Trilogy of Touchdown Drives Show Huskers Have Playmaking Ability
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Trilogy of Touchdown Drives Show Huskers Have Playmaking Ability

September 30, 2018

Nebraska bounced back from a putrid offensive showing against Michigan to put up its best offensive performance so far under Scott Frost in the team’s 42-28 loss to Purdue on Saturday.

All the issues that have kept the Huskers winless — penalties, failing to convert drives into points, defensive busts — popped up once again, but the Huskers looked a lot more like the team that played against Colorado than what we saw against Troy and Michigan.

Against the Buffaloes, Nebraska ripped off 15 chunk plays (passes of 15 or more years and runs of 10 or more), six through the air and nine on the ground. With Adrian Martinez on the shelf and a neutered game plan for Andrew Bunch against the Trojans, Nebraska had 11 chunk plays (three pass, eight run). Against the Wolverines, the Huskers just got destroyed in every phase of the game and only mustered seven chunk plays (three pass, four run).

On Saturday, Nebraska had 20 big plays, eight in the air and 12 on the ground. The Huskers totaled 582 yards, 323 passing and 259 rushing. Three guys did the heavy lifting for the Nebraska offense — Martinez, JD Spielman and Devine Ozigbo. Let’s dive into some of their best plays of the day.

Ozigbo put together the best performance of his career by far, totaling 170 yards and two scores on 17 carries with a pair of catches for 28 yards to put him just shy of 200 all-purpose yards.

"Devine practiced better than anybody else," Coach Scott Frost said about his senior back. "When he got hot, he was a warrior today, and I’ll go to battle with him.”

Ozigbo got things started with a touchdown run early, the first time Nebraska has managed to draw first blood all season.

On second-and-10 from the 18-yard line, Nebraska lined up with Ozigbo and Spielman to either side of Martinez in the shotgun, but the quarterback motioned Spielman back to the left side prior to the snap then handed the ball off to Ozigbo.

After the snap, center Cole Conrad double-teamed the defensive lineman lined up over right guard Boe Wilson. Left guard Jerald Foster jumped to take on defensive end Kai Higgins stunting in from the opposite side while left tackle Brenden Jaimes occupied the other lineman.

Wide receiver Kade Warner’s slant route occupies cornerback Tim Cason and sucks him inside almost to the hash marks. The result is a wide open lane for Ozigbo to run through and he hit the hole hard.and angled toward the sideline. Free safety Navon Mosley dived at Ozigbo at the 5-yard line, but the Ozigbo is a big boy and dived right through the tackle attempt and extended the ball across the goal line for a touchdown that was awfully reminiscent of the first score of his career, a touchdown at Illinois in 2015.

A great play call by Frost, solid blocking by the lineman, a nice little distraction by Warner and sheer determination by Ozigbo all came together to get the Huskers on the board first.

It took until the second half to get back into scoring range, but Martinez showed his dual-threat ability on a pair of impressive plays to get the Huskers back into the end zone midway through the third quarter.

On third-and-5 from the 37-yard line, Martinez motioned Ozigbo out to the right then ran a quick draw. Wilson pushed the pass-rusher off the right edge, Higgins, up the field, Conrad blocked one defensive tackle and Foster sealed the other. Right tackle Matt Farniok pulled around and blocked the linebacker, Cornel Jones, trying to plug the hole up the middle. 

Great execution up front gets Martinez to the second level and from there, it’s all Martinez. He exploded through the hole, ran it up the middle then cut it back outside, juking safety Jacon Theineman in the process. From there he beat Mosley and cornerback Kenneth Major to the sideline, stepping out of bounds after a gain of 16 yards.

With a fresh set of downs from the Purdue 21-yard line, Frost dialed up a shot on the next play.

Stanley Morgan Jr. line up wide with Spielman in the slot and tight end Jack Stoll to the left of the left tackle. Morgan took off upfield while Stoll fanned out into the flat. Spielman curled off toward the sideline and ran upfield behind the coverage of Theineman, who had no shot. Martinez put the the ball on the money and Spielman caught it then spun past cornerback Antonio Blackmon before falling into the end zone.

Just like that, it was 27-14 Purdue and the Huskers had some life.

Spielman wasn’t done yet, however. The defense gave up a touchdown drive to the Boilermakers that included a 51-yard catch-and-run by tight end Bryce Hopkins, but Nebraska got it back late in the third quarter with a drive that lasted just 47 seconds.

After a couple of big plays and some help from Purdue, Nebraska had the ball at the 21-yard line once again.

Nebraska lined up with trips to the right with Spielman bracketed by Morgan and tight end Kurt Rafdal. Martinez motioned Ozigbo out to the right flat just before the snap. Morgan ran a post route, Rafdal ran a seam and Spielman angled up the sideline. He had Theineman on him once again and the safety had no shot. The speedy slot receiver blew right by him and Martinez delivered the ball on time and on target in the corner of the end zone for the touchdown.

Ozigbo closed out the scoring for the Huskers on Nebraska’s next drive. Martinez carried the team down the field with his arm and legs then handed off to Ozigbo for an 8-yard carry, setting up the Huskers with a second-and-2 from the 23-yard line.

With the ball on the left hash, Martinez handed it off to Ozigbo. The Boilermakers got some serious penetration right up the gut as Tanner Famrer, playing center, got pushed back a good 4 yards, but the rusher wasn’t able to get free to make a play as Ozigbo bounced it outside.

Theineman burst through and lunged at Ozigbo trying to make a tackle behind the line of scrimmage, but Ozigbo ran right through the attempt. Jaimes escorted his man off the edge all the way outside the numbers and Ozigbo cut up field inside of that block, running through another arm tackle by Anthony Watts. Mike Williams blocked his man out of the play.

Stoll, who started the play on the other side of the field, actually drove his man a good 15 or so yards right into the path of the play then managed to get away with a pretty blatant hold, allowing Ozigbo to stroll into the end zone for the score.

The 23-yard run gave Ozigbo 140 yards on the day, setting a new career high.

As this game and its 20 chunk plays shows, Nebraska has more than enough playmaking to win games. After a slow start, Martinez settled in and looked like a star.

“I think Adrian grew up a bunch today," Frost said. "I saw a guy today that looks like he kind of figured out he can win a game. Some of the throws he made, some of the decisions he made to take it down and run it. Now he still made a few freshman mistakes, and in a couple cases we have to put him in a little better situation. But we knew those were going to happen."

Spielman was Nebraska’s most reliable receiver on the day with 10 catches and 135 yards and he took a few shots but kept popping back up to make the next play. Frost gave him the "warrior" tag as well. Ozigbo was workhorse who almost never went down on first contact and averaged 10 yards per tote.

If Nebraska can clean up the penalties and blocking miscues, the Huskers have more than enough talent to put some points on the board. 

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