On a day featuring 620 yards of total offense and 19 explosive plays, there were many candidates for Play of the Game.
Turnovers aside, Rutgers was Adrian Martinez’s most productive game as a Husker. After being held scoreless all season, Wan’Dale Robinson finally found his way into the end zone — twice. Cam Taylor-Britt hauled in his second interception of the season.
However, although he didn’t score any of Nebraska’s four touchdowns, this game was still all about Dedrick Mills, and his longest run of the day that set up the go-ahead touchdown is this week’s Play of the Game.
Nebraska started the fourth quarter with a stop, forcing a Rutgers punt, but Adam Korsak pinned the Huskers inside their own 10-yard line at the 8. Martinez picked up 6 yards on a first-down carry, which means Nebraska had the whole playbook available on second-and-4.
Nebraska lined up with two receivers to the left, two to the right and Mills next to Martinez in the backfield. With Martinez having so much success on the ground himself, the left defensive end crashed inside in case the quarterback kept the ball on the mesh. He didn’t.
Tight end Travis Vokolek made the key block as Mills turned on the burners and got downfield before the linebackers could rotate over to cut him off. The wideout made a block too further downfield as Mills made a nice move to avoid the safety flying forward for the diving tackle attempt.
Eventually the other safety tackled him, but not before he picked up 50 yards and completely flipped the field.
“What I saw most of the time I was running, the more I ran the ball between the tackles, the more they didn’t want to hit me,” Mills said. “So I just kept pounding and pounding and pounding away until they really gave up. That’s what happened toward the end of the game. O-line did a great job blocking today, Adrian did a good job running. We had a few mistakes — we’ve got to fix those — but other than that, everybody played their tail off today.”
Robinson gave Mills a chance to catch his breath with a couple of carries sandwiching a 16-yard pass to Vokolek. Two more runs (one by Martinez and one by Robinson) gave the Huskers third-and-goal at the 1. Nebraska tried the quarterback sneak, but the Scarlet Knights knocked Martinez back. However, Mills was there to catch his quarterback and give him another push forward, and the second effort broke the plane for the go-ahead touchdown. Mills didn’t get credit for the score, but he certainly played a part.
— Nebraska On BTN (@NebraskaOnBTN) December 19, 2020
The 92-yard drive was Nebraska’s third touchdown drive of the half of 90-plus yards, making Nebraska the first FBS team all season with three such drives in one half.
Taylor-Britt’s interception gave the Huskers the ball back with a 28-21 lead and the offense ran the last 7:35 off the clock to seal the victory.
Mills finished with a career-high 191 yards on 25 carries (7.6 yards per carry) and added six receptions on six targets for another 45 yards. He had runs of 43, 14 and 11 yards in addition to the 50-yarder, and he also had a 15-yard catch-and-run.
“I think he was more healthy,” Coach Scott Frost said. “He’s been nursing a few things for the past few weeks. I thought he ran hard. We had some warriors out there tonight. Wan’Dale got a really good shot and had the rib bruise and man, he battled. Mills was a warrior tonight. A bunch of the guys on defense were warriors. I was impressed with the way Millsy ran it tonight. He’s a team guy. I also thought the o-line — I have to watch the tape, but I feel like they probably played their best game tonight. That’s an encouraging thing, particularly playing four young players on the o-line.”
True freshman left tackle Turnover Corcoran made his first start in place of Brenden Jaimes, giving the Huskers a pair of freshman tackles to run behind. Even so, Nebraska racked up a season-high 365 yards on the ground with Martinez accounting for 157 of them as well.
Now, like all the other seniors, Mills has a decision to make. He said we’ll probably see something in the next few days to a week. Whether or not Nebraska plays in a bowl game is still up in the air, but if this was the punching back’s final game in a Nebraska uniform, he certainly left us with a great last impression.
“We just knew we had to get this one for the seniors and for Collin [Miller] especially because he’s not able to play football any more at the moment,” Mills said. “So I really just went out and gave everything I had for my team, laid everything on the line and we came out with this victory.”
Dedrick Mills didn’t score any of Nebraska’s touchdowns, but Nebraska fed him all night long to wear down the Scarlet Knight defense, and he responded with the best performance of his collegiate career.
That’s why Mills’ 50-yard run that set up Nebraska’s go-ahead touchdown is this week’s Play of the Game.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.