Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Play of the Game: Myles Farmer’s Fourth-Quarter Interception

October 08, 2022

Nebraska has won back to-back conference games for the first time since 2018 after pulling off a 14-13 victory at Rutgers on Friday, though it was far from smooth sailing.

Nebraska played from behind for most of the night with the offense sputtering along. The Huskers needed a turnover to give the offense a short field, and that’s exactly what happened.

This week’s Play of the Game is Myles Farmer’s fourth-quarter interception.

Rutgers led 13-7 midway through the fourth quarter. After a 3-yard run on the first play of its drive, the officials whistled the Scarlet Knights for a holding penalty, knocking Rutgers back 10 yards and giving the Huskers a situation they could take advantage of.

On second-and-17, Rutgers lined up with split backs in the backfield, two receivers to the left and one to the right. Nebraska countered with its nickel defense featuring Malcolm Hartzog in press coverage on the receiver to the bottom of the formation. Farmer was the safety over the top on that side of the field.

On the snap, sophomore quarterback Evan Simon dropped back to pass and Hartzog blitzed instead of dropping back, joining the front four in going after the quarterback. The back to that side did a good job of picking up the blitz, however, and the Scarlet Knights gave Simon a clean pocket.

Nebraska had decent coverage across the board as Farmer picked up the receiver that Hartzog released to rush the passer. Either Simon and the receiver, Shameen Jones, had a miscommunication or Simon just made a terrible read as Farmer had the inside lane cut off. Simon threw it there anyway and Farmer picked off the pass, running it back 17 yards to give the offense the ball at the Rutgers 27-yard line.

“I was really just playing man,” Farmer said. “It was like a disguise. They needed a first down. I knew he was going to run a route to the sticks, so I just played it how they taught me how to play it.”

The Huskers forced a turnover in the third quarter as well with a Brandon Moore interception, but the offense wasn’t able to do anything with the extra possession as the following drive stalled out and ended in a failed fourth-down conversion attempt. This time, the Huskers grabbed onto the momentum and took advantage of the great field position.

“That turned the whole sideline up,” Farmer said. “That changed the flow of the game. That’s what a turnover will do. That’s why they want us to get turnovers on defense.”

On the first play after the pick, Mark Whipple dialed up a shot up the hash marks for Trey Palmer and Casey Thompson dropped it in the bucket for the go-ahead score with just under nine minutes to play.

Farmer was one of Nebraska’s most experienced players in the secondary coming into the season, but he had struggled through the first few weeks. He did his job on Friday night, however, and finished with five tackles to go with his takeaway.

“Myles made a big play,” Coach Mickey Joseph said. “Myles struggled the first couple of weeks, he struggled with the first couple of weeks with this scheme. But I stayed on Myles. I called Myles into my office, I stayed on Myles because I know Myles is a good player. I know Myles is a really good player and we need his leadership out there. So I stayed on him, Fish stayed on and Billy stayed on him, and he showed up. He showed up today with a big play.”

The game was far from over at that point with Nebraska clinging to a one-point lead with plenty of time to go. However, the defense continued to take care of business. After giving up one first down on the following drive, a Garrett Nelson sack derailed the possession and led to a punt.

The offense chewed up nearly five minutes of game clock (thanks in part to an unnecessary roughness penalty that extended the drive) before punting the ball back to the Scarlet Knights with 63 seconds remaining. Nebraska forced an incomplete pass on first down, Ochaun Mathis tipped an incomplete pass on second down and Hartzog sealed the game with another interception on third down.

The Huskers gave up a pretty easy opening-drive touchdown, surrendering 75 yards and seven points on six plays. From that point on, however, the defense held Rutgers to 273 yards and two field goals on 62 plays the rest of the game.

“That’s football,” Nelson said. “You’re in a hostile environment, away game, you have to settle into the game. It’s hard that first drive, getting your eyes right and settling into it. Up front, we just needed to go back to the fundamentals of football, striking your man, getting your eyes right, tackling and things like that … Just settling into the game, reminding dudes to take it one series, one play at a time. Take a breath, it’s not going that fast. Just be on the field, look at each other. The other leaders on that defense and all those guys on the defense have done a really good job of just kind of coming back to the field as a unit knowing what we needed to do, know the job we needed to do.”

The defense held Rutgers to a field goal after a punt block (credit to Blaise Gunnerson for making the hustle play on the punt itself to prevent a scoop and score), and Rutgers wasn’t able to score after either of Nebraska’s two turnovers.

Farmer said the defense’s second-half performance in the last two games — holding both Indiana and Rutgers without a point — tells them that “there’s something there” with that unit.

Simon made a bad throw, but the Huskers were ready to capitalize on it and make a game-changing play.

That’s why Myles Farmer’s fourth-quarter interception that set up Trey Palmer’s go-ahead touchdown is this week’s Play of the Game.

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