PISCATAWAY, NJ – How’d that happen?
It felt like a boulder was on their backs and and cement shoes were strapped to their feet at times. And did they have to sew Casey Thompson’s arm back on at halftime? Perhaps? Probably. There was rave music bouncing from the speakers constantly and it just seemed like one of those Friday nights with the fellas that didn’t go as you thought it would back around dinnertime.
But Mickey Joseph told his team to keep fighting. Fight and take the fourth quarter. Even with Luke Reimer and Quinton Newsome out with injuries, and a Husker rushing attack that generated all of 72 yards, Nebraska won that friggin’ game.
Yes they did, 14-13 Nebraska over Rutgers. The most beautiful ugly 14-13 game a team ever saw.
Some Fast Takes.
Bill Busch’s defense again delivered.
With a true freshman at corner, and a six-year senior who wasn’t even on the team until a couple months ago at the other corner. With one of the team’s best defenders – Luke Reimer – out of the mix in the late going.
And yet the Huskers turned over Rutgers three times and shut them out in the second half. Now, the Scarlet Knights QBs took turns making some ugly throws while going 12-of-30. But credit guys like veteran cornerback Brandon Moore for battling for a big pick to shut down one drive. Credit young Malcolm Hartzog for coming back from a tough start to clinch it with an interception. Credit Myles Farmer, criticized plenty early in the year, for the INT that turned the whole game, setting up a Trey Palmer touchdown.
Seriously, Farmer has taken all sorts of crap. He made the play of the night.
Nebraska’s defense gave up a touchdown with ease on the first drive. They missed some tackles here and there. On one play they turned a no-gainer into a 43-yard. And yet, aside from that opening drive, they really only gave up three points. The other three were basically because of the special teams for allowing a blocked punt.
Garret Nelson played some great ball with a team-high 11 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks. Colton Feist made some big-time plays. Ochaun Mathis got the key tip to wave off a PI call late.
They gave up 263 yards in the first half but kept their team in it by only allowing 13 when it felt like it could’ve been 24. In the second half Nebraska allowed just 85 yards. They shut out a team for the second straight week.
Give that defensive staff their due. They adjusted. They had a group that kept their poise. They kept this team’s head above water when it looked pretty dang bleak.
Sneaky big play…
Blaise Gunnerson tracking down the foe after the blocked punt inside the 10-yard-line. Nebraska held the Scarlet Knights to a field goal.
There was a reason to be ticked off at the time. And Brian Buschini is going to be like that “it’s just a flesh wound” guy from Monty Python if this keeps up, with the blows he’s taken.
But that hustle play by Gunnerson may have been the difference by the end.
Bill Busch had just said this week that teams that block a punt win about 90 percent of the time. The Huskers bucked the odds.
“We are never out of the fight … Never out of it,” says Nick Henrich. pic.twitter.com/9eywpCFR4U
—Brian Christopherson (@Husker247BC) October 8, 2022
The Husker offense was very tough on the eyes.
The pass protection was abysmal in the first half. The run game never did get going. Anthony Grant finished with 47 on 19 carries. Casey Thompson took a beating and said he had to let go of passes before receivers were even out of their breaks.
I wasn’t even sure if he’d play the second half. He said as long as he was cleared to go, he was going to be out there.
But they found a way. The defense set it on the tee for them, but Thompson made the big throw to Trey Palmer for 27 yards for the touchdown to grab the lead with 8:54 left.
And the touchdown drive coming out of the half included a fourth-and-2 conversion by Anthony Grant and third-and-6 throw to Palmer, who just makes the big plays at the right time.
Palmer is such a competitor. He finished with 64 yards on four catches. He was visibly ticked at the lack of pass pro early as the Huskers sorted it out on the sideline. But he delivered the play Nebraska had to have just like a week ago.
One Nebraska promising drive went for nothing when the Huskers failed on fourth-and-1 on a pass.
The part I didn’t love is that Anthony Grant was on the sideline there. He’s been pretty dang good on those type of plays and converted a fourth-and-2 on a previous drive.
The intended receiver was Marcus Washington, who had an eventful drive. He had a 27-yard catch erased by a review. Must have had a camera angle not shown on TV to overturn it. Washington caught a third-down pass a couple plays later and it looked like NU might be going in for the lead.
Not to be. The fourth-and-1 call might have gotten a “Run the ball!” from Richard Sherman. But Whipple might reply: We couldn’t. Nebraska had only 52 yards rushing in the first three quarters. Still, those short-yard plays have been up Grant’s alley all year.
In any regard, Thompson said he liked the look he got on that play. It just didn’t work. He thought the DB made a good play on a catchable ball. It would have been under the heat lamp more if the Huskers lost.
This O-line is in a pretty bad place right now. I’ll just say it as it is even after a win. The pass pro doesn’t offer trust and, honestly, the Grant had a few runs where some yards were probably left hanging. Although his knockdown run of a Scarlet Knight (who you hope is OK) was a sign of what he’s all about as a runner.
You worry about Thompson hanging in there the whole season as much of a beating as he’s taking. He threw two picks, but I kind of get it. There was NO TIME.
How’s the body? “I feel good. We won the game,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to be sore after a win than a loss.”
It wasn’t just Thompson who got beat up in this one.
Omar Manning was on crutches. Reimer was out. Newsome was out. Maybe a groin injury, Joseph said. Buschini was punting on three good toes.
Eteva Mauga-Clements stepped in and held his own for Reimer. Buschini was able to hit a decent punt into the wind to keep Rutgers at its own 20 in the last minute. Guys did back up their coach’s words. They fought.
“We are never out of the fight men,” Nick Henrich told players after the game. “Never out of it.”
Heck, for the night the Huskers in first place in the West Division.
It only matters at the end, Joseph said with a smile. “This is fake first place.”
Still feels kind of good, huh?