With Huskers bowl eligibility in reach, Matt Rhule preaches Nebraska staying the course
Rhule: “If we start talking about bowl games and all that, we might miss out on the fact that Michigan State has a good football team.”
Lincoln, Neb. (WOWT) - The Huskers have won three straight for the first time since 2016—which was also the last time Nebraska played in a bowl game.
Nebraska improved to 5-3 after Saturday’s 31-14 win over Purdue, putting them just one win away from bowl eligibility.
“Being able to get to a bowl has been a goal of mine since the very beginning,” Defensive lineman Ty Robinson said. “This is also the first time I think I’ve been a part of a team that’s won five games, so it’s awesome.”
Matt Rhule took a more reserved approach to his team being on the cusp of playing in December.
“I don’t know that I’ll talk about it with them,” Rhule said. “If we start talking about bowl games and all that, we might miss out on the fact that Michigan State has a good football team. We’ll just try to keep it all football and just try to go 1-0 next week.”
Rhule also balked at the idea of six wins being the goal for his team.
“I was walking in and I heard someone yell to me ‘Just one more!’” Rhule said. “I don’t want just one more. Do you want just one more? I want to try to win every game that we play.”
The Huskers closed the first half up 14-0, their largest halftime lead of the season. They carried that momentum into the third quarter.
Elijah Jeudy blocked a Boilermaker field goal attempt, batting it high in the air. Quinton Newsome corralled the ball, returning the Kick Six 68-yards back for a touchdown, high-fiving Tommi Hill on his way there.
“If I would have saw that, I would have dealt with it,” Rhule said, who was unaware of the pre-goal line celebration until asked about it postgame. “I don’t want to showboat and embarrass, but I also want them to have fun.”
“I think it was the rush and hype of the game,” Newsome said with a smile. “I saw him next to me, I know he’s going to run with me. He stuck his hand out and gave me a high five. That’s a thing we dreamed about since we were young. It’s a great feeling.”
With Nebraska leading 24-6, Heinrich Haarberg exited with the game seemingly secure. The turnover bug bit Nebraska again.
Jeff Sims fumbled the ball after being sacked on a fourth and one play, allowing Kydran Jenkins to return it 55-yards. Purdue would execute the two-point conversion to make it 24-14 with 6:24 to play. Emmett Johnson scored 2:29 later on a 28-yard touchdown run to give the Huskers the 31-14 edge and put the game back out of reach.
“To be in fourth and one and get tackled for a loss, then not just get tackled for a loss but fumble. Not just fumble but miss the tackle and then have it run in for a touchdown,” Rhule said. “You’re not going to win a lot of games doing that.
“Let’s put it on us,” he continued. “We can’t just have the ball ripped out of our hands that many times. It’s a work in progress, but there’s a lot we have to get better at.”
But despite the turnover issues, and a rash of injuries—the likes of which Rhule said he has never seen before in his career—the Huskers went undefeated in the month of October for the first time since 2001. They have now won five of their last six games, and head to East Lansing next week with a chance to clinch a bowl game.
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