Photo Credit: Eric Francis

The Good, Bad and Unexpected: Nebraska Versus Rutgers

October 08, 2022

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — With a little time to have now absorbed what we saw in Nebraska’s 14-13 win over Rutgers, it’s time to review. Here is the good, the bad and the unexpected from the Huskers’ Friday night win in New Jersey.

The Good

The comeback: Nebraska went into halftime down 13-0 to Rutgers. It wasn’t looking good for the Huskers at that point, especially as the Scarlet Knights appeared to be comfortable and rolling with the momentum. However, Nebraska never lost hope.

“It was a two-score game,” interim head coach Mickey Joseph said post-game. “We knew we had to play four quarters. We knew coming in here that this team was going to play tough. We knew we had to make them play four quarters so the second half we were really confident we could come back and win the game.”

The comeback marked Nebraska’s 24th comeback of 13 or more points in school history (and the seventh while members of the Big Ten Conference). It was also Nebraska’s first win when trailing at halftime since (wait for it) Rutgers on Dec. 18, 2020.

Joseph and the Nebraska coaches spoke all week leading up to the matchup with the Scarlet Knights about confidence and belief. The Huskers had seemingly lacked it for some time, which was something Joseph was determined to fix. The win over Rutgers was another step in that direction, but it was just that: a step.

“I think we take one game at a time,” Joseph said. “Our goal was to be be 1-0 this weekend and now we are 1-0 so we’ve won two straight. I’ll tell you this, I think they are starting to believe and they are starting to see it though. Remember, they haven’t done this. This is kind of strange for them but you see that they are playing hard, they’re playing fast and they are not giving up.

“Listen, I caught them in the fourth quarter again and there (was) no doubt in their eyes that they weren’t going to win the game. It was the same way at halftime. They knew they were going to win if they kept fighting. We knew it was going to be a street fight but we said the type of street fight we’re in, there’s no rounds, there’s no time. It’s just keep swinging and let’s keep swinging. Don’t look at the scoreboard. At the end, you’ll come out on top.”

The defense: It’s worth acknowledging the defense’s efforts in the above (especially so in the second half). The Huskers shut out Rutgers in the second half on Friday, which marked the second straight game where the Nebraska defense managed to not allow a point in the second half.

The Bad

Blocked punt: That was something.

At the time, this felt like the beginning of the end for Nebraska in the game. The good news is that it didn’t pan out to be a bad omen. However, it did injure starting punter Brian Buschini. He was in visible pain following this, which makes sense since his kicking foot made contact with the helmet of the Rutgers player coming at him.

Buschini finished the game but he has a noticeable limp after this moment. His punts also became a little more questionable as he fought through multiple injuries.

Nebraska needs to protect its quarterback and its punter. On Friday, neither happened all that well.

Offensive line: It seems unlikely that quarterback Casey Thompson will be taking the offensive line out to dinner following this one. While the line held up pretty well against Indiana, it was a different story against Rutgers.

Take the run game, for example. Against Indiana, back Anthony Grant ran for 136 rushing yards on 32 carries. Against Rutgers, Grant had only 47 yards on 19 carries.

“It’s not what Rutgers was doing, it was what we were doing,” offensive lineman Trent Hixson said post-game. “We just need to come back to the drawing board. We need to improve the little things just a little bit more and we’ll be doing all right in the run game.”

For what it’s worth, the pass protection remained relatively unchanged week-over-week. Indiana sacked Thompson four times. Rutgers sacked the quarterback three times. Joseph said it was “not where we want them at” following the win over Indiana. One week later, that’s likely the same message.

The Unexpected

The switch: Tommi Hill, who previously started at defensive back this season, made a switch on Friday. He was spotted warming up with Nebraska’s receivers and wearing No. 2 (versus his usual No. 0).

Hill had been benched against Indiana in favor of freshman Malcolm Hartzog, but his switch against Rutgers opened doors Nebraska needed to win. Brandon Moore, as a result, was able to play a big role at cornerback when Quinton Newsome went down. 

“Bam Bam (Moore) and I, the first time we met he said he really liked me so I have that going for me,” edge Garrett Nelson said post-game. “I don’t know if you guys have heard his story or have any idea what he’s been through to be on that field with us. I would urge you to ask him. To have him on the team and to be as close as we are that quickly speaks to him as a person. The play takes care of itself because of the person he is. Like, I love that guy to death, you know, but he’s been my teammate for three months (and) I love taking the field with the guy.

“And Malcolm is stepping up again and I told him, I shook his hand and said, ‘I’m proud of you.’ There’s no other words that can really describe it. I’m just really proud of him. Handled things well being out there on an island as a true freshman and playing in these tight games and keeping his composure. Like I said, I can’t thank those guys enough.”

  • Never miss the latest news from Hail Varsity!

    Join our free email list by signing up below.

Tags:
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap