Nebraska Football vs. Indiana Photo No. 18

Nebraska’s Ty Robinson (99) celebrates after getting a sack during the Homecoming game against Indiana at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

A tale of two halves. 

Nebraska football went into the locker room at halftime trailing 13-0. Its offense looked abysmal, mustering just 134 total yards and turning the ball over twice. The Husker defense helped avoid a bigger deficit, but gave up 191 passing yards to one of the country's worst passing offenses. 

In the second half, however, Nebraska came out on a mission. Its offense put up yards and the defense nabbed three turnovers of its own. The Huskers outscored Rutgers 14-0 in the final two quarters on their way to a 14-13 comeback victory. 

“We had to make them play four quarters,” Nebraska interim head coach Mickey Joseph said postgame. “Second half, we were really confident that we could come back and win the game.” 

However improbable, the win improved Nebraska to 3-3 on the year and 2-1 in the Big Ten. It marks the Huskers’ first back-to-back conference victories since 2018. 

Nebraska came out with some fire on the first drive of the second half. The Huskers marched down the field after struggling to move the ball all game. Junior running back Anthony Grant carried the load, catching three passes and rushing for a crucial fourth-down conversion.

Junior quarterback Casey Thompson capped off the nine-play, 70-yard drive with a quick pass over the middle to senior tight end Travis Vokolek, who was wide open in the endzone. The touchdown finally got the Huskers on the board, narrowing their deficit to 13-7.

“The fight in this team is incredible,” Vokolek said postgame. “We found ways to make plays and ultimately come out on top.” 

Although it ultimately fell short, Rutgers looked like the far superior team in the first half. Senior quarterback Noah Vedral, a former Husker backup, got the start under center after much speculation about who would get the call. He wasted no time making his impact felt, leading the Scarlet Knights down the field with ease for an opening drive touchdown. 

On the second snap of the drive, Vedral heaved the ball deep down the left sideline. With freshman corner Malcolm Hartzog all over him, senior wide receiver Shameen Jones hauled in a 33-yard catch to set the Scarlet Knights up in Nebraska territory. 

Just four plays later, Vedral took it himself off the left tackle aided by excellent blocking. He juked a Nebraska defender along the sideline and dove past the pylon for a 21-yard touchdown run, giving Rutgers an early 7-0 advantage.

After Nebraska’s first drive stalled out after just one first down, Rutgers got the ball back on its own 10-yard line. The Scarlet Knights attacked Hartzog again, this time connecting with senior wide receiver Sean Ryan bringing it in for a 34-yard gain. Rutgers was unable to capitalize, however, as Nebraska’s defense held up to force a punt. Nebraska sputtered out just three plays after taking possession and brought out the punt team. 

The Huskers blocked a punt for a touchdown last week but got a taste of their own medicine this time around. Rutgers blocked the kick and scooped it up, giving its offense excellent field position. Nebraska’s defense forced a Scarlet Knight three-and-out and a field goal that squeaked in the left upright, extending the Rutgers lead to 10-0. 

After both teams traded three-and-outs, Rutgers put together another solid drive with under nine minutes remaining in the half. On a second down play, Vedral connected with Jones for the receiver’s second massive play of the evening, this time a 43-yard gain that set up the Scarlet Knights just outside the red zone. Nebraska’s defense didn’t break though, forcing a 40-yard field goal that extended Rutgers' lead to 13-0

“Obviously we were frustrated,” Vokolek said. “We stayed the course, It’s a four-quarter game…We stuck to what we wanted to do, made some adjustments at half time.” 

As time winded down in the second quarter, Nebraska produced a strong offensive drive for the first time. Thompson rattled off back-to-back first downs on shallow crossers to Washington and junior wide receiver Trey Palmer, both with the pocket collapsing around him.

Feeling pressure on a second down snap in Rutgers territory, Thompson dumped off a screen to junior running back Anthony Grant who busted down the sideline for a big gain. On the following play, however, Thompson threw an untimely interception to kill all offensive momentum. The Huskers took a 13-0 deficit into halftime, but they still had hope.

“Right before the half we moved the ball down the field,” Thompson said postgame. “We knew we’d be fine.”

After Nebraska scored to begin the second half, sophomore quarterback Evan Simon subbed in for Rutgers. On his first drive of the third quarter, he moved into Husker territory before Nebraska senior cornerback Brandon Moore jumped in front of a pass and picked him off. 

Four Husker skill players touched the ball on the following drive, but it came to an end in plus-territory on a failed fourth down attempt. 

With just over nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Rutgers set up shop at their own 42. On second down, Simon was intercepted for the second time, this time by sophomore defensive back Myles Farmer. 

The Huskers wasted no time capitalizing on the turnover. On the first snap of the possession, Thompson fired deep down the field to Palmer, who hauled in the 27-yard dime for a touchdown. Nebraska took a 14-13 lead on the score, their first of the contest. 

“I just threw it to where only he could get it,” Thompson said.

With under six minutes remaining in the contest, the Huskers got the ball back. They used up over five minutes of game clock on the drive, giving Rutgers the ball back with 59 seconds to work with. 

Hartzog, who had been beaten for multiple big games earlier in the contest, sealed the game with an interception of Simon. One kneel-down later, the clock hit zeros and Nebraska ran off the field victorious. 

“Obviously it's awesome to win games,” junior edge rusher Garrett Nelson said postgame. “But I’m proud of the fact of how stuck together we are as a unit. As a defense, as an offense, as a team.”

The Huskers will attempt to extend their winning streak next weekend against Purdue. Kickoff against the Boilermakers is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 15. 

sports@dailynebraskan.com