In a game that included seven touchdowns, five takeaways and a 19-point margin of victory for the Huskers, it’s hard to pick out any one play as the pivotal point of the game. With that being the case, I opened up the selection process to you, the people, via a Twitter poll.
More than 700 Husker fans cast their vote and with a whopping 65 percent, Devine Ozigbo’s 66-yard touchdown run is this week’s Play of the Game.
Fresh off a fumble by Illinois quarterback AJ Bush forced by safety Tre Neal and recovered by safety JoJo Domann, the Huskers took possession at their own 23-yard line. After two quick plays including an 8-yard gain by JD Spielman that moved the chains, the Huskers lined up on first-and-10 at their own 34. Nebraska had trips receivers to the right, a tight end lined up in-line on the left side and Ozigbo beside quarterback Adrian Martinez in the backfield.
— Jacob Padilla (@JacobPadilla_) November 10, 2018
Martinez handed the ball off to Ozigbo as right guard Boe Wilson pulled over to clear the way. The receivers set up for a bubble screen to JD Spielman on the right side, but the play is going the other way.
Center Tanner Farmer blocks one defensive tackle while Wilson pulling around clears out the other one. Right guard Jerald Foster jumps forward to take on the linebacker crowding the line while right tackle Matt Farniok scrapes off the weak side defensive end to get to the second level so he could block the other linebacker in the box. Tight end Auston Allen engages Illinois’ best lineman, end Robby Roundtree, on the strong side and allows left tackle Brenden Jaimes to leak out to the second level. The result of the scheme is a hat on a hat all across the line and a big hole for Ozigbo to run through as the weak side end that was turned free can’t get there in time to make the play.
There was one man left unaccounted for, free safety Tony Adams. It was on the ball-carrier to make him miss, and that’s exactly what Ozigbo did, showing some speed that fans just didn’t see much of from him during his first three seasons in Lincoln.
Cornerback Jartavius Martin actually bounced off the block by Farniok and kept on his feet, putting him in position to make the play. Ozigbo had other plans.
As Martin leaned in to try to wrap Ozigbo up around the legs, the 235-pound back put his hand on Martin’s back and shoved the 190-pound freshman into the turf, barely breaking stride.
Because of the trips on the far side and the screen set-up, Adams was the only safety deep. After running by Adams and through Martin, Ozigbo was home free. Three Illini gave chase, but they weren’t able to close the gap in the least bit as Ozigbo ran in his first of a career-high three touchdowns on the day.
“That’s exactly what I love,” Foster said. “I love that our running backs, they’re really working, Devine especially. I didn’t know he was that fast. He had some that I was like ‘Wow.’ My man was coming around the side just burning. He keeps doing what he does, hopefully we can get him to 1000 … Something like that’s big for us.”
The 66-yard run was the longest of his career to this point, besting his 59-yard run against Minnesota. Later in the game, he ripped off a 60-yard run and finished with 162 yards to go with his three scores.
Ozigbo credited the offensive line’s improvement for giving him the chance to make those kinds of runs, something that didn’t happen very often last season.
The senior became the 30th member of the school’s 2,000-yard rusher club during the game and is now just 42 yards shy of reaching 1000 rushing yards for this season.
“I can’t say enough about Devine,” Coach Scott Frost said. “When we first got here I didn’t know what we had in Devine. Watching him last year, he was a completely different player from what I saw on tape last year. He deserves a ton of credit for inheriting a new coaching staff, going to work, doing what we asked of him, being patient as we were playing some other guys and he was just in a rotation. And he persevered through all of that. Sometimes in this day and age we want what we want right now and when we don’t get it, you leave, or you quit or you stop working. It says a lot about who Devine is that he kept going.
“To me, he’s playing at an All-Big Ten level. I know there are other good backs in this league, but Devine’s consistent for us and making plays every week. I’m so happy for him that he’s shown the type of character that it takes to persevere what he’s gone through.”
There were plenty of standout plays from Saturday’s 54-35 win over Illinois, but out of that mix Nebraska fans chose Devine Ozigbo’s 66-yard touchdown run as 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.