The Nebraska football team earned its second consecutive win of the year with a 45-9 victory over Bethune-Cookman on Saturday. The Huskers are now 2-6 on the season, while the Wildcats fell to 4-5 with the loss.
Special teams success
The Huskers had perhaps their best game on special teams against Bethune-Cookman. On the Wildcats’ first punt of the day, sophomore wide receiver JD Spielman took the ball 77 yards for a punt return touchdown. The score was the first special teams touchdown for Nebraska this season and the first punt returned for six since De’Mornay Pierson-El ran one back against Iowa in 2014.
Both specialists for Nebraska also had good performances. Freshman kicker Barret Pickering made every single kick he attempted.. He converted all six extra points and a field goal and is now 7-11 on field goals and 27-28 on PATs this season.
Junior punter Isaac Armstrong didn’t get on the field until the third quarter, but when he did, he showed off his leg by booting three punts for an average of 57.3 yards. Two of his punts were downed inside the 20-yard line and none were returned. The first one came from Nebraska’s nine-yard line and traveled 73 yards before being downed at Bethune-Cookman’s 18. He also kicked a 64-yard punt in the third quarter.
Bethune-Cookman only returned two kickoffs the entire game. After Nebraska’s opening drive touchdown, freshman cornerback Cam Taylor made a crucial open field tackle to stop the Wildcats’ Jimmie Robinson at Bethune Cookman’s 21-yard line. The Wildcats’ other return only netted 16 yards.
All facets of special teams, kicking, coverage and returning, were clicking for Nebraska today.
Defense still vulnerable to big plays
The Husker defense played aggressively against the Wildcats, forcing three turnovers and four sacks in the game. The aggressiveness also got them into some trouble at times, namely in the creation of big plays for Bethune-Cookman.
In the first quarter, Wildcat quarterback David Israel completed a 54-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Steffon Francois. The pass put Bethune-Cookman inside Nebraska’s 10-yard line and resulted in a field goal for the Wildcats. In the third quarter, the Nebraska defense surrendered another 40-yard pass from Israel to Francois.
On Bethune-Cookman’s first drive of the third quarter, Nebraska gave up 18 and 16-yard passes, both to senior wide receiver Keavon Mitchell, and a 17-yard run by junior running back Tupac Isme in a span of six plays.
On Bethune-Cookman’s lone touchdown drive of the game, Nebraska gave up 48 yards in two plays, including a 30-yard run by senior running back Alfred Adams.
Overall, the defense performed well on Saturday, forcing the three turnovers, six three-and-outs and only allowing two scores on four red zone trips for the Wildcats. The concern comes when one looks ahead in the Huskers’ schedule, notably Ohio State. While giving up yards in big chunks may not have cost the team this week, it certainly could affect the outcome of any of Nebraska’s remaining games.
Huskers show depth as backups shine
With Nebraska holding a comfortable 38-3 lead at the half, the Huskers backups took advantage of a chance to play in the second half. In total, 74 Nebraska players saw the field on Saturday.
The most notable of the reserves’ performances was junior running back Wyatt Mazour. The Albion, Nebraska native rushed for 55 yards on five attempts on the day, the second-most rushing yards of any individual in the game. Only senior running back Devine Ozigbo had more with 110.
Fellow Nebraska native Noah Vedral got his first chance to play on a fall Saturday with a red “N” on his helmet. The sophomore quarterback finished with just 29 passing yards on two completions. He found the end zone with his legs on a 20-yard scamper, but only finished the day with 13 yards on the ground after taking a pair of sacks.
Freshman running back Miles Jones also got his first taste of action. He finished with 28 total yards with one catch and one rushing attempt. Senior defensive lineman Matt Jarzynka recorded the first sack of his career on his first career snap in the fourth quarter.