15th-ranked Nebraska saw its Heisman trophy candidate limp off the field in the first quarter. But the Huskers ground game and a stingy defense have helped them stay ahead of Purdue at halftime.
Although Ameer Abdullah exited the game with a left knee injury, Nebraska leads Purdue at halftime 21-7. Abdullah had six carries for just one yard before he left in the first quarter and has not returned to action. Abdullah appeared to have injured it on a fumbled snap with Nebraska facing a 4th-and-goal from the Purdue 1-yard line, when the running back dove on a bobbled snap and attempted to run it into the end zone. Abdullah was stopped short and Purdue took over on downs, trailing 7-0. Nebraska opened the scoring with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Tommy Armstrong to De’Mornay Pierson-El at the 13:25 mark in the first quarter after the Huskers’ Kieron Williams blocked a Purdue punt deep in Boilermakers’ territory.
Nebraska started at the Purdue 16, 17, and 31 yard line in the first quarter, but could only manage seven points. The Boilermakers tied the game at 7-7 when Austin Appleby squeezed through a hole in the defensive line and ran 25 yards for the tying touchdown. However, Nebraska answered with an eight play, 65-yard drive that was capped off by a 2-yard touchdown run by Imani Cross with 8:09 left before halftime. The Huskers added another touchdown less than five minutes later when Armstrong ran a successful option keeper 29 yards for a touchdown to extend the Nebraska lead to 21-7.
Armstrong leads the Huskers with seven carries for 56 yards and a touchdown, while Cross has eight carries for 36 yards. Both passing games have sputtered with a strong south breeze making things difficult in both directions–Armstrong is just 5-of-14 for 60 yards and one touchdown, while Appleby is 6-of-18 for 100 yards and two interceptions. Akeem Hunt leads the Boilermakers with 11 carries for 44 yards and also in receiving with three catches for 34 yards. Nebraska has 186 yards of total offense at halftime, with Purdue not far behind at 185 yards.
Nebraska’s Sam Foltz had a season-long 62-yard punt in the first quarter, while Pierson-El had a 42-yard yard punt return in the first quarter that put Nebraska in position to add to their lead, but the Huskers came away without any points. Drew Brown has also missed a 46-yard punt, his third miss in his last four tries. Both teams are struggling mightily on third down, converting a combined 2-of-16 attempts.
The Huskers will get the ball to start the second half.