Tommy Armstrong

At halftime, there was a 22-point difference.

Nebraska was winning and Southern Mississippi hadn’t scored yet. As the game went on, Southern Miss came within eight points of tying it up—twice.

Remind you of anything?

Last week, Nebraska was down 23 points against Miami at the start of the fourth quarter. A quick comeback led to overtime, but Miami still took the win. This time around, Nebraska was on the other side of the coin.

“Alright, well, I guess it’s really true,” Nebraska coach Mike Riley said. “It’s never easy.”

Earlier in the week, the coaching staff said they wanted to establish themselves early.

In Southern Mississippi’s first drive, the Eagles were forced to punt the ball from their own 25-yardline. Then, eight plays, 3:41 minutes and seven points later, Nebraska had the early lead.

Still, junior quarterback Tommy Armstrong said there were some missed opportunities in the Huskers’ first few drives.

“I feel like we could’ve scored a lot of points first half,” Armstrong said. “We stopped ourselves a lot.”

After five consecutive field goals following the opening drive, Nebraska was up 22-0 at half.

Last week, it was Miami who scored five field goals against the Huskers.

“It’s kind of a victory for the defense when that happens and that’s what kept us motivated in getting stronger in the Miami game,” Riley said. “We were a victim of that today.”

And despite the 22-point lead, Riley said there were mixed feelings going into halftime. He said the team failed to capitalize on opportunities in the redzone to get touchdowns rather than just field goals.

At the start of the second half, Southern Miss intercepted the ball in Nebraska’s first drive and later scored a touchdown.

Riley said it was clear the Eagles gained confidence and momentum from then on.

“What might’ve been different point-wise, scoring the number of times we did, the point differential wasn’t very big,” Riley said. “And those things can, and it seems like sometimes they’re destined to come back and haunt you.”

Fast-forward to the end of the fourth quarter and the Huskers were just barely winning 36-28. Nebraska fans were yelling with frustration.

In a game where the opponent had a total of 11 rushing yards, Nebraska only won by eight points. Overall, there were more than 1000 yards by the end of the game.

“I think it stems from letting that game remain as close as it did, giving them, kind of, life,” Riley said. “It was 22-nothing, but one score, and the game didn’t look that bad for them.”

One of the stronger phases of the game were the connections between Tommy Armstrong and junior wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp.

Westerkamp had a career-high 11 catches for 118 yards. As for Armstrong, he passed for 368 yards and two touchdowns. Saturday marked the fifth consecutive game where the Huskers had more than 300 passing yards, which ties the most in school history.

As for the defense, it gave up 447 passing yards and two touchdowns from Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens. In all four games this season, Nebraska has given up more than 300 yards through the air. 

Coach Riley led the customary “Hip Hip Hooray” chant in the locker room after the win. But overall, Armstrong said there’s more they can do to seal a stronger victory in the future.

“I’m happy we got a win, but I’m not satisfied at all,” Armstrong said. “We could’ve done better. We could’ve put more points on the board.”

sports@dailynebraskan.com