May 25, 2024

Matt Rhule praising Chubba Purdy for leading Nebraska’s offense

Nebraska Cornhuskers Football

Nebraska quarterback Chubba Purdy scrambles out of the pocket during the second quarter against Iowa Friday November 24, 2023 at Memorial Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

LINCOLN, Neb. — The Huskers had arguably their worst season this fall in terms of quarterback play, and it was a domino effect on the rest of the offense.

Coach Matt Rhule played musical chairs with Jeff Sims, Heinrich Haarberg and Chubba Purdy in his first year with the program. All three signal-callers had their rough moments, but it was Purdy that looked the most promising down the stretch.

The former four-star prospect played in Nebraska’s final three games, and started the last two. Purdy wowed Big Red Nation with his breathtaking mobility, and had better accuracy than Sims and Haarberg. However, Purdy was presented with an opportunity to lead the Huskers to game-winning drives in each of those contests. Unfortunately, all of those drives ended with a jaw-dropping, interception.

Last Friday’s 13-10 home loss to Iowa was a perfect example of Purdy being inconsistent. Although he completed 15 of his 28 passes, including a 66-yard touchdown strike to Jaylen Lloyd in the second quarter, Purdy made a costly mistake when it mattered the most. Delivering in pressure situations will be a priority throughout the offseason for Rhule’s quarterbacks.

Purdy is only a sophomore, so Rhule’s not surprised by the growing pains. He wants to mold Purdy into a seasoned-veteran that handles himself with poise, instead of a wide-eyed underclassmen that cracks like an egg under pressure. Purdy was a little of both in the loss to the Hawkeyes, but encouraged Rhule with his maturation process.

“I thought Chubba was a little bit sporadic early, it wasn’t a ton of pressure, so I just kind of told him to settle down, keep playing, play the plays, and I think he started to do that,” Rhule said. “That was a cold, windy day, and I thought he handled those things well.”

Great quarterbacks make others around them better, and Purdy has a knack for getting the rest of the offense to build off his energy. The way he took command of the huddle, and directed the offense was impressive, considering his inexperience. The freezing temperatures had a lot to do with the sloppy play, but Purdy was able to adjust accordingly.

The numbers don’t lie. Nebraska (5-7) led Iowa in total offense, yards per play and third down efficiency, because of Purdy. Which is why Rhule believes the 22-year old is starting to crack the surface on his potential.

“I thought Chubba did a really nice job, and made some big third down conversions,” Rhule said. “We were eight of 17 on third downs, one of our best days, so that’s credit to him, and he’s only going to get better.”

It’s no mystery that the Huskers were a liability on offense though. Nebraska finished the regular season dead last in the FBS in turnovers lost. Rhule understands that’s not going to win him many games. Everything starts with the quarterback too. Purdy has to make better decisions with the football, regardless of what down it is.

Midway through the second quarter he was scrambling on a play, didn’t have the ball tucked away and tried to fling it with a defender in his face. The ball popped out of his hands in an awkward way, and a Hawkeye recovered the pigskin. Several fans in attendance thought it was an incomplete pass, but the officials ruled it a fumble on the field, and after replay review. Rhule was beside himself about Purdy’s first turnover.

“The one I know with his arm he was trying to throw the ball forward, but that’s a fumble that leads to them having the ball, when we had the ball at the 20-yard line going in,” the 48-year old coach said.

Purdy’s second turnover was the straw that broke the camel’s back. With 31 seconds left on the clock in the fourth quarter, the Huskers had the ball at their own 48-yard line and Purdy did the unthinkable. The six-foot-two, 210-pounder threw the ball into traffic and was picked off by an Iowa defensive lineman. It shifted the momentum to the Hawkeyes’ side, and put them in position to kick the game-winning field goal.

The Huskers had to take that walk of shame back to the locker room afterwards, while the Hawkeyes hoisted the Heroes Trophy. Rhule is hoping the humility will be something the team remembers, so they won’t have to experience that feeling again. No doubt Nebraska has a lot to clean up over the next nine months.

Still, the hunger to get better should be deeply instilled in the players, especially Purdy. The talent is there. So if the Huskers can clean up the fundamental mistakes, dive deeper into the playbook and play more disciplined, Rhule is confident they’ll be dangerous in 2024.

“Obviously it’s protecting the football, talk about margin for error, we can’t turn the ball over.”