The fourth-and-3 stop was the one that got the crowd’s attention.
Buffalo’s offense went for it near midfield. The Bulls wanted to get one of their best players, Ron Cook Jr., the ball in space. Maybe he’d make a guy miss.
Quarterback Kyle Vantrease took the snap and threw a quick swing pass to Cook. Husker fans remember how that went, though. Linebacker Luke Reimer stopped Cook 1-yard short of the first-down marker. It was like Reimer was shot out of a cannon the way he closed on Cook and landed a big shot to the Bulls’ running back to force a turnover on downs.
“You just have to go attack and be violent with my finishes on my tackles, and that’s what I did,” Reimer said after the Huskers’ 28-3 win on Saturday.
But that was just one of Reimer’s team- and career-high 16 tackles. Another of his highlight plays—of which there were many—turned into a Nebraska touchdown.
Buffalo faced a first-and-10 from its own 16. Reimer took on a block from a tight end, but Vantrease’s pass was low enough to where Reimer could get his left paw on it. The ball tipped up into the hot air and fell right into his hands. From there, it was like he was carrying the ball for the Lincoln North Star Navigators again. He wound up stiff-arming Vantrease into the turf and was knocked out just short of the goal line, at the 1.
— Nebraska On BTN (@NebraskaOnBTN) September 11, 2021
“Brought me back to my high school days, running the ball a little bit,” Reimer said with a laugh.
One play later, defensive lineman Deontre Thomas lined up at fullback in an I-formation, and running back Gabe Ervin Jr. scored the walk-in touchdown that put the Huskers up 21-3 in the fourth quarter.
Reimer, a Kansas native who moved to Lincoln before his junior year of high school, was everywhere on Saturday. He played sideline to sideline. Created havoc. His head coach noticed.
“That’s the stuff we’ve seen from Luke from his first day here,” Scott Frost said. “A kid from northwest 12th street in Lincoln who lived eight houses from my parents. We were lucky enough to get him to walk on, and it was about the second day that we figured we should give him a scholarship. He’s going to make a lot of plays around here.”
The linebacker’s career day came against the only FBS program to offer him a scholarship out of high school. What the third-year sophomore has done—a former eight-man player and walk-on who turned himself into a starting linebacker in the Big Ten—is something his teammates respect. They know the work he puts in.
But no one on the team might know Reimer better than his roommate and fellow starter on the defense at outside linebacker, Garrett Nelson. Those two share similarities. Both are from small towns in the midwest—Nelson is from Scottsbluff, Nebraska, while Reimer is from Ashland, Kansas, population 807. Both play with their hair on fire and are uber-aggressive defenders.
Nelson, who finished with three tackles and two for a loss against the Bulls, understands what makes Reimer tick.
“You have one life, and he’s the type of dude that doesn’t want to waste it,” Nelson said. “He knew what he was capable was. He bet on himself.”
Frost said he sees the athletic ability all the time in practice. Fans got to see it at Illinois, when Reimer sprinted down the field and punched the ball out of a receiver’s hands for a forced fumble.
But for Nelson, it goes deeper than that. Fans see the finished product on Saturdays after a week of practice. But he knows the work that’s put in to achieving what Reimer has done.
“Everybody has their mountain to climb. And I think we’re all still climbing it as players, as a defense,” Nelson said of Reimer. “The ceiling is limitless for everybody, not just him. His potential is massive, and he’s fulfilling that potential, you can see it.”
Reimer is a confident guy, sure. You have to be as a linebacker in the Big Ten. But did he figure he’d be having the success he’s had when he was deciding whether or not to walk-on at Nebraska?
“I didn’t know what I was expecting when I walked on here,” he said. “I just got in here and got to work, and it’s paid off so far.”
Now, it’s on to Oklahoma. Living in Kansas for most of his life, Reimer watched more Big 12 and Sooner football than he did Big Ten and the Huskers. The Oklahoma film can wait until the morning. After 16 tackles, he deserves to take the night off. Put his feet up and relax.
“But on Sunday, tomorrow, it’s on to Oklahoma,” he said.