WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Struggling to find any kind of offensive success on Saturday, Purdue received a dash of hope on a major second-quarter miscue by Nebraska's defense.
Husker defensive back Stanley Jean-Baptiste was flagged for a personal foul following a hit that was deemed as targeting with his helmet on a tackle of Boilermakers running back Dalyn Dawkins.
Instead of facing third-and-9 from their own 38-yard line, the Boilermakers had a first-and-10 at Nebraska's 47. That dash was quickly dashed on the next play when Dawkins fumbled and Randy Gregory recovered the ball for the Huskers.
Tack on a 15-yard personal foul by Jason King and the Huskers had the ball on Purdue's 28. Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah scored on a 28-yard TD run on the next play, and Pat Smith's extra-point kick gave the Huskers a 21-0 lead and thwarted any hopes Purdue had of making a comeback.
“We played pretty solid early on defense, but we can't keep putting them out there after three-and-outs, three-and-outs,” Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell said. “We turned the ball over again early when the game was 14-0, and we keep stress on the defense.
“We're not a good enough football team right now to overcome some of our self-inflictions.”
Among the other items on Hazell's list of self-inflicted wounds: allowing Nebraska to convert 11 of its 21 third-down chances; and an interception and five sacks of Boilermakers freshman quarterback Danny Etling for minus-50 yards and two points.
“We played really well on first and second downs,” Purdue cornerback Ricardo Allen said. “It was third downs that we need to look inside and tell ourselves that we want to execute better than the person in front of us.
“It didn't come off of their execution. It came off of us and not making our plays or executing ourselves.”
Gregory was the guy who made things toughest on Etling. One of his two sacks of Etling went for minus-17 yards and a safety with 3:53 remaining in the third quarter that put Nebraska ahead 30-0.
Etling also was sacked by Aaron Curry, Josh Banderas and Greg McMullen, and completed just 40 percent of his passes (14 of 35) for 184 yards. Fifty-five of those yards came on Purdue's lone touchdown with just 39 seconds remaining in the game.
“I thought we would perform a little bit better than what we did today,” Hazell said. “That's a good football team, but we need to get a whole lot better and look at our own self afflictions.”
While Etling still is adjusting to the role of starter, he said Nebraska didn't come with a new bag of tricks to confuse him.
“Obviously I need to play better, and I will,” Etling said. “They didn't really do anything different than we saw on film and expected.”
Boilermakers center Robert Kugler agreed with his quarterback that Purdue just has to execute better.
“We knew that they were going to bring pressure,” Kugler said. “We had been watching the film, and they're good at it. We thought we had a good plan to stop it, but we didn't execute as well as we should have.”
Hazell said teams won't stop bringing intense pressure until the Boilermakers prove they can stop it. As he spoke, Etling nodded in agreement.
“He's going to see it until he proves he can handle it,” Hazell said. “When he does get pressure, he has to get rid of the football. If you're playing against us right now with so many freshmen on the field, you will bring that pressure until we prove that we can beat that pressure.”
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Video: NU coach Bo Pelini after the Purdue game:
Video: Postgame analysis with Sam McKewon:
Video: Husker fans at Purdue: