West Lafayette, Ind. – Junior quarterback Adrian Martinez led two go-ahead touchdown drives in the fourth quarter, but Purdue answered both, including a touchdown with 1:08 remaining to defeat Nebraska 31-27 in a back-and-forth game Saturday afternoon at Ross-Ade Stadium.
Nebraska (4-5, 2-3 Big Ten Conference) had leads of 20-17 with 12:30 remaining and 27-24 with 6:50 remaining, only to have Purdue (3-6, 2-4) respond with drives of 13 plays and 12 plays to regain the lead both times. Third-string walk-on quarterback Aiden O’Connell directed the final series after starter Jack Plummer, who was 25-of-34 passing for 242 yards, left the game with an injury.On third-and-5 from the Nebraska 9-yard line, Purdue called time out and set up a reverse play that resulted in David Bell’s touchdown run with 1:08 remaining. The drive started at Purdue’s 25-yard line with 4:21 on the clock.
Nebraska had one final chance, taking possession at its 20-yard line with 1:01 remaining, but didn’t gain a first down on four incompletions.
Martinez, playing for the first time since Oct. 5 because of injury, was 22-of-39 passing for 247 yards and ran 12 times for 58 yards and two touchdowns, both in the fourth quarter. He increased his career passing total to 4,109 yards to become the eighth Husker in program history with 4,000 career yards.
Trailing 17-13 late in the third quarter, Nebraska put together its best offensive series of the game to that point, driving 75 yards in 11 plays for a touchdown and 20-17 lead with 12:30 remaining in the game.
Martinez converted two big third down plays to keep the drive alive. He hit wide receiver Kade Warner for an 18-yard completion on third-and-14 on the first play of the fourth quarter, and gained 17 yards on an option keeper on third-and-6.
That gave the Huskers first and goal at the 8-yard line, and Martinez scored on a run up the middle on third-and-goal from the 2.
Purdue responded by converting three third downs on a 13-play touchdown drive that lasted 5:35. Running back King Doerue scored on a 7-yard run up the middle for a 24-20 Purdue lead with 6:50 remaining.
Martinez led Nebraska back in front, connecting with WanDale Robinson on an 8-yard pass on third-and-5 and hitting wide receiver JD Spielman on a vertical route for a 42-yard gain to the Purdue 16-yard line on third-and-10. Robinson increased his season totals to 453 receiving yards and 326 passing yards to become the first Husker with 400 receiving and 300 rushing yards in the same season since Marlon Lucky in 2007.
Three plays later, Martinez scored on a 4-yard with 4:21 remaining behind a block from running back Dedrick Mills. But O’Connell led Purdue on its game-winning drive by connecting on all six of his passing attempts in the series.
Trailing 14-10 at halftime, Nebraska forced a three-and-out on the first drive of the second half, then started its first drive at its 24-yard line. The Huskers ran 11 plays and had help with Purdue penalties of 10, 15 and 14 yards to take the ball to the Boilermaker 3-yard line.
But after incomplete passes on second and third down, Nebraska settled on Barret Pickering’s 21-yard field goal. That pulled the Huskers within 14-13 with 9:21 remaining in the third quarter.
Eric Lee Jr. blocked a punt to end the Boilermakers’ second series of the third quarter, and the Huskers took possession at the Purdue 34-yard line. The drive, though, stalled after four plays, with an incompletion on fourth-and-6.
Purdue began possession at its 30-yard line, and Plummer hit Zander Horvath on consecutive passes of 15 and 25 yards to push the Boilermakers into Nebraska territory. The drive stalled, and J.D. Dellinger hit a 44-yard field goal to give Purdue a 17-13 lead.
Nebraska led 10-0 but trailed 14-10 at halftime after the Purdue offense, which the Huskers had held to 34 total yards on its first five drives, came to life. The Boilermakers put together touchdown drives of 10 plays, 89 yards and 12 plays, 96 yards on their final two drives of the half, the last score coming with 14 seconds remaining.
Purdue began its first touchdown drive at its 11-yard line after Nebraska, which had taken possession at the Purdue 47-yard line following a Lamar Jackson interception, punted after three plays.
Rushes by Plummer for 18 yards and Doerue for 25 yards started the Purdue drive. Plummer also completed a 17-yard pass on third-and-15 and completed a 3-yard swing pass to Doerue on third-and-goal for the touchdown, pulling the Boilermakers within 10-7 with 7:04 remaining in the half.
Nebraska drove from its 25-yard line to the Purdue 41 but the drive stalled, and Isaac Armstrong pinned the Boilermakers on their 4-yard line after a 40-yard punt. On third-and-3 from the Purdue 11-yard line, Plummer completed a 13-yard pass to Brycen Hopkins to keep the drive alive.
Plummer then completed five straight passes before eluding pressure and scrambling for a 19-yard run to the Nebraska 18-yard line. Faced with third-and-8 from the 16, Plummer hit tight end Payne Durham on a crossing route for a touchdown, putting the Boilermakers ahead 14-10.
Nebraska dominated the first quarter with outstanding field position but didn’t take full advantage. Martinez hit Spielman for a 40-yard gain on the game’s first play to the Purdue 40-yard line, but the drive stalled three plays later. Spielman, who finished with six catches for 123 yards, has caught a pass in 30 straight games, the fifth-longest streak in school history.
The defense forced a three-and-out, and Nebraska began its next possession at its 49-yard line. The Huskers drove to the Purdue 36 and faced fourth-and-6, and Martinez, scrambling to avoid pressure, hit wide receiver Kanawai Noa for a 34-yard gain to the 2-yard line.
Mills scored two plays later on a 1-yard run, and Nebraska led 7-0 with 8:32 remaining in the first quarter.
The teams exchanged possessions, and on Purdue’s third series of the game, Nebraska defensive tackle Damion Daniels intercepted a screen pass, his first career interception, and returned it 17 yards to the Purdue 2-yard line. But after an incomplete screen pass, a sack and a 6-yard scramble, the Huskers had to settle on a 23-yard field goal by Pickering for a 10-0 lead.
Eli Sullivan deflected a Purdue punt that traveled only 20 yards, giving Nebraska excellent field position again at the Purdue 46-yard line. But the drive ended with Cory Trice intercepting Martinez at the Purdue 3-yard line.
Nebraska got the ball back on Jackson’s interception, his third of the season and the fifth of his career.
Nebraska has a bye week and returns to action with a home game against Wisconsin on Nov. 16.