In front of a record home crowd of 85,831, the Huskers come up short in a thrilling game 35-30 lost to Virginia Tech. The Hokies scored on six straight possessions at one point then managed to hang on for the win.
The Huskers were down 28-10 and seemed dead in the water late in the third quarter, but battled back to 28-23 with just over seven minutes to play. As in many close games, special teams, turnovers and penalties were the difference.
The Hokies took advantage of two penalties leading to their last scoring drive. Joe Ganz, engineered an 80 yard scoring drive in four plays to pull the Huskers to 35-30 and had one more chance with no timeouts and 30 seconds left. He managed to get the Huskers across mid-field, but Todd Peterson, who caught a 17 yards touchdown pass moments earlier fumbled and Va. Tech regained possession.
As far as special teams, Nate Swift returned a punt 88 yards for a touchdown, but the first score of the game came on a Hokie safety after they blocked Dan Titchener’s punt out of the back of the endzone in the first quarter.
On the next series, Ganz was intercepted and the Hokies had the ball at the NU five which they pounded the ball in and led 9-0. Ganz struck back hitting tight end Mike McNeill with two long passes including a 37 yard touchdown pass to close the score to 9-7.
The Hokies really could have blown the game open as they got deep into Nebraska territory three times, but had to settle for field goals of 19, 38, and 27 yards. Alex Henery mixed in his career long 48 yarder and the Hokies led 18-10 at the half.
The Hokies started the third quarter with another field goal of 36 yards, then after holding NU to three and out set up shop at the NU 33 on a big punt return and went intoon a 19 yard touchdown run to make it 28-10.
The Husker offense responded by grinding out a tough 12-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a 12-yard touchdown run from Roy Helu Jr. The drive was fueled by a key third- and fourth-down conversion. It also lasted more than six minutes essentially ending the third quarter with Nebraska trailing 28-17.
Nebraska’s special teams then came up huge when Swift returned a punt 88 yards for a touchdown. Swift’s touchdown return was the first of his career and the fourth-longest punt return in Nebraska history. NU missed a two-point conversion and trailed 28-23 with 7:52 remaining.
Virginia Tech drove into Nebraska territory on its ensuing position before the Huskers appeared to stop the Hokies on third down at the NU 35. But a 15-yard late hit penalty and an unsportsmanlike conduct call on Nebraska set Virginia Tech up with a frist down at the NU 11. Taylor then capped the drive three plays later with a two-yard touchdown run that put the Hokies in front 35-23.
The Husker offense fought right back as Ganz found Swift for consecutive gains of nine and 46 yards. Two plays later, Ganz found Peterson for a 17-yard touchdown pass to finish off a four-play, 80-yard drive that consumed just 56 seconds.
The loss was the first of Head Coach Bo Pelini’s career, as his career-opening win streak was snapped at four. The defeat also marked just the Huskers’ third loss to a non-conference opponent at Memorial Stadium in 49 games dating back to 1991.
Nebraska will wrap up its five-game season-opening homestand next Saturday, when the Huskers battle nationally ranked Missouri on Homecoming at Memorial Stadium. Kickoff for NU’s tangle with the Tigers is set for 8 p.m. with a national telecast on ESPN.