It’s early in the fourth quarter and Nebraska is up 47-0. The game has been put to bed well before now, so Nebraska is playing some guys who don’t normally see the field. Luke Reimer, a freshman walk-on inside linebacker, absolutely blows up a run play to open the drive, then has a tackle in coverage after a 12-yard Terrapin completion (their longest pass play of the night). That play gets followed up by a forced fumble from redshirt freshman walk-on inside ‘backer Joseph Johnson.
Nebraska scores off the takeaway, it’s fourth of the evening.
Maryland got a good-for-morale kind of touchdown on its last drive to ensure it wouldn’t be the first Nebraska shutout in a decade, but the Huskers sat on the ball to run out the clock after. A 54-7 win—the most complete game of the season for Nebraska—to move the Huskers to 5-6 on the year and keep bowl hopes alive heading into Senior Day.
Senior inside linebacker, and team captain, Mohamed Barry was asked after the game about Reimer and Johnson making plays at the end. How good that was to see. Barry talks often about the youth and the build awaiting the team after he leaves, how he wants to set the Huskers up for more, how he feels he owes the program that. He was excited for the two freshmen. Ballers, he called them.
“And Chris Cassidy,” he said, sharply.
Don’t forget Chris Cassidy, another redshirt freshman linebacker learning the ropes from the senior.
Barry is cerebral in fun ways. He talks about rushing numbers days after games, knowing them like he’s burned them into his memory. He catches things that would otherwise slide right by. If a teammate deserves mentioning, he’s not going to gloss over them.
This largely insignificant detail under a tent pitched in the cold, rainy Maryland night felt significant.
Barry hypes up his teammates almost more than himself sometimes. Funny considering they all have their own impersonations of Barry celebrations. Outside linebacker Alex Davis is a constant source of pride for Barry. Georgia boys, like Barry, are rooted for regardless of where they’ve ended up; junior running back Dedrick Mills has become like a brother and he’s been here something like six months.
He was the most vocal proponent of Nebraska’s quest for a Big Ten West title this offseason, and his last season in Lincoln won’t end the way he hoped, but he’s going to have that shot at that grand finale next week after all thanks to what Nebraska put on the field Saturday against a downtrodden Maryland team.
The Husker defense held the Terrapins to 4 yards per play and nine first downs. The defense gave up just five of the 14 third downs it faced and slammed the door on all three of UM’s fourth-down attempts. Maryland didn’t run a play from Nebraska’s red zone.
Johnson’s forced fumble was the last takeaway of the game. The first came on Maryland’s first play from scrimmage.
“It does everything for us,” outside linebacker JoJo Domann said. “We took it to them pretty much the whole game, and it started on the first play. That’s the type of energy, that’s the type of passion that we need to carry over to next week.”
More: Play of the Game | Gallery | They Said It: Frost, Players
No doubt, Domann said, about pulling this one out. Not even a sliver. “It showed,” he added. And it did. Nebraska didn’t seem a team waiting for a collapse.
The 54 points were a season-high. The 64% completion rate from sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez was his best since the Illinois game two months prior. The yards surrendered by the defense—total, rushing and passing—were the fewest allowed in conference play so far.
Maryland wasn’t—and to most casual observers, isn’t—any good, but Nebraska looked different in a way that isn’t just related to one team playing another far its inferior.
“I was really happy with the team just having the enthusiasm they had,” head coach Scott Frost said after. “Playing for each other and playing together. I feel like that was the difference.
“We challenged them not to let one play get made without someone getting on their hat and congratulating them about the play. That type of enthusiasm is infectious and can help you play better.”
Another seemingly insignificant detail.
“We’re more vocal than we are physical,” senior defensive lineman Darrion Daniels said. “Today during the pregame talk, it was just one of those things where he showed us the difference between, ‘Hey man, good job,’ and then actually putting your hands on them and sharing energy with one another.”
Energy is contagious. But physical is different. You know when you text someone “lol” or “lmao” and you do it completely straight-faced? That kind of thing. Jumping on top of a dude and slapping his helmet and being so excited for a teammate that you physically have to move? That’s what Frost was talking about.
“They’re showing you they’re there for you and they see what you’re doing,” Mills said. “It’s just exciting.”
It’s what that physical act conveys.
“Playing for your brothers and not yourself,” Domann said. “Are you making plays so you can flex out there or are you making plays for your brothers and for the common goal? It was just his way of encouraging us to play for each other.”
Watch Martinez’s reaction when freshman quarterback Luke McCaffrey darts up the middle for the Huskers’ final touchdown, McCaffrey’s first career rushing score.
Watch the defense when safety Marquel Dismuke runs that first takeaway back inside Maryland’s 15-yard-line, setting the tone for a day in which Nebraska would finally find some things to cheer and feel good about. You won’t see flexing. You’ll see Daniels. You’ll see Lamar Jackson.
You’ll see Barry.
“I feel like that,” Frost said, “was the difference.”
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.