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3 keys for Nebraska football to beat Purdue



Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

Nebraska football can take a huge step toward a bowl game on Saturday and here are three keys for the Huskers against Purdue.

The game against Purdue on Saturday is huge for this Nebraska football team. Win and the Huskers will have some tangible momentum. There’s also a good chance they’ll be tied for first in the Big Ten West.

Wisconsin is leading by a half-game right now, over Nebraska and Minnesota. Yet, the Badgers have Ohio State on Saturday, which means a second conference loss is likely.

A win would also get Nebraska football with a victory of bowl eligibility. The difference between 5-3 and 4-4 feels monumental to me and here are three keys for the Huskers to make that happen.

Keep dominating the ground game

Michigan was the only team to outrush Nebraska this season and the Huskers out-gained Northwestern 163-81 on the ground. The Wildcats had 86 rushing yards at the half, but the Blackshirts held them to negative five yards in the second half, which is the second time (Illinois) a Big Ten opponent got negative rushing yards in a half against the Huskers.

Devon Mockobee had 178 yards by himself last season against Nebraska and despite the fact that Purdue runs an air raid system, they still like to run the ball. The Boilermakers have 13 rushing touchdowns, but they are also 13th in the Big Ten in rushing yards allowed.

Nebraska has run for over 150 yards in six of seven games this season and my guess is that the game against Purdue is No. 7. If the Huskers can do that and keep Purdue below 100, considering the weather, it would be a really good indication of a Nebraska win.

Take care of the ball

This continues to be a key for Nebraska football. The Huskers have fumbled 19 times, which is more than any team in college football. Seven of them have been lost. Purdue has fumbled 13 times and the weather is expected to be messy on Saturday with rain or maybe snow.

Both teams have struggled to protect the ball this season, especially Nebraska. It nearly cost the Huskers last week against Northwestern. Heinrich Haarberg gave Northwestern the ball twice deep in Huskers territory in the first quarter thanks to interceptions.

That can’t happen this week. Purdue might be 2-5, but Hudson Card and the Purdue offense are pretty good. They’ll be able to take advantage of short fields in a way Northwestern was not.

Win the sack battle

Both teams are good at pressuring the quarterback. Nebraska is second in the Big Ten in sacks. Purdue is ranked third. Nebraska is also 10th in sacks allowed, while Purude is 11th.

The Huskers are going to be without three starters on the offensive line, which will make running the ball even more important. Nebraska can’t be in a bunch of third-and-long situations. That’s hard enough for this offense but will be even more difficult against the Boilermakers’ pass rush.

At the same time, the Nebraska pass rush has to get home. Stopping the run and allowing Tony White to get creative on second and third downs will be key. It’s worked so far this season and if Nebraska can sack Card a few times, it will be a good sign for the home team.

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Chris has worked in sports journalism since 2005 writing for multiple newspapers and websites such as the Bleacher Report and Fansided before starting Husker Big Red, A fan site for hardcore followers of the #Huskers offering articles, podcasts, videos and more exclusive content on all things Nebraska