WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Aidan O’Connell threw four touchdown passes and Devin Mockobee ran for a career-high 178 yards and another score Saturday as Purdue overpowered Nebraska 43-37.
The Boilermakers (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten) have won four straight and retained a share of the conference’s West Division lead with No. 24 Illinois.
Nebraska (3-4, 2-2) had its two-game winning streak under interim coach Mickey Joseph snapped.
O’Connell has played well this year, but Mockobee’s presence gave the Boilermakers struggling ground game a spark. The combination was electric.
Mockabee barreled through defenders, eluded tackles and even showed his shiftiness in the open field. He surpassed his previous single-game rushing total before scoring on a 1-yard run with 35 seconds left in the first half. Purdue finished with its fifth-highest point total in a Big Ten game since Jeff Brohm arrived in 2017.
Trey Palmer was equally impressive, almost single-handedly keeping Nebraska close. He caught a 37-yard TD pass on the fifth play of the second half to cut a 14-point halftime deficit in half and set up a field goal with a 60-yard run on his only carry of the game to make it 27-23.
And after TJ Sheffield’s 28-yard TD catch extended Purdue’s margin to 34-23, Palmer answered on the next series with a 72-yard TD reception.
Even when it appeared the Boilermakers sealed the victory with a 2-yard TD pass from O’Connell to Jones with 6:55 left, Palmer answered with a 64-yard reception that set up Anthony Grant’s 1-yard TD run to make it 43-37 with 5:55 to go.
But Nebraska never got the ball back.
Nebraska: There’s no doubt this has been a different team since Joseph took over. But the defensive woes that plagued them earlier this season returned Saturday. Joseph now has two weeks to prepare for Illini running back Chase Brown to keep their fading division hopes alive.
Purdue: While a favorable schedule certainly has helped, Brohm’s squad has improved steadily. It’s getting more players involved in the offense and some key pieces back on defense — perhaps just in time to make run at its first conference championship game appearance.
Nebraska: Palmer had seven receptions for a career-high 237 yards and two scores. He also finished as Nebraska’s leading rusher. … Thompson was 16-of-29 passing for 354 yards with two TDs and two interceptions. … Nebraska ran 52 plays compared to Purdue’s 101.
Purdue: Charlie Jones had 12 receptions, 132 yards and two touchdowns. He’s had four 100-yard games this season and five in his career. … O’Connell was 35 of 54 with 391 yards and one interception. … The Boilermakers had four sacks in the first half and finished the game by matching their single-game season high.
Nebraska: Hosts No. 24 Illinois on Oct. 29.
Purdue: Visits struggling Wisconsin next Saturday.