LINCOLN, Neb. — With 51 percent of the vote on Twitter, the fans have named De’Mornay Pierson-El’s 40-yard touchdown in the third quarter the play of the game against Purdue.
Quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. found wide receiver Brandon Reilly on third and nine for a 28-yard pick-up, moving the Huskers into Purdue territory. After Terrell Newby got stuffed on first down, the huskers faced second and 11 from the Purdue 40-yard line with 7:56 to go in the third quarter.
The Huskers lined up in 11 personnel with two receivers to the right, one to the left and a back and a tight end in the backfield. The slot receiver, Brandon Reilly, runs out into the flat to occupy a Purdue defensive back while the outside receiver, Pierson-El, ran a slant.
The offensive line, running back and tight end all hold up long enough to give Armstrong time to stand in the pocket and he threw a strike to Pierson-El angling toward the middle of the field.
Purdue cornerback Tim Cason is just a step behind Pierson-El when the ball arrives but whiffs on a tackle attempt, allowing Pierson-El to turn a first down into an even bigger gain. Free Safety Navon Mosely is between Pierson-El and the end zone, but Pierson-El angles around him while receiver Bryan Reimers blocks off the weak side defensive back from getting involved in the play. At that point, it’s a race to the end zone and Pierson-El wins it easily, strolling into the end zone untouched to give Nebraska a 17-14 lead.
“He had a really nice route,” offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said. “We had an option there to possibly run and we had a really good route on a slant that he slipped under the corner and then split the coverage. It was a really nice route and Tommy had to hold it a little bit longer to get it there, but it was a good looking play.”
The touchdown was the second reception of the day for Pierson-El, with the first also coming on a slant and gaining 23 yards. He finished with three catches for 69 yards, tying his season-high for receptions and recording the most receiving yards since the final game of his freshman year. Pierson-El caught eight passes for 102 yards in the bowl game against USC, both career highs.
The touchdown was his first since the Minnesota game last year, his only score in 2015.
“I’m just happy I scored,” Pierson-El said. “It feels good, a long time waiting. A long road, my knee injury and everything like that, so I mean it felt really good getting one.”
The touchdown gave the Huskers the lead for good and jump-starting the offense, and from that point they were able to tack on another touchdown and a field goal to stretch out the lead. That is why De’Mornay Pierson-El’s 40-yard 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.