's heard about.
The Purdue senior defensive lineman is no expert on NU tradition. But he turns on the game film of this year's Husker offense and sees a group of big, strong linemen who work well together to control the line of scrimmage. Sounds like a typical Nebraska O-line to him.
“If you were to imagine what a Nebraska offensive lineman looks like, that's them,” Gaston said. “The main thing I pay attention to is their physicality.”
And matching that physicality concerns a Purdue defense that has struggled at times this season against opposing rushing attacks.
Purdue is allowing 4.82 yards per carry, second-worst in the Big Ten behind Illinois. Wisconsin ran for 388 yards against the Boilermakers two weeks ago. Northern Illinois ran for 177 Saturday.
What was missing? Gaston said it was obvious. The Boilermakers need more tenacity against Nebraska Saturday. They need to be relentless.
That's what they spent all of their bye week focusing on, Gaston said.
“The main thing we have to do is be physical,” he said. “Because when you're physical, it sometimes shakes and stirs some things up.”
It could be easier for Gaston to wreak havoc if he gets some snaps in his new role.
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Purdue wants to experiment with his 6-foot-2, 310-pound frame out on the edge against offensive tackles. Gaston is tied for the team lead with two sacks and ranks second with 3Ĺ tackles for loss.
But he's faced lots of double teams early on, according to coach Darrell Hazell. Lining Gaston up at D-end is something the Boilermakers may try Saturday.
“He's going to get some one-on-ones plays with some tackles out there,” Hazell said. “I think that can create some issues.”
Anything to provide the NU offense with a different look.
Gaston said the experience of the Huskers up front is easy to spot on film — Nebraska's eight-man rotation on the offensive line is made up of five seniors and three juniors. He said it's their ability to release to the second level at the right time or their effectiveness when sliding over and covering a spot left vacant by a pulling guard.
“They've got chemistry together,” Gaston said.
But then again, the members of Purdue's defensive line have played alongside one another for a while, too.
Junior defensive end Ryan Russell has 29 career starts. Gaston, a third-year starter, is one of four seniors in the Boilermakers' two-deep up front.
They're the ones who'll have to stand their ground at the point of attack, ready to react to the variety of running plays that the Huskers will utilize, according to Gaston. No margin for error Saturday.
“With the way Nebraska runs that scheme,” he said, “we can't afford to make mistakes.”
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