Any time a game is decided by a late touchdown, you can bet on the score being the play of the game. After taking a 3-0 lead, Nebraska spent the rest of the night playing from behind until one play changed the game — and the outlook for the season. This week’s play of the game is Stanley Morgan Jr.’s touchdown catch with 14 seconds to go.
On fourth and 6 with less than four minutes to go, Nebraska failed to convert, handing the ball back to the Boilermakers looking to hold onto a 24-19 lead. However, the defense bowed up and five plays later Purdue punted back to the Huskers, giving them one last chance.
“I think it was a little disappointing not to get it done on the drive before, but when it mattered most our defense got a stop, did their job, got us the ball,” junior quarterback Tanner Lee said. “We knew it would be tough with no timeouts but I think everybody wanted to get it done and I think everybody knew we could. All game we were kind of right there, right there but we couldn’t get in."
Nebraska’s drive started on its own 30-yard line with 82 seconds on the clock. Quarterback Tanner Lee picked apart the Purdue defense, working the sidelines for chunks of yardage while his receivers got out of bounds after nearly every catch.
Lee’s first and only incomplete pass of the drive came with 14 seconds left on second down, setting up third and 4 from the 13-yard line. Nebraska lined up in 11 personnel with Morgan and JD Spielman stacked to the left of left tackle Nick Gates, tight end Tyler Hoppes to the right of right tackle Brenden Jaimes and flanker De’Mornay Pierson-El split out wide right.
Spielman ran a short out near the line to gain while Morgan kept going and ran a post, catching the ball and avoiding an approaching Boilermaker to fall over the line and give the Huskers the lead.
“It was just a quick post to Stanley Morgan off of a tight split and Stan had been running a lot of corners, a lot of out-breakers throughout the game,” Coach Mike Riley said. “It was a nice call, change-up, curve-ball call that got in there for a nice touchdown. It was really, really well-done. In the coverage they were playing, the ball had to be thrown quickly, on-time before they could overlap that middle of the field player.”
— Derek Peterson (@DrPeteyHV) October 29, 2017
As Riley said, the timing had to be perfect as the window was tight, but Morgan found the perfect spot and Lee put the ball on the money.
“It’s a post route kind of by Stanley,” Lee said. “He can kind of run it a few different ways depending on the coverage. We’ve been coached up on that play just tirelessly and we finally had an opportunity to make it work and we executed it well. That’s the play that gave us the win, so it was good to see it all come together.”
Nebraska failed to convert the ensuing two-point conversion, but the defense got a stop to seal the game.
Morgan said he got excited when he heard the play call and wanted to come through for his teammates.
“I loved the play call, it was great,” Morgan said. “I saw the coverage, saw it was cover two. I run that play different types of ways as T-Lee said so I knew I was going to come through with the catch … It was great to come through for the team. The team looks for big plays and playmakers and it sees me as one of those, as a leader. It felt great.”
Needing one last drive to salvage the season, Nebraska put the ball in the hands of its veteran quarterback and together with his best playmakers, he delivered. That’s why Stanley Morgan Jr.’s 13-yard go-ahead touchdown catch with 14 seconds left 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.