Nebraska got off to a great start in the first quarter, but after that the offense sputtered. After 17 first-quarter points, the Huskers failed to score a point in the second and third quarters. Clinging to a 17-15 lead early in the fourth quarter, Nebraska needed to find some kind of spark. Enter Stanley Morgan Jr.
Faced with a third-and-9 at its own 28-yard line, it looked like the Nebraska offense might make an early exit from the field and come up empty yet again. The Huskers lined up with 11 personnel, including one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers. Morgan lined up as the solo receiver on the left side with tight end Sam Cotton lined up inside. The receivers took off down field, and Morgan angled toward the sideline.
Quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. dropped back, felt pressure, rolled out of the pocket, took off towards the numbers and unleashed another of his infamous ‘YOLO-balls.’ Morgan was pretty well covered with three defensive backs around him, but he read Armstrong’s throw more quickly than the defense did and cut back inside to make the catch.
“I just saw that it was a little inside, so I just pushed it inside and things worked out,” Morgan said.
— Nebraska On BTN (@NebraskaOnBTN) October 15, 2016
Indiana’s Rashard Fant overran the play and took out the other two Indiana defensive backs in the process, throwing what ended up being one heck of a block that freed up Morgan to run 45 yards straight down field.
The play went for 72 yards and a score and is Nebraska’s longest play from scrimmage this season to date, as well as Morgan’s first touchdown catch of the season.
“Just like we drew it up,” Coach Mike Riley joked during his post-game press conerence.
In reality, Morgan said he was supposed to run a simple stop route, but when he saw Armstrong escape the pocket it became a scramble drill, something the sophomore wideout admitted that he struggled with early.
“At the beginning of the game I kind of was struggling little bit on the scramble drill, so Coach Dub [Keith Williams] came up to me and said ‘Big-time players make big-time plays when you need it,’ so that’s what I had to do,” Morgan said.
Armstrong was struggling mightily as well, and was just 9-of-25 for 136 yards and two interceptions prior to the pass. But on third-and-long, Nebraska had no choice but to put the ball in the banged-up Armstrong’s hands, and the senior delivered.
“They covered it pretty well, pressured, and [Tommy] got out of it,” offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said. “He made a big play. You’ve got to take some of the good with the bad and take some of the bad with the good.”
Facing a much-improved Indiana defense with an injury-riddled offense, Nebraska turned to one of its few healthy playmakers to give them a spark. Morgan stepped up to the plate and delivered a home-run shot that put the Huskers back up two scores. Had Nebraska failed to convert and Indiana scored on the following drive, the Huskers would have been playing from behind and the game would have changed completely. That’s why Morgan’s 72-yard touchdown reception 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.