Photo by Eric Francis
Nebraska Football

Play of the Game: Colorado's Third-Down Sack in Overtime

September 7, 2019
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After taking a controlling 17-0 lead at halftime, Nebraska had a chance to put the game away early in the second. Instead, the offense ground to a halt and the defense started to break down and what looked like a potential blowout turned into an overtime nail-biter.

Colorado put together a field goal drive to open the extra period, putting the pressure on the Huskers to at least get three. They couldn’t do it.

This week’s Play of the Game is Colorado’s sack of Adrian Martinez on third down in overtime.

Nebraska tried to run the ball on both first and second down and gained a total of 1 yard, setting up third and 9 at the 24-yard line. 

“To be honest with you, we were talking for five minutes before overtime started about what our best runs were. They got a field goal, I didn’t want to risk throwing an interception or losing the ball. We picked two of the runs that we thought were the best. We knew before the series stared that we didn’t have our kicker, so I was trying to run the plays that would most likely get us 3, 4 [yards]. We had trouble running between the tackles again today and so a lot of our runs had to be wide. They did a good job stopping them and put us in a third and long.”

With the team’s starting kicker back in Lincoln and the punter handling field goal duties, Nebraska could not afford to give up a sack.

But that’s exactly what happened.

The main storyline from week one against South Alabama was the bad snaps from redshirt freshman Cameron Jurgens in his first start at center and the offensive dysfunction that stemmed from them, but that issue appeared to have been addressed in the first half. Snaps were on-target and the Huskers put together a few quality scoring drives.

Nebraska went 71 plays without the snaps being an issue, but the 72nd one proved to be problematic. Jurgens put the ball down around Martinez’s ankles, and the quarterback had to take his eyes off the field for a moment to secure the ball. Martinez wasn’t making any excuses after the game, however.

“You gotta make things happen,” Martinez said. “I’m not going to sit here and make excuses for anything. That’s on me. Whether the snap was freaking 5,000 feet over my head, I don’t care. There are no excuses. That’s an important thing for this team to know and a lesson for me to myself. Regardless of where the snap is, who gives a shit? I have to be able to make a play. Excuse my language.”

Colorado sent a four-man rush and didn’t run any stunts or other schemes to get to the quarterback. Even so, it looked like there was a breakdown in communication or responsibility by the interior line. Right guard Boe Wilson made the initial punch on defensive tackle Mustaf Johnson but then it looked like he left to send help to right tackle Matt Farniok as left outside linebacker Nu’umotu Falo rushed to the inside. Jurgens wasn’t in position to slide over and slow Johnson down, however. He pushed forward and dived at Martinez, taking him down for a loss of 7.

It looked like Martinez had time to make one, maybe two reads after catching the snap, then after a pump fake Johnson was on him and taking him down. He didn’t find a receiver nor did he feel the pressure enough to look to escape the pocket.

“I was probably looking to throw across the seam to Wan’Dale [Robinson] but kind of got stopped,” Martinez said. “Again, I’ll have to look back on film but he caught me in the middle of two things in a bad spot.”

A sack was close to the worst possible scenario in that situation, something Frost said the team has had hammered into them in practice.

“We do clutch, we do overtime ad nauseam in practice,” Frost said. “They know the situation there. Can’t be holding the ball back there, obviously, so we’ve got to do a better job coaching it. But that last drive, two times this week, we had 50 seconds on the clock, minus-40, need a field goal to win with one timeout, so the exact same situation twice this week and a dozen times in camp over time. As a play caller, you kick yourself; you should have run something else. We picked two of the plays that had been working and we thought would work against the way they’d been lining up all game. They didn’t and we made a bad call and a bad decision on third down.”

The loss turned a 41-yard field goal into a 48-yard one for punter Isaac Armstrong. His first field goal of the day (and his career), in the second quarter, was good from 26 yards. The 48-yarder never had a chance, though.

Game over.

“I don’t know what the odds would say with a back-up kicker making that length of field goal or going for it on court and 14, but that’s not a good situation to be in,” Frost said.

Nebraska had a handful of big plays as well as a few complete busts on defense, but after all of that the game came down to one possession and the Huskers couldn’t do anything with it.

That’s why Colorado’s sack on third and 9 in overtime is this week’s Play of he Game.

 
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