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Nebraska Football: Huskers Trump Rutgers Scarlet Knights 31-14 in Jersey

Nebraska beat Rutgers 31-14 in a game that looked closer than it really was.

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Nebraska got out to a fast start and a 21-0 lead before Rutgers would get on the board. Inconsistent play before the first half had Nebraska fans scratching themselves and wondering if they'd witness another meltdown, but the Husker offense would tack on more points while the defense shut down Rutgers quarterback Chris Laviano and receiver Leonte Carroo. Nebraska came away with a 31-14 victory.

Nebraska played very well in the first 20 minutes. The Huskers first offensive drive took 8 plays, went 75 yards, and featured six running plays including the 32-yard touchdown, a reverse out of a pro formation by tight end Cethan Carter.

Tommy Armstrong went 8-for-8 for 108 yards in the first quarter, throwing two touchdown passes. His first was a 15-yard bullet over the middle between four Rutger defenders to Jordan Westerkamp. His second was a 44-yard bomb to Alonzo Moore who stood wide open in the end zone while Armstrong ran around in sandlot fashion, finally seeing Moore, then heaving it high in hopes it would get there before Rutgers defenders finished their coffee break.

Bad Tommy would show up before the end of the half, though, overthrowing a wide open Lane Hovey, resulting in an interception that was returned to the Rutgers six yard line. Rutgers scored three plays later.

Armstrong would fumble and throw another interception before half, but Rutgers was unable to capitalize on the miscues. Nebraska lead 21-7 at half, but momentum seemed to favor the Scarlet Knights.

Rutgers was forced to punt on their first possession of the second half. Nebraska's offense moved the ball well, but Armstrong threw another interception on a middle screen. The ball was intercepted by lineman Kevin Wilkins who covered Carter and was in position to make a nice one-handed catch.

Rutgers would move the ball to the five on a 30-yard pass play to Caroo, then score on one play later on a trick pass play to make it 21-14. At that point, 98% of Nebraskan fans were sure they'd seen this before and most began to huddle together hugging each other and weeping. Others left to play Fallout 4.

That was as close as Rutgers would get, though, as Nebraska put together an eight-play, 75 yard drive with Carter making a NFL-level reception from Armstrong, who was injured on the play.

Nebraska would get the ball back at the Rutgers 31 four plays later after the Scarlet Knights came up short on an ill-fated fake punt. The Husker offense couldn't manage a first down, but kicker Drew Brown connected on a 44-yard field goal in a swirling wind. It was Brown's eighth straight field goal, all from 40+ yards.

Brown's field goal made it the final score and 31-14, as the two teams spent the fourth quarter trading punts and field position. Rutgers made it as far as the Nebraska 30 on one drive but failed as Laviano's pass was ripped away by Nate Gerry on a 4th and two.

A later drive would have Rutgers miss a field goal from the Nebraska 31 with 3:54 left (even though down 17, leaving everyone to wonder if Rutgers coach Kyle Flood knows a field goal is only worth three points).

The story of the game might be Nebraska's beleaguered defense. For most of the season they've been destroyed by offenses, but against Rutgers they recorded a season -high 11 tackles for loss and six sacks.

The Husker defense held Rutgers to 170 total yards passing as Laviano went 13-for-27 for 165 yards and two interceptions. Rutgers was successful rushing the ball at times, but finished with only 89 yards because loss of yardage due to your quarterback being sacked repeatedly counts against rushing yardage. Josh Hicks lead the New Jersey team on the ground, rushing 12 times for 68 yards.

Nebraska managed 362 total yards, as Armstrong finished 14-for-21 for 188 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. Imani Cross lead Husker rushers with 20 carries for 94 yards.

The win put Nebraska at 5-6, one win away from being bowl eligible... or maybe more appropriately being "respectably bowl eligible" as they could make a bowl game at 5-7.