Purdue Nebraska Football

Nebraska wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr., top, makes a catch over Purdue safety Tim Cason (24) during the second half of their game Saturday in Lincoln. Nebraska won 27-14.

LINCOLN — Oh no, Madison's up next and this Nebraska team doesn't look ready.

If you were looking for payback against 3-3 Purdue Saturday in Lincoln for that ugly Nebraska loss at West Lafayette last season, things were way too close for comfort in NU's 27-14 win.

Is Nebraska ready for that jump-around madness next week?

Hardly.

We know this team has a habit of finding ways to win, but it will be a tall order for this beat-up Nebraska offensive line to handle a stout Wisconsin defense.

This undefeated Nebraska team did look overrated at Memorial Stadium in having to score 17 second-half points to come back against a struggling program.

No reason Purdue should have been in this game at the start of the fourth quarter.

The conventional wisdom is Nebraska was well-equipped to race out to a lead and rest its starters for two hugely important road games — something vitally important with the injury situation.

Even sending starters to the pines in the middle of the fourth quarter would have mattered.

Instead, Nebraska's offensive line wasn't really able to establish the line of scrimmage. The inside running game was ugly.

You can point to a few key injuries there as a catalyst, but really, what team isn't battling injuries this time of year?

Nebraska's defense was ineffective, of all things, at defending the pass consistently and simply couldn't get off the field enough until the second half.

It's not what you'd expect from a team with lofty goals — championship-level goals.

Great teams don't have letdowns. No matter how you slice it this was a letdown.

Could you imagine Ohio State leading Purdue only 17-14 heading into the fourth quarter?

Nope, me neither.

One week after a stellar road win at Indiana, NU did little to silence critics who say this team hasn't earned the No. 8 spot in the polls.

To this point, you'd have to say it's true. This is no doubt a top 15 bunch that finally will get a chance to prove the naysayers wrong.

Right now, the only quality Nebraska wins came against Indiana and Northwestern. Both are decent Big Ten teams but nowhere to be found in the national discussion.

Husker quarterback Tommy Armstrong was visibly upset after the win at Indiana about critics who say this team is overrated. Unfortunately NU added plenty of fuel to that fire against Purdue.

In the postgame Saturday, the Husker signal caller was short when asked whether this Nebraska team was ready for a top 10 challenge.

"It's on our schedule so we have to play it regardless," he said. "Seeing the other team, we've got to play Ohio State. We've got to play Iowa. We've got to play Wisconsin away, and those are going to be tough games. You know we've played some tough teams in road games. We just have to make sure we are prepared the right way."

We know this Nebraska team is far better than it was in 2015.

But when Purdue jumped out to a 14-10 lead in the second quarter on an 88-yard touchdown pass from David Blough to DeAngelo Yancey it felt like a real punch to the gut.

Nebraska safety Kieron Williams said following that play the defense started to figure out what Purdue was doing on offense.

"We locked in and were able to get a beat on what they were doing," he said.

Then again, this team continues to win but seems forever short on style points.

With Nebraska staring down the barrel at road games against Wisconsin and Ohio State the next two weeks, this game just had that feel of a trap — a potential letdown ahead of the most important stretch of Nebraska's season.

As we've come to understand in the Big Ten, teams have to be ready to play every Saturday.

It was striking to see the Nebraska defense get torched at times, one week after it was arguably the reason for a road win at Indiana.

NU's secondary performance last week against Indiana made you think this defense would match up favorably with pass-happy Purdue, if not flat-out shutdown that part of its game.

The hope was this Nebraska team would quickly dispatch of a struggling Purdue team, proving last year's dreadful loss on the road was a fluke.

Give Purdue credit where it's due.

They came into Lincoln with nothing to lose and played that way against a Nebraska team that should have been licking its chops to make up for last season.

Instead, Nebraska's offense largely struggled to run with any consistency and was not the most physical unit on the field.

If not for a Nebraska interception on the first play of the game to set up a Tommy Armstrong 22-yard touchdown run, NU would have trailed 14-3 at half.

There's a lot to admire about this Nebraska team's seeming inability to quit, that will bode well for back-to-back trips to Madison and Columbus.

Next week will give NU its first shot at style points and a chance to silence its critics.

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