Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Play of the Game: Kyle Vantrease’s Go-Ahead Touchdown Run

September 10, 2022

After a 98-yard drive full of debacles, Nebraska took the lead late in the fourth quarter.

Earlier in the drive, Logan Smothers came in for a single play, ran for 10 yards and lost a fumble, until that fumble was overturned. Six plays later, Casey Thompson seemed to connect with Marcus Washington for a touchdown, but a late breakup caused the call on the field to be incomplete. That was overturned too — Washington caught it and was ruled down at the 1-yard line. Running back Anthony Grant was stuffed once, then Thompson ran it in himself.

With over three minutes left at that point and Nebraska up 42-38, the game wasn’t done with quite yet. The last four Georgia Southern touchdown drives lasted less than three minutes.

The Husker defense, having already given up 567 yards, had their chances to seal it. They forced the Eagles into a fourth-and-short. Georgia Southern converted it with a pass. The next play, defensive back Tommi Hill had an opportunity for a difficult interception and couldn’t come up with it. After another first down, Nebraska dropped another potential interception. On third down in Nebraska territory, Kyle Vantrease connected with a receiver for 27 yards to put the Eagles in the redzone. Hill was called for holding on the next play.

Finally, Vantrease took a snap, tucked it, ran, fought through two Nebraska defenders and reached the ball into the endzone. The quarterback who led Buffalo to three points against Nebraska last year put Georgia Southern up 45-42 with 36 seconds to go, and that score stuck.

While one play can’t come close to describing Saturday night’s disaster, Vantrease’s touchdown sits as the top candidate for Play of the Game.

“We got beat today, I think we got out-schemed, didn’t really have an answer on one side of the ball,” coach Scott Frost said postgame. “We could’ve played better in some other areas too, but they got after us.”

Nebraska did move down the field in the final 30 seconds, setting up a potential game-tying 52-yard field goal from Timmy Bleekrode. That kick fell wide left, putting the final nail in the coffin.

The offense, wearing its “scoring explosion” alternates, did its job. Thompson had 318 passing yards and four total touchdowns, three coming on the ground. Anthony Grant had another great performance, racking up 138 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. Washington had 123 receiving yards. Trey Palmer had 81.

However, the defense never really came through. In the first half, the Huskers made just two stops, both arguably unforced errors by Georgia Southern. One came from a errant deep pass from Vantrease, which was picked by Marques Buford Jr.. The second was right before halftime, when a chaotic goal-line sequence for the Eagles ended with a clock runoff due to an offensive penalty.

Buford also made the biggest stop late. Vantrease was hit as he threw in Nebraska territory, and the defensive back made his second interception, this time at the 2-yard line. That not only stopped Georgia Southern from extending its lead, but set up the 98-yard go-ahead drive for the Huskers.

Vantrease ended up getting his revenge though, with his goal-line effort putting one of the final touches on one of the most inexplicable losses of the Scott Frost era, if not the most.

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