LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Matt Rhule was heading into the tunnel at the end of a 31-14 win over Purdue on Saturday when a fan yelled, “Coach, just one more. Just one more."
Presumably, the fan was referencing the one more win Nebraska needs to become bowl-eligible for the first time in seven years.
Rhule, the Cornhuskers' first-year coach, has his sights set higher.
“I don't want just one more. You want just one more?” he said. “I want to win every game we play. I say that humbly. I want to come out every week and compete. I'm still mad about some of the games we lost. I'm excited about the opportunities that are ahead.”
The Huskers (5-3, 3-2) are in a four-way tie for first place in the Big Ten West after having won five of six and three in a row for the first time since 2016.
“He's got all of us buying into his process, going 1-0 every week and not letting the picture get too big,” defensive lineman Ty Robinson said. “At this point we've got four games left, and that’s it for some of us, and coach Rhule told us to make the four games count.”
Heinrich Haarberg threw two touchdown passes, Quinton Newsome ran back a blocked field goal 68 yards for a score and the Huskers were able to survive late turnovers after building a 24-0 lead.
The Huskers' defense stood out once again on a cloudy, 37-degree afternoon with a feels-like temperature of 25. Nebraska allowed just 195 total yards, including 99 passing. It was Purdue's fewest total yards in four seasons and fewest through the air since 2014.
“You can’t win ball games doing that,” Purdue coach Ryan Walters said.
Nebraska needed that kind of defensive performance after losing four of five fumbles. Purdue (2-6, 1-4) converted two of them into touchdowns.
The Huskers scored two touchdowns in less than two minutes in the second quarter to take control. Haarberg led a 15-play drive he ended with a 1-yard pass to Thomas Fidone. Tommi Hill had the first of his two interceptions of Hudson Card on Purdue's next possession, and Haarberg hit Jaylen Lloyd in stride on first down for a 73-yard touchdown.
Haarberg fumbled twice inside his 25-yard line in the second half.
The first time, Dillon Thieneman stripped Haarberg and Cole Brevard recovered at the 13. Jimari Butler and MJ Sherman combined to sack Card on third down, so Ben Freehill came on to attempt a 37-yard field goal. Elijah Jeudy broke through to block the kick and Newsome picked up the ball with a clear path down the left sideline.
Haarberg's second fumble came at his own 24, with Brevard recovering it again. The Boilermakers converted this time, with Card taking a sack before finding Jayden Dixon-Veal for a 29-yard touchdown.
Jeff Sims played Nebraska's next series and fumbled, and Kydran Jenkins ran it back 55 yards for a TD.
“Hats off to Nebraska," Card said. "They were able to capitalize on opportunities when they were presented and we weren’t. To me that was the difference in the game.”
Purdue: The Boilermakers face the daunting task of having to win their final four regular-season games to assure themselves of a bowl game for a third straight year.
Nebraska: The Huskers finished their first undefeated October since 2001 and are riding a wave of momentum.
Newsome and Hill began celebrating the blocked field-goal return early. As Hill ran alongside Newsome, they high-fived as they reached the 10-yard line. It was the Huskers’ first return of a blocked field goal for a touchdown since 2014 against Minnesota.
Rhule said he didn't know about the high-fiving until after the game and that he didn't condone showboating.
“That's a thing we dreamed about since we were young,” Newsome said, “and it was a great feeling.”
Purdue: visits No. 2 Michigan next Saturday.
Nebraska: visits Michigan State next Saturday.
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