LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Tommy Armstrong Jr. accounted for 303 yards of total offense and two touchdowns, and No. 8 Nebraska came back from a four-point halftime deficit to defeat Purdue 27-14 on Saturday.
The Cornhuskers (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) probably didn’t convince the skeptics who say they aren’t worthy of a top-10 ranking, but they’ll head to No. 10 Wisconsin next week with their best record since 2001.
Purdue (3-4, 1-3) managed only 94 yards in the second half in interim coach Gerad Parker’s first game since taking over for the fired Darrell Hazell.
The Huskers lost 55-45 at Purdue last year, and Memorial Stadium was in a stunned silence as the Boilermakers pulled out to a 14-10 lead on David Blough’s two touchdown passes to DeAngelo Yancey, the second one an 88-yard catch-and-run.
But the Huskers scored on three straight possessions after going three-and-out on their first series of the second half.
“This will sound like a little bit of a broken record, but we’re extremely happy to win the game,” coach Mike Riley said. “My feelings are Purdue came here and played hard and their intentions were to win. Their quarterback is a good player and made plays, and so did their team. We struggled in a lot of ways and just had to stay with it.”
Armstrong’s 40-yard pass to De’Mornay Pierson-El gave the Huskers the lead. The Boilermakers looked to have Nebraska stopped on its next series after an offensive pass interference created a third-and-16, but Armstrong passed 24 yards to Brandon Reilly and Alonzo Moore went 24 yards for a touchdown on a jet sweep. Drew Brown kicked a career-long 51-yard field goal for the game’s final points.
Armstrong was 17 for 31 for 252 yards and ran 10 times for 51. Terrell Newby had 82 yards on 22 carries. Blough was 25 of 43 for 309 yards, with Yancey catching four passes for 100 yards.
The Huskers, with a banged-up offensive line and facing a Purdue defense crowding the line of scrimmage, leaned on the pass far more than expected against the Big Ten’s worst rushing defense. Armstrong was hit-and-miss, and they went punt-punt-punt-interception on their last four series of the half.
Leading Nebraska on the road at half in his first game since replacing Hazell left Parker emotional for his halftime interview with an ABC sideline reporter.
“I’m almost in tears and got chills all over me,” he said.
Purdue: Parker said the Boilermakers would play as if they had nothing to lose, and that’s what they did. They went for it on fourth down four times, converting twice and scoring a touchdown on one of them. They also threw incomplete on a fake punt.
Nebraska: The Huskers followed their pattern of scuffling with lesser opponents before putting them away in the second half. They’re walking a fine line and could be in trouble if they don’t step up their game against tougher opponents that are fast approaching.
Even though at least one team ahead of them in the poll will have lost, the Huskers don’t merit a promotion after an uninspired performance. They might even slip a spot or two.
Purdue: The Boilermakers host Penn State to begin a stretch of three home games in four weeks.
Nebraska: Their season-defining stretch starts at No. 10 Wisconsin next Saturday and continues the following week at No. 2 Ohio State.