Nebraska vs. Fordham Photo No. 23

Nebraska fans cheer after the Huskers get the first touchdown during the game against Fordham at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

On the whole, it’s very difficult to find many things wrong with a 52-7 victory, the final score of the Huskers’ triumph over Fordham on Saturday afternoon.

The Huskers’ margin of victory, the fact that a good portion of Nebraska’s roster got to play and Nebraska’s sheer dominance from late in the second quarter no-doubt left a good portion of Husker fans feeling rather satisfied with Saturday’s outcome. 

That doesn’t mean there weren’t nervy moments, though. Nebraska head coach Scott Frost lamented his team’s slow start postgame, a start that saw the Rams hang with Nebraska for almost the entirety of the first half. 

Senior linebacker JoJo Domann and senior safety Deontai Williams both noted following the victory that Fordham came out with a quality gameplan early on, and both credited Fordham for properly reacting to the Huskers’ defensive alignments.

“[Fordham] had a great scheme at first, and then we caught on, then we had it shut down,” Williams said postgame, alluding to the mere 71 yards the Rams managed in the second half.

Junior quarterback Adrian Martinez put the ball on the ground during the Huskers’ first drive. Junior cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt turned the ball over on punt return duty for the second consecutive week. Late in the game, freshman quarterback Logan Smothers lost a fumble following a nice run deep into Fordham territory. 

So no, Saturday’s game wasn’t entirely perfect. But, at least according to Frost, there was progress made. What’s more, Saturday served as a perfect morale boost for a team desperately looking to rebound from last weekend’s crushing loss to Illinois.

“We definitely needed this one, and we knew we were going to come out and play like this,” senior wide receiver Samori Toure said postgame. “...We won’t let a first game loss hang over our heads for too long.”

Toure’s efforts on Saturday were the highlight of a day filled with feel-good performances for Nebraska. He and Martinez showed their increasingly-apparent chemistry, linking eight times for a game-high 133 yards. Toure also found success on the ground for the second consecutive week, running the option with Martinez three times, resulting in 35 yards and his first Husker touchdown.

Joining Toure in the 100-yard club was sophomore running back Markese Stepp, who led all rushers with 101 yards on the ground. All in all, Stepp’s performance highlighted a better performance from the offensive line in both run and pass blocking. 

Of course, the level of competition must be taken into consideration, but Nebraska managed an impressive 5.1 yards per carry. In addition to leading the team in total rushing yards, Stepp led all Husker running backs with 5.6 yards per carry. 

“It wasn’t a surprise to me or anyone else because we know what we’re capable of,” Stepp said postgame. “... I believe we’re capable of doing this against every team, in my opinion.”

Martinez, who said postgame he felt calmer Saturday afternoon than he did last week against Illinois, moved in the pocket relatively pressure-free, and his completion numbers back that up. The quarterback completed 17-of-23 passes for 254 yards and one touchdown pass, while adding two touchdowns on the ground.

Domann recorded his first career interception. Williams recorded two of his own. Sophomore defensive back Quinton Newsome recorded the Huskers’ lone sack. On the whole, there are many more positives to take away from Saturday than negatives.

The most impressive storyline from Saturday, though, didn’t come from anyone on Nebraska’s sideline. It instead came from Fordham senior linebacker Ryan Greenhagan, who statistically delivered one of the most impressive single-game defensive performances in the history of college football.

Greenhagan recorded 30 tackles against the Huskers on Saturday, which tied an NCAA record for the most tackles in a single game. He accounted for 30% of Fordham’s tackles on the afternoon, and about 20% of all tackles recorded in Saturday’s contest. It was an incredibly dominant single-game effort, an effort that drew high praise from every Husker player that spoke postgame.

“47 [Greenhagan’s number]... he’s mean, he made every tackle,” Stepp, unprompted, said postgame about Fordham’s star linebacker. “He’s nice for real, I ain’t gonna lie.”

When told in response that Greenhagan finished with 30 tackles, a look of admiration on Stepp’s face immediately turned to shock and awe. He didn’t believe it, asking to see the postgame statistics from media members to confirm such an outlandish and incredible statline.

Stories like Smothers getting his first collegiate action, or that seven Nebraska running backs saw action on Saturday will ultimately be what is remembered from Saturday’s victory. It’s incredibly easy to nitpick, but at the end of the day Nebraska followed through with what was expected of it — a comfortable victory behind a full-capacity crowd for the first time since 2019.

And after the week that Frost’s crew has had, today’s performance is all the more enjoyable.

sports@dailynebraskan.com