When: Sat. Oct. 31; noon ET
Where: West Lafayette, IN; Ross-Ade Stadium (57,326)
All-Time Series: Nebraska leads 2-1
Last Meeting: Nebraska Win; 35-14 (2014)
Line: Nebraska -10.5
1 Burning Question: What Will Huskers Offense Look Like Without Tommy Armstrong?
Nebraska announced late on Thursday that third-year starting quarterback Tommy Armstrong was not going to be behind center on Saturday in West Lafayette. The coaching staff is going with the “it’s a turf toe-like injury” line, but it doesn’t sound good for the senior signal caller.
In will step Ryker Fyfe, a redshirt junior who has attempted all of 18 passes in his entire career. He was a former walk-on from Grand Island, Neb. and may be much more of a fit in the old system than what Riley would ultimately like to have happen in his offense.
The good news, Fyfe appears to have the offense down pat.
However, there’s not much known as what we’ll see on Saturday against Purdue and this could be a blessing in disguise for this team or a complete curse for a team who can’t buy good luck in 2015.
2 Key Stats:
—0: That is the number of wins combined between the two starting quarterbacks on Saturday. Redshirt freshman David Blough has yet to find the winners circle early on in his career (and it hasn’t really been his fault for the most part), while we all know Fyfe is making his first career start. The only question is who’s going to get that magical first career win as a starter?
— 2-0: That is Nebraska’s record against Purdue since joining the Big Ten. Nebraska may not have a lot of luck on its side this season, but what it does know going in to this game is that it has dominated the Boilermakers in the two meetings between the two teams as members of the Big Ten conference. The Huskers won 44-7 in the first meeting in 2013 and 35-14 last season.
3 Key Players:
Ryker Fyfe, Nebraska QB: No way around it, making your first career start on the road in the Big Ten is not easy — even if it is in West Lafayette. Fyfe doesn’t have a running game that can win games on its own to rely on, instead he’s going to have to prove he can run the full offense and do it at a high level. His insertion in to the lineup certainly makes this game way more interesting that it ever was before.
Markell Jones, Purdue RB: In a season where there is a complete lack of a win against an FBS opponent, Jones has become a glimmer of hope for this team. He’s a potential future star in the Big Ten, but in this contest he has to be the star for the Boilermakers to get that rare win in conference play under Darrell Hazell (it would be just their second if you’re counting at home). Jones has a team-best 458 yards and has five rushing touchdowns already this season. Finding a way to gash a Huskers defense that is 4th in the Big Ten won’t be easy, but look for Jones to test that theory in a major way.
Maliek Collins, Nebraska DT: Speaking of the Purdue run game, one major obstacle for the Boilermakers to get over stands right in front of them on every down in the form of the 300-pound Maliek Collins. He’s had himself a pretty impressive year in the middle of the defense, racking up 23 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks so far on the season. Jones isn’t the most powerful of backs, but he can squirt through the smallest of holes. If Collins can plug up the middle on the rushing downs and collapse the middle of the pocket on passing downs, look for Purdue to have a rougher end to an already rough October.
4 Bold Prognostications:
— Markell Jones will lead the Boilermakers in all-purpose yards for the 2nd straight game: If Jones could lead Purdue in all-purpose yards against that Wisconsin defense, you can bet your bottom dollar he’s going to be able to do it against a vastly inferior defense like Nebraska. Look for the freshman to continue to make his mark on the season with another great day in the run and pass game.
— Terrell Newby tops the 200-yard mark: One would think the game plan for the Huskers would involve a lot more running than passing for the first time all season long. However, after hearing Riley and the coaches speak, don’t expect the playbook to be pulled back too much. Still, Fyfe and any other QB on the Huskers roster is helped by a strong running game, and that is where Newby comes in to play. He’s rushed for over 100 yards just twice this season, but is going up against a Purdue defense that is allowing nearly 200 yards per game to opposing offenses. Newby tops that by himself as Fyfe gets going early and forces the Boilermakers to back the stacked defense off. He takes full advantage and gets himself over the 200-yard mark for the first time this season.
— Purdue will fail to score in the red zone: If there’s one crazy stat out there in the Big Ten it is this one — Purdue is a perfect 100 percent on touchdowns in its red zone opportunities in Big Ten play. Yes, you’re reading that correctly. However, all good things must come to an end and the Boilermakers will see at least one of their red zone drives stall out or be flipped by a turnover before this contest with Nebraska is over.
— De’Mornay Pierson-El has a breakout game: The redshirt sophomore was high on a lot of preseason lists (ours included), but an injury in fall camp set him back by four games and he hasn’t been much of a factor since returning. That all stops on Saturday, as the speedy wide receiver gives Purdue’s secondary fits and hooks up with Fyfe for a pair of touchdowns and over 80 yards receiving on the day. Those would both be season highs and a big boost of confidence for a returner looking to prove he’s more than just speed and flash.
5 Staff Predictions:
Andy: Nebraska 41-17 (65-15 overall; 35-44 ATS)
Dave: Nebraska 45-21 (65-15 overall; 43-35 ATS)
Greg: Nebraska 30-20 (59-21 overall; 44-34 ATS)
Matt: Nebraska 31-24 (64-16 overall; 48-30 ATS)
Phil: Nebraska 30-17 (19-8 overall; 9-15 ATS) *joined in Week 5
Huskers defense drives win over MSU
All the talk about Nebraska has been how Scott Frost would transform the Huskers offense. On Saturday, the defense made everyone stand up and take notice in a 9-6 win over Michigan State.
Nebraska managed to kick three field goals in the final quarter to win a game that didn’t see either side score a single touchdown.
“Good teams figure out how to win any kind of game, and that’s a different kind of game that I have been apart of as a coach, winning a game with no touchdowns,” said Nebraska head coach Scott Frost after the game.
“I am so happy for the seniors, so happy for the Blackshirts. Some of these games we’ve won, we’ve been winning on offense, and it was great to see the defense step up today.”
With the Huskers usually high-powered offense bottled up by Michigan State’s quality defense and really bad weather the defensive performance was badly needed.
It was also badly needed after last week’s performance in a shootout win over Illinois
Nebraska’s defense was hit for 35 points and needed to put up 54 points on offense to win. The Huskers defense came in to the game this week having never given up fewer than 34 points to any team in the Big Ten so far this season.
The Huskers defense also stood 12th in the conference, giving up an average of 33.8 points per game through 10 games.
Certainly this group was challenged following that performance against Illinois.
“Every week I’ve been coaching them there’s a little more fight. Today’s the most I’ve seen,” said Frost. “That’s a hard game to win. Even harder to lose. Our guys had to keep grinding, and the defense had to keep coming up with stops.”
Nebraska’s defense didn’t disappoint, holding MSU running back Craig Haward under 90 yards and quarterback Rocky Lombardi to just 145 yards on 15 of 41 passing.
No doubt the fact that MSU came in struggling on offense helped, but this was a huge step forward for the Huskers defense after its struggles earlier this season.
After starting the season 0-6, the Huskers have ripped off wins in 4 of the last 5 games.
In a season of transition, the fact that Nebraska’s defense was able to hold anyone without a touchdown is a massive step in the right direction. That fact wasn’t lost on the coaches or players following the crazy win.
For Chinander and Frost, it’s also a sign that this team is still listening and learning as what seems like a lost season to the outside world is far from it internally.
“I told the guys in the locker room if from a coaching standpoint, or pretty much on everything, I guess, the team could’ve started the season where it is right now, that would’ve been a funny act,” Frost said. “Some of the growing things we had to go through were necessary, and I’m crushed for the seniors we couldn’t get that done quicker.
“This team has been through so much and to be where it is right now and have the second half of the season it’s been having, it makes it really special. And I think the seniors will probably look back on this and think it was a pretty special season after all.”
Nebraska will have an interesting challenge ahead of it next week, as they will face the rival Iowa Hawkeyes after they just went off for a 63-0 victory over the Illinois team that just put up 54 points on Nebraska.
A win in the Heroes Game would be a great way to cap off what many believed was a lost season early on. Doing so with the Huskers defense getting some of its luster back would just be icing on the cake.
Keyshawn Johnson Jr. unsurprisingly transferring from Huskers
Following a summer pot citation and his dad pulling him from school, Keyshawn Johnson Jr. announces his transfer.
Did you know that Keyshawn Johnson Jr. was a member of the Nebraska Cornhuskers program? Chances are, if you blinked you missed his time on campus.
That’s what happens when you get busted for pot possession and your dad brings you home to teach you a lesson or two.
The elder Johnson made sure to make a statement when pulling his kid out of school just days in to his time there. He made it clear that there were higher (no pun intended) expectations of his son.
“One thing you will not do as my son is you will not embarrass Nebraska, you will not embarrass Mike Riley and you will not embarrass this family,” Johnson Sr. told the Omaha World-Herald. “If you mature and you’re ready to resume your football career and academic goals, then Nebraska will be ready to embrace you.”
So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the former 4-star recruit with the famous name isn’t going to continue his career at Nebraska.
On Friday, the younger Johnson announced his decision to not return to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Trust the process… pic.twitter.com/xus0UQOmb4
— Keyshawn Jr. (@keyshawnnnn) December 15, 2017
The combination of his citation for marijuana possession and the coaching change likely sealed the deal for this move.
Johnson Jr. enrolled early, coming to Lincoln in January, but suffered an illness that he couldn’t shake for parts of spring practice. He appeared in the spring game, but caught just one pass for 7 yards.
Nebraska could use the depth at wide receiver, but with a new regime in place and his father having no relationship with the new staff this move is not surprising.
Frost turning to Florida to bring speed to Huskers program
Frost is leaning on his Florida ties in hoping to shape his roster in his image quicker than expected.
Scott Frost has technically only been on the job for the Nebraska Cornhuskers for less than a week, but he clearly has had a gameplan in place for a while now.
That much is evident not only by how quickly he’s gotten a staff together, but by the details on the recruiting trail.
Normally it takes time to evaluate what is on a roster in front of you and figure out what is needed. That process didn’t take long (or likely took place last week as he waited to take the job formally), because Frost has attacked the recruiting trail hard in his first week on the job.
So, what is his evaluation of the Huskers program? It is in need of speed, speed and more speed.
Frost has decided that in order to get his team up to speed he needs to do so buy finding that speed right in his old back yard.
It’s a move that makes sense, as Frost has built good relationships in Florida and that is where some of the best high school talent in the country exists today.
Nebraska’s 247Sports site, Huskers Illustrated, had a really good talk on the inner workings of what Frost has done already on the recruiting trail on this week’s Notorious B1G Podcast (because who doesn’t love an all-Big Ten recruiting podcast?)
Mike Riley and Co. spent less time on Florida and more time on the West Coast, which should’ve been expected given Riley’s ties in that direction. But, the crop of pure athletes out West is nothing compared to the depth of speed and athleticism that exists in Florida.
Ironically, Frost’s first offer came from out West as the No. 8-ranked dual-threat quarterback, Adrian Martinez, was offered within hours of Frost getting the job.
That move and all the ones made since his hire show Frost has come in with a clear knowledge of his system, who fits it on the recruiting trail and who fits it currently on the roster. Having that kind of confidence and work-rate are a welcome sight in Lincoln.
But, Frost isn’t just hitting the ground running on the recruiting trail either.
He’s also been taking time to speak to the national media and spread the gospel of what he wants to build at Nebraska. Frost spoke on the Jim Rome Show on Thursday and didn’t buy the notion that recruiting to Lincoln, Neb. is a difficult task.
“There’s absolutely no reason we can’t get kids to Lincoln, Nebraska,” Frost said, via Land of 10. “Kids leave places right now and go everywhere around the country. There’s no reason kids won’t go to Lincoln if they’re going to Columbus, Ann Arbor, and Eugene, Oregon.
“And I think we’re going to create an environment, a football environment in Lincoln that people are going to want to be a part of.”
Success in turning a program around often hinges on the first recruiting class to come in. That’s not to say this class should be put at the feet of Frost and his staff entirely, but if they can put a stamp on an already nice class it could be the one that breaks a mediocre mold for the Huskers program.
No matter what, Frost and his staff aren’t afraid to be aggressive and go after the type of player they need. That alone has to be a refreshing sign of change for the Husker faithful.
Huskers hope Scott Frost hire brings back glory days
Native son returns home to lead program he once was the star quarterback of. Can the glory days return with the Huskers dipping in to their past?
What had become the worst-kept secret in college football’s coaching carousel became official on Saturday afternoon. Just hours after leading his UCF Knights to a crazy 62-55 double overtime win over Memphis in the American Athletic Conference championship game, Frost bolted for a gig back home.
UCF’s 247sports site announced the news, noting that Forst will not coach the team in the upcoming bowl game. However, after the AAC championship game, UCF’s AD noted that Frost and the entire coaching staff would coach through the Peach Bowl.
Nebraska athletics director Bill Moos named Frost the new Huskers head coach, ending a search many thought would start and end with Frost first.
There is no place like home.
There is no place like Nebraska.
— ❄️ Nebraska Football ❄️ (@HuskerFBNation) December 2, 2017
“It is a great honor and privilege to have the opportunity to return to Nebraska and to lead the Husker football program,” Frost said in a statement released by the school. “I have been fortunate to be at a wonderful school the last two years, but Nebraska is a special place with a storied tradition and a fan base which is second to none. I am truly humbled to be hereee. The state of Nebraska and the Husker program mean a great deal to me. This is home.
“I am appreciative of the confidence Bill Moos and our University leadership have in me to lead this program. I would not have the opportunity to be in this position without a lot of great people who have helped me throughout my career. Specifically, I would like to thank Coach Osborne who has played such an integral role in my life over the past two decades, both on and off the field. Go Big Red!”
In bringing a native son and former Huskers quarterback in to the fold to lead the program, Nebraska is clearly hoping the magic of the mid 1990’s can rub off on the program once again.
Frost was integral in the Huskers success in the 90’s, where he was a star quarterback for two years after transferring home from Stanford. He led the program to a 24-2 record as the starter and became just the 10th player in major college football history to pass for 1,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards.
He had a cup of coffee in the NFL, but was moved from quarterback to safety and just couldn’t find his way in the league.
While thoughts of Frost leading the Huskers offense are likely to bring smiles back to the Husker faithful, the reality of today’s program won’t.
It’s been a rough go since the calendar turned over to the year 2000, as the Huskers haven’t won a single conference championship since 1999.
Frost faces a big challenge, as the Huskers vaunted defense has fallen on hard times and the program just got done with a 4-8 season under Mike Riley. Luckily for the Husker faithful, Frost isn’t going to be caught off-guard by the challenges of a turnaround.
He took over a UCF program that went winless the year before he came to campus and had them 6-7 and going bowling in his first season. This year his team went undefeated in the regular season, joining the Wisconsin Badgers as the only two undefeated teams in the country after the regular season finished up.
Frost also led the Knights to the AAC championship despite a ton of off-field distraction surrounding his job status and rumors about Florida, Nebraska and Oregon interest in his services.
Now the pressure will be on to get the Huskers back to championship football, and soon.