Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Trey Palmer Recounts the Explosive Plays That Defined His Historic Nebraska Season

March 10, 2023

Coming off an embarrassing loss that ended the native son’s coaching tenure and a lop-sided loss to historic rival Oklahoma, the Huskers needed a lift. In came Indiana, fresh off its first loss of the season. It was physical and even. The two sides went into the fourth quarter tied. Under the lights of Memorial Stadium, the Huskers turned to their playmakers.

To that point, Trey Palmer was a good receiver without a breakout. He tallied 68, 81 and 82 receiving yards in his first three games, respectively. His first touchdown came against Oklahoma, when he notched a 92 yards, a season high for him at that point—on 10 catches. He was building up to his fist 100-yard receiving game and a highlight moment. So on third-and-9 from their own 29, the interim coaching staff decided to take the top off the defense. It was Palmer’s time.

“We’re about to take a shot right here,” Palmer recalled in a recent local radio interview. “I saw the ball and I got the ball. Make the play when your name is called.”

Palmer aligned away from the Nebraska sideline. He looked across the field and saw he was going deep. Marcus Washington motioned towards Palmer. Indiana’s Jaylin Williams originally lined to press before Washington’s motion drew him away. Palmer went vertical, leaving the second tier of Indiana’s zone defense behind. He had to beat the safeties. Quarterback Casey Thompson took the shotgun snap 5 yards deep and dropped back another 5 yards before stepping into this throw. Thompson heaved it and Palmer ran under it 56 yards later, leaving freshman defensive back Philip Dunnam steps behind. Nebraska took the lead on that play and never looked back.

Palmer has spent the last few months preparing for the NFL Draft. That journey’s brought him to his native Louisiana, Indianapolis and back to Lincoln. He returned to Nebraska earlier this week to focus on his future while revisiting his past. He shared some of the moments that stood out in his historic year on camps.

It took countless reps for Thompson and Palmer to get their rhythm. The two transferred to Nebraska around the same time, both with ties to former assistant and interim head coach Mickey Joseph. Thompson needed to adjust his throws to accommodate Palmer’s speed—the receiver laughed that there’s never been a quarterback to overthrow him. He finished in Indiana game with another new season high, 157 yards. That score was just his second of the season. When Nebraska traveled to Rutgers for the next game and the Scarlet Knights pressured Thompson to a bandaged first half, Palmer remained quiet. At least, until the fourth quarter when the Huskers flipped a Myles Farmer interception into the go-ahead touchdown. Thompson fired into the back of the end zone and Palmer dove under it for the 27-yard strike.

Palmer felt confident the next week going against Purdue. Then the Boilermakers took a 17-point first-half lead. Palmer tallied 52 receiving yards in the first half on three catches, one for 39 yards.

“I was really trying to put my team back in the game,” Palmer said. “I’m not going to lie, it was the safety that really made me mad that game. He was talking like he was going to lock me up.”

Palmer burned Purdue senior safety Cam Allen immediately in the third quarter. Nebraska’s first possession, sparked by a rumbling catch by Travis Vokolek, ended with Palmer in the end zone and Allen too many steps behind him. Thompson threw from the 45 and Palmer ran under the ball at the goal line. After the catch, Allen ran through the end zone and turned around to see Palmer holding his index finger up to his mouth to hush the safety. After the game, Palmer said he told Allen, “Man, you suck.”

Allen wasn’t the only one Palmer torched that night. He breezed by corner Jamari Brown for a 72-yard strike in the third quarter. Palmer finished with 237 receiving yards, a new single-game school record. He did so on seven catches for an average of 33.9 yards per catch. He was informed of the record after the game.

“We lost so I really didn’t care,” Palmer told former Husker Vershan Jackson earlier this week. “You can ask anybody, I was mad that we didn’t win.”

The transfer put a bow on his college career with a resounding 165-yard, two-touchdown performance against Iowa. He thought he wanted to go to the NFL at that point but needed to consult his family first. He announced his entry into the NFL Draft the following day, within minutes of Nebraska announcing Matt Rhule as the new head coach.

Palmer’s back in Nebraska and will catch passes at the Huskers’ Pro Day on March 22. He won’t run the 40 after posting the fastest 40 time among receivers at the NFL Combine. Instead he’ll work other drills and show his improvement at contested catches. If there’s one thing the ever confident Palmer believes he needs to improve, it’s that. Palmer said he definitely would return punts in the NFL if a team wanted him to. He only returned a handful at Nebraska this past season. When asked about his return output, he said he did what he was told to do.

  • Never miss the latest news from Hail Varsity!

    Join our free email list by signing up below.