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October 12, 2013
Danny Etling had long dreamed of today.
He probably didn't envision it going like this, however.
In his first career start Saturday, the true freshman completed only 14-of-35 passes for 184 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The numbers were buoyed by a late 56-yard touchdown pass to DeAngelo Yancey, a well-thrown ball that came well after the game had been decided.
"It's not good enough yet," Etling said following Purdue's 44-7 loss to Nebraska in Ross-Ade Stadium. "Obviously, I've got to play better, and I think I'm going to play better. I'm just going to learn more from a game like this than a success, so I'm going to get in there and watch it.
"I'm going to get better."
Etling's yardage is the fifth-best by a Boilermaker in a true freshman debut (out of 10), dating back to when freshman eligibility was reinstated in the early 1970s. But while he made some throws - the best was the bomb over the top to Yancey - it was marred often by rough spots, too.
It was a more difficult outing than his debut two weeks earlier, when he came in in relief vs. Northern Illinois and threw for 241 yards, mostly all in the second half. But that Huskies' defense barely blitzed - if at all - the opposite of the Huskers' plan, which involved sending extra rushers frequently.
"It's a different team and different kind of plan," Etling said. "This was a full game and that was only the second half, it's different situations."
Etling spent time under pressure, too, officially being sacked five times, although a couple others, which were called TFLs on scrambles, could have been added. But he didn't always help his cause either, particularly on a safety in the third quarter when he appeared to hold the ball too long.
"I need to step in the pocket and not try to do too much," Etling said. "That was the biggest thing. I was trying to do too much, instead of letting the game come to you, and holding onto the ball too long, obviously.
"I want to get in the film room and correct those mistakes and I think I'm going to."
Third downs have been a killer for Purdue all season, and Saturday was no different.
Nebraska converted 11 of its 21 third-down attempts, with the 13 plays that netted positive yardage going for 153 yards. Six of the 13 plays gained at least 12 yards and three went for more than 20.
"We were doing really well on first and second down," cornerback Ricardo Allen said. "But on third downs, that's when you've got to look really deep down inside yourself and say you're going to execute your job better than the person in front of you.
"It didn't come off of them out-executing us. It came off of us not making plays and not executing ourselves. We have to execute better."
Purdue's not been good all season. The Boilermakers came into Saturday allowing offenses to convert 46.4 percent of their attempts, the worst mark in the Big Ten. The Cornhuskers also were good on both of their fourth-down tries.
"Third downs are critical for us today," said Hazell, whose team converted only 3-of-14 on offense. "I mean, they made some huge third downs against us, which obviously kept the momentum for them and hurt it for us. We have to be able to get off the field on third downs defensively and we have to be able to convert them offensively. That's crushing us right now.
"Other than turnovers, that's probably our biggest Achilles Heel right now."
Yancey followed up his break-out game of two weeks ago with another one.
The wide receiver had 146 yards, setting a new Purdue freshman record (breaking Dorien Byrant's old mark of 131 vs. Indiana in 2004) on five catches, with the touchdown. In the last two weeks, Yancey had 12 receptions for 263 yards.
"I think he's going to be an exceptional player, I really do, when it's all said and done," Hazell said. "He's got a lot of talent and a lot of abilities. He's big and quick, he has speed and soft hands, and he's starting to develop a chemistry with Danny, so it is a bright spot for us."
Four true freshmen saw the field for the first time as Boilermakers Saturday.
Receiver Dan Monteroso returned to action after missing the first five games with a broken collarbone. Defensive linemen Evan Panfil, Jake Replogle and Ra'Zahn Howard also got in and on at least a couple drives played as a unit.
Replogle had two tackles, while Panfil added a TFL and Howard had a tackle.
Hazell said he'd reserve judgment until watching film.
"We've got to look at the film (Sunday) to see exactly where we are, again, personnel-wise, scheme-wise, all those things," the first-year coach said.
Purdue also played two other freshmen on defense, with Leroy Clark getting his first career start at corner, and Austin Logan getting reps as a reserve. The five were together on the field with about three minutes left in the third quarter, giving the Boilermakers a youthful look on defense.
Former quarterback Rob Henry got an opportunity to contribute on special teams, and when the game was out of hand late, in the secondary.
Henry was a sniper (gunner) on the punt coverage unit, and threw an ugly pass when Purdue attempted a fake in the third quarter. He also made two tackles on defense.
"We'll try to get him to learn the secondary as quickly as he can," Hazell said. "He's only played back there for three or four practices. We'll try to use him on as many special teams as we can, but he's a good leader for us and he cares deeply about his football team."
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