Nebraska(4-4, 2-3) Head Coach Scott Frost was adamant about where his team is right now.
“We’re just OK right now because a lot of the things that are done are just OK. I’m not going to be happy with just OK.”
Sporting the alternate “Blackshirt” uniforms, the offense started the game more than just OK.
Noah Vedral got his second career start at quarterback with Adrian Martinez suited up but still sidelined. Vedral capped off the first two offensive possessions with short touchdown runs. Both series went five plays for 75 yards.
Indiana(6-2, 3-2), meanwhile, ended their first two possessions with a 22 yard field goal and an eight yard touchdown run by backup quarterback Peyton Ramsey. A missed extra point left Nebraska with a 14-9 lead with 3:23 to go in the first quarter.
Then Nebraska did something it hadn’t in the last two games.
On the 15th play of the drive, Vedral raced to his left where he was hit and fumbled the ball. Indiana defensive end picked up the football and returned it 68 yards before Vedral ran him down at the Husker 8 yard line.
Vedral said after the game that he was trying to pull the ball in at the time of the hit, and noted that getting the tackle was just part of his job.
“I’m the closest person to that guy and I think I can catch him, it’s my job to catch him especially if I’m the one that fumbled that ball.”
The Hoosiers would score on the first play with an 8 yard touchdown pass from Ramsey to Ty Fryfogle.
Among those that returned to the field this week with Vedral and all-purpose back Wan’Dale Robinson was place kicker Barret Pickering.
Pickering’s first field goal attempt of the season was set up at the end of an eight play, 48 yard drive. The 32 yard field goal missed wide left. The kicking woes were joined by injuries again shaking up the Husker backfield.
After an Indiana punt to the Nebraska three, Vedral was injured on an eight yard run with just over five minutes left in the half. True freshman Luke McCaffrey entered the game but the Huskers were unable to pick up the first down.
The ensuing Indiana drive was halted as outside linebacker Alex Davis came up with an interception to give Nebraska the ball on the Husker 26 yard line. McCaffrey led the team on a six play, 74 yard drive capped off by his first career touchdown pass on a 24 yard strike to Kanawai Noa.
Nebraska would hold a 21-16 lead at the half.
Despite the lead, Frost wasn’t happy coming out of the break.
“We can’t be so…stupid early on in the game. We’re missing blocks and fumbling and giving them points. We can’t get lined up on fourth and one on the ball. This game probably shouldn’t be close. We can’t do that stuff. I’m tired of it, and I’m tired of our defense coming out and giving up touchdowns on the first drive of the second half. I’m going to lose my mind if they do here.”
Nebraska’s defense did not give up a touchdown on the first drive of the second half as both teams exchanged punts. Indiana, however would take their first lead of the game on a one yard touchdown run by wide receiver David Ellis. The touchdown capped off a 35 yard drive that was set up by a 19 yard Isaac Armstrong punt out of bounds.
The Husker offense, still led by McCaffrey, would tie the game at 24 late in the third quarter on a 13 play, 63 yard drive ending in a 30 yard Pickering field goal.
Indiana’s ensuing drive would include a 40 yard pass to tight end Peyton Hendershot and a defensive pass interference on Lamar Jackson in the end zone, setting up the Hoosiers with first and goal on the two yard line. Ramsey would throw a touchdown pass to tight end Matt Bjorson two plays later as the third period came to a close with Indiana up 31-24.
A 12 yard pass on the second play of the next Nebraska drive gave Indiana possession near midfield as Noa fumbled the ball after being hit and Indiana recovering. McCaffrey was also hit on the play and did not return to the field for the remainder of the game
Seven plays later Indiana extended their lead to 38-24 on a nine yard touchdown run by Stevie Scott III. That was the third consecutive Hoosier drive to end in a touchdown.
Vedral got the nod as the healthiest quarterback available and Nebraska struck quickly for its fourth touchdown drive in under two minutes with a Robinson touchdown run from four yards out. Robinson would end the game with 83 yards rushing and 71 yards receiving.
With 3:23 left and all three timeouts, Nebraska needed a stop to get back on offense, but Indiana’s run game came to life for the first time in the game.
Indiana ran for 36 of their 104 yards on the final possession, picking up enough first downs to run out the clock and preserve the 38-31 victory.
Ramsey threw for 351 yards on 40 attempts with 27 completions. Wideout Whop Philyor reeled in 14 of those for 178 for the Hoosiers who gained bowl eligibility with the win.
For Nebraska, three different players threw passes(Vedral 14-16, McCaffrey 5-6, JD Spielman 1-1) as the team went 20-23 through the air for 294 yards. The 86.9 completion percentage is a school record, bettering a 23-27(85.19%) effort at Kansas on October 19, 1974.
After game, Frost said the alternate uniforms were nice to have, but need to be better represented the next time they come out.
“We played well enough offensively to win, defensively we did well enough against the run, but we gave up a ton of passing yards and that’s on a lot of guys, I thought the uniforms looked great. I think it’s great for the University of Nebraska to have that identity of Blackshirts, but we’ve got to represent them better the next time we wear them.”
Nebraska is on the road next week at Purdue(2-6, 1-4)
- Indiana increased its lead in the all-time series to 10-8-3, including 8-5-2 in Lincoln. The schools have split two games since Nebraska joined the Big Ten.
- Nebraska finished the game with 514 yards of total offense, its most since rolling up 674 yards of offense at Illinois on Sept. 21. Nebraska rushed for 220 yards in the game, while passing for 294 yards, marking the third time this season Nebraska has topped 200 yards both rushing and passing (Northern Illinois, Illinois).
- Sophomore quarterback Noah Vedral made his second consecutive start and helped guide the Nebraska offense before leaving in the second quarter with an injury. Vedral returned for NU’s final offensive drive of the game. On the day he completed 14-of-16 passes for a career-high 201 yards. Vedral also rushed seven times for 21 yards and scored two touchdowns.
- Vedral entered today’s game with two career rushing touchdowns at Nebraska (1 in 2018, 1 in 2019), and four career rushing touchdowns including two at UCF in 2017.
- Freshman quarterback Luke McCaffrey completed his first career touchdown pass on a 24-yard strike to Kanawai Noa late in the first half. McCaffrey, playing in just his second career game, finished the day 5-of-6 passing for 71 yards, while rushing 12 times for 76 yards.
- Freshman all-purpose player Wan’Dale Robinson finished the game with 154 all-purpose yards, including 83 rushing yards on a career-high 22 carries, and six receptions for 71 yards.
- Junior receiver JD Spielman caught five passes for 97 yards in the game. He opened his day with a 45-yard reception to set up a Husker touchdown for a 7-0 lead. His 45-yard reception marked his fifth reception of the season of 40 yards or longer.
- Spielman has caught a pass in 29 straight games, the fifth-longest streak in school history. Spielman has at least two catches in 28 of those 29 games.
- Senior receiver Mike Williams had a career-long 34-yard reception in the second quarter, bettering his previous long of 24 yards at Northwestern in 2018.
- Senior receiver Kanawai Noa had 52 receiving yards on three receptions, including 40 yards before halftime. He had 23 receiving yards in Nebraska’s first four Big Ten games.
- Senior linebacker Alex Davis intercepted a pass in the second quarter, marking his first career interception.
- Senior linebacker Mohamed Barry had six tackles in today’s game to increase his career total to 222. With his 222 career tackles, Barry moved into the top 25 on the Nebraska career tackles list.