Tough 2nd-half defense lifts Boilermakers past Huskers 28-23

Sports

LINCOLN, NE – OCTOBER 30: Running back Zander Horvath #40 of the Purdue Boilermakers hurdles over cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt #5 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the first half at Memorial Stadium on October 30, 2021 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Aidan O’Connell threw for two touchdowns, Purdue intercepted four of Adrian Martinez’s passes, and the Boilermakers beat Nebraska 28-23 on Saturday.

Purdue (5-3, 3-2 Big Ten) bounced back from last week’s home loss to Wisconsin to move within one win of bowl eligibility for the first time in four years.

Nebraska (3-6, 1-5) lost its third straight game and would have to win out against Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa to get to a bowl for the first time in five years.

The Huskers entered the game as a touchdown favorite, and the loss is certain to ratchet up the pressure another notch on fourth-year coach Scott Frost.

Purdue held on after Nebraska scored with 1:44 left on Martinez’s 12-yard pass to Rahmir Johnson. The Huskers failed to convert a 2-point try, and the Boilermakers ran out the clock after recovering the onside kick.

O’Connell completed 34 of 45 passes for 233 yards and threw short second-half touchdowns to Milton Wright and Jackson Anthrop to wiped out a 17-14 halftime deficit.

Purdue rushed for 116 yards, the first time it went over 100 yards on the ground against a conference opponent since last November, and David Bell caught nine balls for 74 yards.

Martinez played one of his worst games, completing 14 of 29 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns. He passed for 104 yards on his final series — a holding penalty made the field longer on the 94-yard drive — and his four interceptions were a career high.

Nebraska had 36 yards and one first down in the second half before getting the ball with 5:45 to play and down 11 points.

Nebraska led 17-14 at half, with Martinez throwing a touchdown pass to Omar Manning and running for a 1-yard score.

The Boilermakers’ first touchdown came when linebacker Jalen Graham, who dropped what would have been an interception on Nebraska’s first series, jumped in front of Manning to snag a Martinez pass for a 45-yard pick-six.

THE TAKEAWAY

Purdue: The Boilermakers avoided back-to-back losses with a sharp road performance. They got back Zander Horvath, who missed five games with a broken fibula, and his return should aid what had been a struggling ground game.

Nebraska: This is going to be a long week for the Huskers, who have fifth-ranked Ohio State coming up next in Lincoln. Boos poured out of the Memorial Stadium stands when Martinez threw his third interception — a snapshot of the state of the program right now.

UP NEXT

Purdue hosts Michigan State on Saturday.

Nebraska hosts Ohio State on Saturday.

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