Nebraska suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of rival Colorado 34-31. After leading 17-0 at halftime, the Huskers gave up 31 points in the second half to give the game away.
Here are three players who shined:
Maurice Washington, RB
Sophomore running back Maurice Washington had one of his best performances in a Husker uniform today as he ran for 77 yards and added 118 receiving yards, including a 75-yard touchdown reception. After being suspended for the first half of last week’s game, Washington was able to come back and carry the Husker offense at times.
The 75-yard touchdown reception came at a crucial time as Colorado had all the momentum after scoring 14 points unanswered to bring the game to within three points. Washington also had an explosive 40-yard run on the Huskers’ final scoring drive that flipped the field.
After last week where the running game struggled to get much of anything, Washington was able to reignite the running attack. While junior running back Dedrick Mills and Washington have split a lot of time, it’s fair to wonder when Washington will begin to get more touches.
Lamar Jackson, CB
The game did not get off to a great start for senior cornerback Lamar Jackson as he was called for a late hit that extended the Buffaloes’ opening drive. He quickly put that mistake in the rearview mirror as he was one of the best players on the Husker defense Saturday.
Jackson only had one tackle, but he added an impressive interception and an important pass breakup. His interception showed off his athleticism as he got up and high-pointed the ball for a crucial pick. The play resulted in three points for the offense.
His pass breakup was almost more important as it came in the fourth quarter. On the Husker four-yard line, Colorado elected for a fade on Jackson’s side. He was ready and got a hand on it to force Colorado to kick a field goal. Although he was beat on the last Buffaloes touchdown, it was good coverage but a better pass.
JD Spielman, WR
After a relatively quiet opener on offense, junior wide receiver had a vintage performance as he had five receptions for 112 yards and a touchdown. Spielman’s home run threat was on full display, evidenced by his 65-yard touchdown reception on the first drive of the game.
Spielman’s 112 receiving yards marked his fifth career 100-yard receiving game. He will need more games like this as the rest of the receiving corps behind him have yet to step up.
Three that need to improve:
Dedrick Mills, RB
Before fall camp, it wasn’t guaranteed junior running back Dedrick Mills would have the grades to make it to Nebraska. Once it was announced that he would be eligible, it was assumed he would share time with Washington and they would become a thunder and lightning kind of duo. Through two games, Mills has not delivered on his end.
Last week, it could be excused as the offensive line played poorly and no one was able to run for the Huskers. Today, Washington and Martinez both got a lot done on the ground while Mills was noticeably silent. Mills ran for 24 yards on eight carries, good for three yards per run. He had a total of 10 touches compared to Washington’s 19. That split may continue to widen if Mills isn’t able to turn his performances around.
I try not to repeat something I said last week, but this feels like it will be a problem for the Huskers all season long. After a solid first half where they were able to keep the Colorado pass rush at bay, the floodgates opened in the second half. The offensive line gave up six sacks in the second half and overtime. When the quarterback is Adrian Martinez, those numbers should not be that high.
It was also noticeable how running lanes tightened up in the second half. This was especially obvious in overtime as the first two runs were stuffed at the line of scrimmage and the third play was a sack. Colorado’s pass rush is one of the better groups the offensive line will see this season, but their play needs to improve to make things easier on the rest of the offense.
Overtime play calling
This is kind of cheating, but it needs to be addressed. In the fourth quarter, when Nebraska went for it on fourth down in the red zone, the coaching staff put their faith in Nebraska’s best offensive player with a qb draw. There was none of that in overtime.
The three play calls were two runs and then a pass play on third and long. None of those plays allowed Martinez the chance to shine. In overtime, when the game is on the line, the team should put its trust in its best player like what was done earlier. The fact Martinez didn’t have a chance to lead the team to victory is something that should be addressed this week and changes should be made.