“It’s not good enough yet, obviously,” Etling said. “I have to play better, and I think I’m going to play better. I’m going to learn more from a game like this than I am a success. I’m going to be in there (watching film), and I’m going to get better.”
Etling wasn’t the only underclass Boilermaker to find his way to the field for an extended time against Nebraska, though. Purdue coach Darrell Hazell put on quite a youth movement against the Cornhuskers with more than 15 freshmen and redshirt freshmen playing at some point in the game.
This youth showed it’s struggles for Purdue from the outset. On its first offensive series, the Boilers went three-and-out, losing two yards in the process. Etling didn’t lead Purdue to a first down until its fifth series when he completed a 24-yard pass to DeAngelo Yancey, and Purdue finished with only 11 first downs in the game to go with eight punts.
Until the fourth quarter, Purdue only ran two plays in Nebraska territory, and the first proved to be a critical play in the game.
The Boilers were trailing 14-0 but had its sideline energy erupt after Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste was disqualified for a targeting hit on Dalyn Dawkins to move Purdue to Nebraska’s 47.
On the next play, though, Dawkins took it on a pitch and fumbled. Nebraska recovered and scored on its first play following the turnover.
“Those things, you can’t explain,” Hazell said. “You drop a pitch and all the sudden the momentum switches and its 21-0 all the sudden like that. … When you are an established football team and program, you can overcome some of those things, but where we are right now, you are going to struggle in those areas.”
It didn’t help Etling that he was continually pressured all day and had a few balls go through the hands of his receivers either. Etling was sacked five times and was forced out of the pocket on multiple occasions. His only interception of the day was also off the hands of his intended receiver.
These offensive struggles continually put the Purdue defense in a tough position, but the Cornhuskers also routinely burned the Purdue defense for third-and-long conversions. Nebraska had four third down conversions when facing a third-and-eight or more.
“We were doing really well on first and second downs,” cornerback Ricardo Allen said, “but when it came up to third downs, that’s when you have to look deep down in yourself and say you’re going to go execute your job better than the person in front of you, and it didn’t come off of them out executing us. It came off of us not making our
plays and executing ourselves.”
All the struggles for Purdue led to a scoreless team until the last minute of the game. The Boilers got their only touchdown on a 55-yard pass to Yancey with 39 seconds remaining, but the lone bright spot wasn’t enough to make Hazell forget all the bad that happened on the field.
“We’re not a good enough football team right now to overcome some of our self-inflictions,” Hazell said. “That’s where we are right now, that’s the reality of it. We have to stop our own self-inflictions.”