Nebraska’s bowl bid hopes may hinge on matchup with Purdue

NCAA Football

Adrian Martinez has accounted for 20 touchdowns through eight games, but his production has not translated into success for Nebraska.

Martinez and the Cornhuskers sit in last place in the Big Ten West as they prepare to host Purdue on Saturday at Lincoln, Neb.

Nebraska (3-5, 1-4 Big Ten) has lost two straight games and four of its past five entering the clash with the Boilermakers (4-3, 2-2).

Considering current No. 5 Ohio State and No. 9 Iowa are part of the remaining schedule, the contest against Purdue is a must-win if the Cornhuskers want to avoid missing out on a bowl game for the fifth straight season.

“We can’t afford to have any attention on anything else besides Purdue,” Martinez, who has 10 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing scores, said in Monday’s press conference. “We need this win. Ultimately, if we want to go to a bowl game, we need to beat Purdue. Simple as that for us. All attention on Purdue.”

The Boilermakers feel their own urgency after losing 30-13 to Wisconsin last weekend.

Purdue had produced a splendid 24-7 victory over then-No. 2 Iowa one week earlier. But the Boilermakers totaled just 206 yards of offense against the Badgers while scoring 13 points for the fourth time in the past five games.

Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said Monday that quarterback Aidan O’Connell will make his fourth straight start. O’Connell threw three interceptions against Wisconsin while completing 24 of 32 passes for 200 yards and one touchdown.

O’Connell passed for 371 yards against Minnesota on Oct. 2 and 375 versus Iowa after replacing Jack Plummer as the starter. He has seven touchdown passes and eight interceptions.

“We’ll have our hands full,” Brohm said of moving the ball against the Nebraska defense, which allows 19.4 points per game. “This is a big, physical defense. They’ve got size, athleticism, experience in the secondary, and they’ve got that system down.”

The Cornhuskers will likely be without one of their better players in safety Deontai Williams, who has a team-best four interceptions. Williams sustained a knee injury during a 30-23 loss to Minnesota on Oct. 16 prior to the team’s bye week.

“Deontai will be back this season — I don’t know when,” Nebraska ccoach Scott Frost said Monday.

One of Purdue’s top players is David Bell, but the wideout with 44 receptions for 712 yards was limited to six catches for 33 yards by Wisconsin. Bell has reached 100 yards receiving four times this season, including a career-high 240 against Iowa.

Martinez rushed for two touchdowns and passed for one as Nebraska notched a 37-27 win at Purdue last season.

–Field Level Media

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