For 20-something seniors, including 14 who saw the field, Friday marked the end of their Husker careers at Memorial Stadium. Unfortunately for them, it ended in defeat as Nebraska lost to Iowa on a last-second field goal.
However, the Huskers showed a lot of fight as they rallied to tie the game after quickly falling behind by two scores and a handful of seniors made some big plays. Let’s highlight a few of those plays, shall we?
We’re going to start with Darrion Daniels, the grad transfer who quickly won over his teammates after arriving from Oklahoma State to the point where they voted him a team captain.
The elder Daniels brother was all over the field on Saturday. He finished with six tackles, which tied a season-high for him and also tied him with fellow senior Mohamed Barry and junior safety Marquel Dismuke for team-high honors. Four of those tackles were solo, which also tied his season-high and was one shy of his career-high. Among those solo tackles was a tackle for loss in the second quarter which is what we’ll focus on here.
Early in the second quarter with Iowa leading 14-3, the Hawkeyes were driving. A 4-yard quarterback sneak on third and 3 moved Iowa into the red zone and gave the Hawkeyes a new set of downs at the 19. On first down, junior Ben Stille wrecked Iowa’s plans and tackled Tyrone Tracy for a loss of 9. On second and 19, the Hawkeyes kept the ball on the ground and handed it off to Tyler Goodson, though he didn’t get far because of Daniels.
Darrion Daniels showed up big-time on Nebraska's senior day. Here's his TFL from the second quarter. pic.twitter.com/ftENmzcqhp
— Jacob Padilla (@JacobPadilla_) November 30, 2019
Iowa tried to slant its blocks to the right, but Daniels got out of his stance in a hurry and exploded forward, swimming past the left guard and getting into the backfield before the left tackle could reach him. By the time Nate Stanley had handed the ball off to Goodson, Daniels was already a yard into the backfield and right in his path.
Goodson tried to spin out of the tackle, but Daniels wrapped him up and took him down for a loss of two. Daniels showed a lot of quickness and explosion for a man weighing 325 pounds (he says he’s not even close to the 340 they have him listed as on Nebraska’s roster) and the finished off the play with a great tackle.
On third down, JoJo Domann tackled Nico Ragaini at the line of scrimmage for no gain, forcing a field goal.
Daniels may have only spent six or so months in Nebraska’s program, but he certainly made a big impact and left a lasting impression on his teammates.
“Man, he’s had a huge impact, honestly,” Cam Taylor-Britt said. “Just having him come in and take control and be that leader that he is with the experience that he has, I love that guy. I’m so glad that he came into this program. He showed everybody a lot and he helped everybody keep a lot of confidence in themselves.”
We’ll stick on the defensive side of the ball for our second play here, another tackle for loss by a senior, Alex Davis.
Trailing 24-10 to start the second half, Nebraska opened the third quarter with a 10-play, 22-yard drive (yeah, you read that right) that ended in a punt. A scoring drive by Iowa would have all but ended the game.
Iowa handed the ball off to Goodson on first down and tried to run off right tackle. However, Domann set the edge while a pair of defensive linemen plugged up the running lanes in the A and B gaps. Seeing nowhere to run, Goodson tried to cut it back and reverse field.
Nebraska's linebackers haven't always been in the right place or made a sure tackle this season. Alex Davis did both of those to blow this play up. pic.twitter.com/DcgKFWxnTD
— Jacob Padilla (@JacobPadilla_) November 30, 2019
Too many times this season, Nebraska’s outside linebackers have either misread situations or tried too hard to make the play themselves and have given up runs to the edge or cut-back lanes in the process. Not this time. Davis was patient, kept contain and then made a sure tackle as Goodson tried to put a move on him.
The tackle for loss put the Hawkeyes behind schedule, and incomplete passes on second and third down led to an Iowa punt. Six plays later, Luke McCaffrey hit JD Spielman for a 39-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to one score.
Davis never quite developed into the dynamic pass-rusher the Huskers were hoping he’d be, but it was good to see him make a splash play in his final game. He had just 2.5 tackles for loss on the season heading into Saturday, and two of them came in week two against Colorado. He finished with three tackles overall against the Hawkeyes.
We’re going to flip over to the offensive side of the ball for our final play here.
Following the Spielman touchdown, the Blackshirts forced a three-and-out and a punt to get the ball back. Nebraska methodically moved the ball down the field, covering 49 yards in 12 plays. Dedrick Mills logged eight carries during that drive, the last of which was a 2-yard run that gave the Huskers a third and one at the 9-yard line.
Nebraska subbed Mills out after that play and sent in senior Wyatt Mazour, the 5-foot-9, 200-pound walk-on from Albion, Nebraska, who earned his way onto scholarship this year and last.
Martinez brought freshman tight end Chris Hickman across the formation on a motion then caught the snap and handed the ball off to Mazour, and the running back took it from there.
— Jacob Padilla (@JacobPadilla_) November 29, 2019
The offensive line blew Iowa’s defensive line off the ball for the most part, opening up a massive hole up the middle. Hickman picked off a would-be tackler as he came across the formation, leaving Mazour with one man to beat.
Mazour blew right by the guy for the first down then continued forward, splitting two defenders in the back end and falling forward into the end zone for the tying touchdown. It was his first touchdown of the season and the second of his career, and it allowed the Huskers to head into the fourth quarter on an even playing field with the Hawkeyes.
Mazour finished with 28 yards on seven carries, both season-highs. He finishes his career with six receptions for 73 yards and 32 carries for 150 yards and two touchdowns. Not bad for a walk-on from Boone Central/Newman Grove.
This year’s senior class isn’t the biggest or most star-studded, but there are still plenty of stories worth remembering, and on Saturday, and handful of those seniors got to make one last splash with some big plays like the three shown above.
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.