The snow was coming down in sheets at Memorial Stadium, but the Huskers weren’t too bothered.
“It was like something out of a movie,” senior running back Devine Ozigbo said. Cornerback Cam Taylor did snow angels. Husker head coach Scott Frost held a game ball high above his head, grinning from ear to ear with boyish enthusiasm.
It was far from pretty, but the Huskers prevailed over the Michigan State Spartans 9-6. Barret Pickering played the hero, hitting three field goals on three attempts; a perfect day for the place kicker.
As the game headed into the fourth quarter, Nebraska had still yet to put up a single point. Trailing Michigan State six to zip, Pickering proceeded to drill a 36 yarder, a 20 yarder, and then the go-ahead 47 yard field goal to lift the Huskers over the Spartans.
It’s fitting then, that on the day Nebraska and Michigan State honored their former punters – Sam Foltz and Mike Sadler who tragically passed away in a car accident in 2016 – that it was the kicking specialists who were the difference makers.
“Today was a good day,” Pickering said. “I’d like to mention the Sadler’s and the Foltz’s. Today was about them.” Senior punter Isaac Armstrong also put in a solid performance. “Some of the punts that he hit into the wind made a difference in field position,” Frost told reporters at the end of the game. “It was a field-position game.”
The high winds caused problems for both offenses all day, with both units struggling to move the football. “I laid in bed last night with my fingers crossed and hands folded in prayer, hoping that we’d be able to fold it,” Frost said. “We tried to come out in the first drive and just run our offense. It was pretty obvious after that, that we had to flip the script on our game plan.”
Adrian Martinez was 16-37 for 145 yards through the air. The Husker’s three rushers, Martinez, Ozigbo, and Maurice Washington, combined for a little over 100 yards, a paltry total compared to last week’s total of 316 rushing yards.
NU officials believe that this is the first time since Nebraska’s 1937 three to nothing win over Kansas that the Huskers were actually able to win a game without scoring a touchdown.
“Good teams figure out how to win any kind of game, and that’s as different a kind of game that I have been a part of as a coach,” Frost said.”I’m so happy for the seniors, so happy for the Blackshirts.”
The seniors were given a nice send off, as it was senior day for Nebraska, marking the last time the senior class would take the field at Memorial Stadium. Ozigbo reached the 1,000 rushing yard single season threshold – the first time for a Nebraska running back since the 2014 season when Ameer Abdullah did the same.
Stanley Morgan Jr.’s 67 receiving yards got him to 1,000 receiving yards. Morgan surpassed former Husker receiver Kenny Bell on the all time team receptions list, with 182 career receptions. Morgan came just short of passing up Bell in career receiving yards, as he is still 23 yards away from becoming Nebraska’s leading receiver in career reception yards.
Not to be forgotten is senior Antonio Reed. Reed was everywhere for the defense, sniffing out several plays in the backfield, earning himself a career high three tackles for loss. Reed also had a season high seven tackles and a pair of pass breakups. Reed also forced a key fumble in the fourth quarter.
With the win, the Huskers improve to four and seven on the season, equaling last season’s win total. For Nebraska’s final game, they’ll hit the road to take on Iowa on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.
By Tim Curran
Scott Frost got sentimental during his weekly Thursday morning press conference from the Hawks Championship Center. Saturday will mark the last day that Nebraska’s senior class will take the field at Memorial Stadium. Those seniors mean a lot to Frost, who’s in the midst of his freshman season, so to speak.
“These guys are going to mean a lot to me, as long as I’m coaching here – this first group,” Frost said. “Because this is going to be the group that had to go through the growing pains and change and everything.”
“Without really good leaders and really good seniors, that (change) wouldn’t have happened. I’ve said it a bunch, but this team could of gone 100 different directions when we were struggling early on, getting bad breaks and losing games. It couldn’t have started any worse.”
The Huskers may only have three wins to show for their turnaround, but the level of play on the field has improved significantly. “Now we’re dangerous,” Frost said. “We’re a team that can beat just about anybody in this league.”
Frost projected confidence from the podium, but it’ll be up to the players, who are feeling a little banged up according to Frost, to get win number four against Michigan State on Saturday.
“We got a bunch of guys nicked up… guys trying to get through practice and do what they can to get ready for Saturday. That’s just November football,” Frost said.
One of the more notable injuries was revealed by offensive coordinator Troy Walters on Wednesday, that wide receiver J.D. Spielman was ruled as day to day. The sophomore has been a massive asset to the Huskers all season, and would surely be missed as Nebraska gets ready to take on one of the best defenses they’ve played all year.
The Spartans rank 21st in total defense, but it’s their run defense that really shines according to Frost. “There’s been a couple weeks where (I’ve) watched big play reels, like runs of over 12 yards,” Frost said. “Some teams we’ve played have had about 50 runs of over 12 yards against them on the year. Michigan State has 10 in 10 games.”
Nebraska takes on Michigan State this Saturday. Kickoff is set for 11 A.M. CT.
The Huskers took down Big East opponent Seton Hall in the Gavitt Game tip-off, 80 to 57. The Huskers ran the Pirates out of the gym, but Nebraska certainly didn’t look to have a safe victory for the majority of the game.
In the 1st half, Seton Hall trailed only by six points, 33 to 27. Nebraska had problems containing junior guard Myles Powell, who racked up 15 points before the halftime buzzer. Had the Pirates been more successful from beyond the arc, only shooting 0-6 from the three point line in the first, it would’ve spelled trouble for the Big Red. Seton Hall was nipping at Nebraska’s heels at every opportunity.
Isaiah Roby spent the vast majority of the first half on the bench, as he got himself into foul trouble, picking up two fouls in six minutes of game action. It was Roby’s third foul though, which changed the course of the game. With a little over 14 minutes remaining in the second half, Roby was called for a moving screen. Replays appeared to show that Roby did not make contact with a single Pirate player, causing the Pinnacle Bank Arena crowd to become incensed.
Nebraska Head Coach Tim Miles gets an explanation from a referee following a technical foul on Nebraska forward Isaac Copeland.
Husker head coach Tim Miles, fueled by the sea of boos in PBA, was called for a technical foul after giving the officiating crew an earful. Powell hit both of his attempts from the charity stripe, pulling the Pirates within four points.
Michael Nzei of Seton Hall then proceeded to hit a layup, cutting the Husker lead down to two points, 44-42. “That was really a test for us,” senior forward Isaac Copeland said. “We hadn’t really experienced anything like that in the two (previous) games so far.”
The Huskers responded with intensity, coming out of the gates on fire. James Palmer Jr. hit a three ball on the Husker’s next possession, setting the tone for the rest of the game. After starting out the game 0-8 from the field, Palmer virtually metamorphosed as the game progressed, eventually winding up with 29 points on the night. “I just wanted to stay aggressive,” Palmer said.
Nebraska guard Glynn Watson Jr. puts up a successful three-point shot in the first half of Wednesday’s game.
The Husker lead would grow all the way up to 25 points towards the end of regulation, but the final margin of victory for the Huskers wound up at 23 points. Coach Miles was pleased with the turnaround.
“I thought our kids really came back and played rock solid,” Miles said. “James (Palmer) hit a big shot, which helped… I thought we played better as the game went on.”
Nebraska forward Isaac Copeland Jr. launches a successful three-point shot in the second half of Wednsday’s game. Copeland finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks.
Miles continued lauding his team, saying that the players “show up every day to work.” With Nebraska improving to 3-0 on the season, Miles has good reason to be proud. The Huskers passed their first true test of the season, but there’s another one waiting for Nebraska not too far down the road against a ranked Clemson squad on November 26th.
Nebraska’s next game is against Missouri State next Monday. Tip off for that one is set for 6 o’ clock.
The Huskers have seen an immense turnaround in their performances since starting the season with six consecutive losses, but question marks still swirl around the Blackshirts.
Nebraska surrendered 383 rushing yards to Illinois, 187 of which came against former Husker quarterback A.J. Bush. “Last week obviously (we) had a lot of run fit issues,” defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said. “(There) were a lot of eyes in the wrong place… they (Illinois) did a good job of running that offense.”
This week though, things could get interesting for the Husker defense. Michigan State has used two quarterbacks their last four games. Their starter, Brian Lewerke, has thrown more interceptions than he has touchdown passes this season. That said, Lewerke could still reach the 2,000 yard single season passing mark against the Huskers on Saturday, as he is sitting at 1,868 yards for the season right now.
Freshman Rocky Lombardi is the other QB that’s been vying for playing time, having entered the game for the Spartans their last four games. Over that stretch, Lombardi has thrown for over 400 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“With their two guys, it’s kind of, what plays they run,” Chinander said. “I don’t know if the skill set is completely different. I think they both do a good job of running their offense.”
In terms of Michigan State’s run game, it ranks 116th in rushing offense in the FBS, averaging just over 118 yards per play on the ground. The Spartan’s most experienced running back, L.J. Scott, is out for the season. Michigan State will most probably need to beat Nebraska through the air, despite the Husker’s struggles in their run defense against Illinois.
It’s senior day at Memorial Stadium, kickoff set for 11 A.M. Central Time. The game will be televised on FOX.
Nebraska turned five Illinois turnovers into 24 points and picked up their third win in four games, a 54-35 final Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Illinois (4-6, 2-5) had three turnovers in the first half that led to 17 points for the Huskers which led 38-21 at half.
Adrian Martinez threw for 290 yards and accounted for four touchdowns and Devine Ozigbo ran for 162 yards and three scores. Martinez went 24-of-34 and threw for three touchdowns, and he ran 13 times for 55 yards and a TD. His 345 yards of total offense added to his school freshman-record 2,747. The 345-yard effort gives Martinez six 300-yard total offense games this season, tying a Nebraska season record. Martinez has tied the mark previously set by Joe Ganz in 2008 and Tommy Armstrong Jr. in 2015. Ozigbo broke a career-long 66-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and went 60 yards for another TD in the fourth. Ozigbo is 42 yards short of becoming the Huskers’ first 1,000-yard rusher since 2014.
It was a helmets only walk through practice for the Huskers as they get geared up to take on Illinois this Saturday. With Lincoln experiencing some snow, head coach Scott Frost wanted to get his players outside for a taste of what Nebraska winters can look like.
“We probably got a couple of guys who have still have only seen it once or twice in their lives,” Frost said. “We rolled around in it a little bit (and) then got our work done.”
The weather could play a factor for the game, although snow is not in the forecast for Saturday.
“You know I think the only thing that could be a factor in the game potentially is the wind,” Frost said. “We’ll see how bad it’s blowing on Saturday. Our guys live in this every day, so I don’t think the temperature will be an issue.”
Frost also mentioned that he was familiar with Illini head coach Lovie Smith’s defensive scheme, having played in it when Frost was a safety for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back in 2003.
Smith was not coaching in Tampa Bay at the time; however the “Tampa 2,” a variant of the “Cover 2” defense, is the defense Smith has installed at each of his head coaching jobs.
“It’s sound. That was the best part about that scheme when I was playing in it,” Frost said. “You always knew where you were supposed to be.”
That said, Illinois is ranked 127th in the nation in total defense. The Illini on average, give up 524 yards per game. Their opponents are averaging seven yards per play.
Nebraska takes on Illinois this Saturday at 11 A.M. CT.
Offensive coordinator Troy Walters revealed that freshman wide receiver Miles Jones has had to undergo shoulder surgery, and will miss the rest of the season.
“He’s out. We wanted to make sure he’d be back for Spring,” Walters said. “We have to get him healthy and get him ready to go.”
Jones had one reception for a gain of 21 yards. He also picked up five yards on his lone carry of the day.
Jones was a three star recruit out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and was originally committed to play for Vanderbilt before announcing his intent to play for the Huskers in January of 2018, according to 247sports.com.
The Husker’s face Illinois this Saturday, and the offense has the potential to have their biggest day yet. Illini defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson resigned last week, as the Illini defense is having a disastrous season.
Illinois has surrendered over 60 points to opponents twice this season, and on average, give up 36.9 points per game, 117th worst in the nation according to the NCAA. Illinois is ranked near dead last at 127th in the nation in total defense.
Kickoff for Saturday’s game will take place at 11 a.m. CT.
The Huskers will wear alternate uniforms in honor of Veteran’s day.
It may be true that every cloud has a silver lining, but defensive coordinator Erik Chinander doesn’t want to hear it. “Losing is never acceptable,” Chinander told reporters form the Hawks Championship Center.
Chinander is frustrated with the loss against Ohio State, but he did concede that the improvements from the defense as a unit are encouraging. “I feel good energy coming to work every day because I see the improvement on a daily basis,” Chinander said. “But I also feel hungry because, we’re not even close.”
There were broken plays aplenty from the Husker defense against the Buckeyes, but one of the aspects the Huskers have seen vast improvement at is defensive takeaways. Despite losing the game, Nebraska was +2 in turnover margin against Ohio State. One of the reasons for that Chinander says, is the renewed effort and energy that the team has placed on generating turnovers in practice.
Chinander said that looking at the tape on turnover drills earlier in the year “looked like the Bad News Bears out there, running around.”
“Now,” he said, “it looks like a real football team. It looks like guys are trying to get the football. You can see they’re more ball aware in team settings, they’re more ball aware in individual settings, and obviously they’re becoming more ball aware in individual settings, which is good.”
Nebraska is set to take on Illinois this Veteran’s Day Weekend on November 10th. The Illini are 4-5 overall, and 2-4 in the Big 10. They’re led by head coach Lovie Smith, who has a 9-24 since he took over as head coach back in 2016. Previously, Smith spent 11 seasons in the NFL, as head coach of both the Chicago Bears and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Smith took the former to Super Bowl 41, before losing to the Indianapolis Colts. Kickoff for the Husker’s game is set for 11 a.m. CT.
Scott Frost is still able to take positives from his team’s performance on Saturday against Ohio State, despite getting handed loss number seven of the season. A five point loss to a team that has throttled the Big Red by a combined 101 points the past two seasons is something to hang your hat on, as consoling as that can really be.
“It hasn’t been easy for any of us. The players, the coaches, I’m sure the fans… we’ve had to struggle through some things,” Frost said. “Most teams if they had the start to the season that we’ve had would’ve shut it down, would’ve started fighting, would’ve made it worse.”
Jerald Foster echoed his coach’s sentiment’s, saying that “This was the year to build a foundation.” Foster went on to say that “I’m a little jealous that I didn’t have all my years with a coaching staff and coach like Scott Frost.”
With just three games left on the schedule, and a bowl game berth looking to be increasingly out of the range of possibilities for Nebraska, the improved play is bittersweet consolation for a senior class that will be moving on before too long.
Nebraska takes on Illinois this Saturday, and the Huskers will be wearing the alternate uniforms designed for them by Adidas, in honor of Veteran’s day.
Kickoff is set for 11 A.M. on the Big Ten Network.