MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Coach Mike Riley approaches the podium after his first road game at Nebraska. He looks at the box score sheet sitting next to the microphone.
“What in the world could this have been?” Riley asked.
On the box score reads a 36-33 overtime victory by the Miami Hurricanes, an end that destroyed Nebraska’s chance of making the biggest comeback in school history.
From the start, Nebraska was down.
After a three-and-out opening drive, the Hurricanes covered 65 yards in five plays to get on the board first. Leading them was sophomore quarterback Brad Kaaya, who threw for 379 yards and two touchdowns against the Huskers
He and the Miami offense scored 17 unanswered points to set up a comfortable 20-3 lead at halftime. Nothing was going right for Nebraska.
After the first half, there were few bright spots in a half where the team had to punt the ball five times, while also giving up 226 yards from Kaaya.
“We were our own worst enemy,” Riley said. “We couldn’t do anything without doing something wrong.”
It didn’t get much easier as the Hurricanes were up 33-10 after the third quarter with the rowdy crowd at Sun Life Stadium behind them.
But after a 10-yard touchdown pass from Armstrong to tight end Cethan Carter and a two-point conversion, the optimism grew.
Nebraska continued to score, and in the final minute, the Huskers had a chance to tie it up. Armstrong, who had 309 yards on the day, had just thrown his fourth touchdown pass of the day with 33 seconds left on the clock. Nebraska was setting up for a two point-conversion to tie it up at 33.
Armstrong lined up in the shotgun and hit junior wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp for another two-point conversion to tie the game at 33 with 33 seconds left.
Offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said he knew it was the right move to have Armstrong and Westerkamp connect on one of the most important plays of the game.
“We had practice that; had good success with it all week,” Langsdorf said. “We were going to Westy (Westerkamp) in the end zone for sure.”
The Hurricane fans boo seconds later as Brad Kaaya takes a kneel to force overtime.
After regulation, the first thing coach Riley did was go over and talk to sophomore kicker Drew Brown, asking him which end he would end zone he would prefer. Nebraska started overtime on offense.
On the very first play of overtime, Armstrong stepped back to pass yet again, minutes after he and the offense tied it up.
“I saw Taariq (Allen) running baseline, or a back line in the end zone,” Armstrong said.
Then, at the blink of an eye, Armstrong is picked off by cornerback Corn Elder. The momentum is gone.
“I didn’t really see the corner,” Armstrong said. “I underthrew him.”
Three plays later, Miami kicker Michael Badgely converts on his fifth field-goal. This time it’s from 28 yards away. Miami wins 36-33, erasing what could have been school history.
Nebraska’s now 1-2, the worst start the team has had since 1981 when coach Tom Osborne and the Huskers lost to Penn State and Iowa.
At the bottom of the box score Riley scanned after the game, read 23 unanswered points from Nebraska in the final quarter of a game that started off on its worst foot. It was a fight the coach liked to see from his group.
“I was proud of that,” Riley said. “The fact that they had enough left in the fourth quarter to play and complete like that.
“They liked it too.”