The new QB held his end of the bargain. The new DC, not so much. But in the end, it worked out.
Behind a massive evening from Tre Bryant, the Nebraska Cornhuskers were taken to the final play by the Arkansas State Red Wolves on Saturday night in Lincoln. However, a final throw in the end zone by Justice Hansen after a career day wasn’t enough as the Huskers escaped 43-36 in front of just over 90,000 fans in Memorial Stadium.
Hansen led a big time throwing charge against Bob Diaco’s new defense, but it was not enough in the end as Tanner Lee, Bryant, and JD Spielman proved to just be enough to outlast the Sun Belt foes from Arkansas.
The combination of Lee and his receivers helped the Huskers to a balanced 463 yards of offense, but the worry will be how Hansen and his WR’s went for 415 yards. Hansen attempted 68 passes, which tied a record for passes faced by a Nebraska football team. Hansen’s 46 completions were short of the record passes completed by a Nebraska opponent by just one catch.
To start the game, Arkansas State won the toss and took the ball to start the game. The Red Wolves got the ball to start the game, but after four plays and two penalties, one by each team, it was a three and out to start the game for Arkansas State. A bad punt by the Red Wolves started the Nebraska season opening drive at the ArkSt 38.
Tanner Lee started off with an incompletion to Tre Bryant, followed by Tyjon Lindsey’s first Nebraska catch on a screen for eight yards. Bryant gave the Huskers the first 1st down of the game on third and two behind Connor Ketter. Bryant went for another 13 yards behind David Knevel. Nebraska ran behind Knevel, with Bryant gaining three yards. Tyler Hoppes had the ball hit him right in the chest in the right end-zone corner, but dropped it. On third and seven, a jumping catch by Stanley Morgan was two yards short of the first down. Fourth and two from the four yard line brought out Drew Brown, who slammed a 21 yard FG into the net in South Stadium. The was Nebraska 3-0 with 9:52 to go in the first quarter.
Arkansas State started again after a touchback on the 25 yard line. Warren Wand started the drive with a two yard run, but a pass was negated on a clipping foul. Justice Hansen hit Omar Bayless to get back to the 25 on second down. Third and 10 brought Hansen throwing it to Chris Murray, but he was four yards short of the sticks for another punt. This time, it was a better punt by ArkSt’s Cody Grace, hitting one 48 yards to make De’Mornay Pierson-El fair catch the ball at the Nebraska 22 yard line.
The second drive started with a run by Bryant for two yards. Another decent run by Bryant was wiped out by a Jerald Foster holding call. Second and 21 brought up Caleb Casten with a blitzing sack of Lee. Third and North Platte was a draw to Bryant, which forced Caleb Lightbourn on to punt. The sophomore hit his first kick of the year far, but Blaise Taylor bobbled it. That’s all he did wrong though, as he took it 63 yards through the Nebraska punt team for the score. The XP made made it 7-3 Red Wolves with 5:07 to go in the first quarter.
The ensuing kickoff was the debut of Nebraska WR J.D. Spielman. And, my god, it was a damn good first impression.
How do you answer an insane punt return TD from Arkansas State?— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) September 3, 2017
With a 99-yard kickoff return of your own.@jdspielman10 to the ! pic.twitter.com/xAUsRzS6VY
The redshirt frosh out of Minnesota started his career with a bang. The 99 yard TD return gave the Huskers the lead once again, 10-7, with 4:53 to go in the quarter.
The next Drew Brown kickoff went for a touchback, but the ball got moved back to the 12 with a Jarrod Chandler unsportsmanlike foul. First down was hit with a Joshua Kalu offside, Hansen started the death of a thousand cuts with quick throws, getting two first downs through the air on four plays. A Hansen scramble for four plus a throw to Kendrick Edwards got Arkansas State over midfield for the first time tonight. Two more throws on the edge got the ball inside the Nebraska 30. Hansen then hit Chris Murray, who beat Alex Davis bad on a wheel route for the TD. The Red Wolves went nine plays and 87 yards to make it 14-10 with 2:12 to go in the quarter.
Nebraska took the knee in the end zone, putting it on the 25 yard line. Lee opened the drive with a checkdown to Luke McNitt, who went for the first down. Tre Bryant went over Knevel again for seven yards, then Pierson-El took a jet sweep for a first down, where the officials missed a late hit. Now in Red Wolves territory, it only took one play for Tanner Lee to hit Stanley Morgan Jr. on the 9 route.
Just a couple of Louisiana guys connecting in Nebraska. @TannerLee13_ finds @thekidstan for the 44-yard strike and @HuskerFBNation TD! pic.twitter.com/vyVb5TX3tW— Nebraska On BTN (@NebraskaOnBTN) September 3, 2017
The catch was reviewed, and after the play was confirmed, the Huskers retake the lead 17-10 on a four play, 75 yard drive.
Another touchback started the drive for Arkansas State, who ran Jamal Jones for three. Then a Hansen to Chris Murray pass gave Arkansas State the ball near midfield when the first quarter finished at Nebraska 17, Arkansas State 14.
The new stanza started with the Wolves getting to midfield for the first down, but another false start brought the ball back five yards. First and 15 brought another ladder screen to Murray for eight, but an incompletion to Murray brought up third and seven. Hansen settled for an out route to Murray, but the drop brought on fourth down and seven. Cody Grace came on for the punt, and Jeremy Smith caught it for the Red Wolves inside the 10 yard line.
Nebraska started their second quarter on offense at their own nine yard line. Tanner Lee opened to Pierson-El for 12 yards, then Bryant went right again for 12 yards for another first down. A sitdown from Lee to Morgan gave them another first down at midfield. A four yard carry by Bryant was followed by another ladder screen for a first down by Lindsey. Bryant went over the right side again, going for 24 yards on a tough run keyed by a TE block. Mikale Wilbon came in for his ‘17 debut, going left end for eight yards, then around the right side for the final seven yards for the TD.
No, not @RealMikeWilbon.— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) September 3, 2017
That's Mikale Wilbon of @HuskerFBNation rumbling into the Memorial Stadium end zone for six: pic.twitter.com/g0ENFZOURF
Drew Brown tacked on the XP, and the Huskers extended their lead to 24-14 after the 91 yard drive that went eight plays.
Brown kicked off to the 6, where Chauncey Mason took it to the Arkansas State 27 for the next drive. Hansen started the drive with a 13 yard strike to Booker, then Paschal for five. Warren Wand took it 14 yards on the ground to take it past midfield. An incompletion and Wand carry for two made it third and eight, where Christian Booker took the Hansen drive in front of Eric Lee for the first down. Hansen to Booker took it to the eight, where two plays later Tyrin Ferguson got the tipped ball to make the interception on the one yard line.
Nebraska started the drive backed up, and went further back when Kyle Wilson went on a run blitz and hit Bryant in the end zone for a safety. The deuce took it to 24-16 Nebraska with seven minutes even to go in the half.
The free kick was returned by Blaise Taylor, and after offsetting penalties with a dead ball, the Red Wolves took over on their 39 yard line. Two Hansen passes took the ball inside the Nebraska 35 yard line. Wand went in the middle for eight, then a couple more for third and one. Hansen went to Murray for only two, but it moved the chains inside the 20. Hansen had Bayless on a post, but the ball was dropped on 1st down. Bayless was dropped by a loss by DiCaprio Bootle on second down. After a Red Wolves timeout, it was third and 10 which brought Hansen going to Justin McGinnis, but Bootle had the coverage and the pass fell incomplete. However, a roughing the passer on Carlos Davis gave the Red Wolves the ball back with new downs. Wand ran it to the two, and an incomplete brought up 3rd and Goal at the three. On that play, Hansen went play action and found Blake Mack who leapt into the end zone for the score. The Red Wolves didn’t go for two, but got the XP to make it 24-23 Nebraska with 3:45 to go in the half. The scoring drive went 10 plays and 61 yards.
The Red Wolves kickoff cheated and went out of bounds, giving the ball to Nebraska at the 35 yard line. Bryant started the drive over left end for five, then Hoppes on a TE screen got the ball to midfield. A incompletion to Bryan Reimers was followed by a three yard tote by Bryant, bringing up 3rd and 7. Stanley Morgan was found again, though, and got the ball down to the 25 yard line with a great catch. A Bryant run for no gain with a Tyjon screen for no game brought it to third down and 11 from the Red Wolves 24 yard line. Lee went to Spielman on 3rd down, but he couldn’t hold on to the ball. Drew Brown came on and split em from 41 yards to make it 27-21 Nebraska with 1:02 on the clock till the break.
Drew Brown didn’t do himself a favor though, corkscrewing one out of bounds and drawing the flag. The Red Wolves got the ball at the 35, making people think of going two minute drill to end the half. However, a Wand carry and Bayless catch just got a first down not in the quickest way. Hansen hit Murray wide open, but it was dropped. Hansen went to Murray again, but the Wolves had to burn a timeout to keep the clock stable. That brought up third and two with :25 left in the half. Wand went around left end to extend the drive. Hansen to Wand took it down to :10, making Arkansas State use the final timeout of the half. First down brought a crossing route to Blake Mack, who had a helmet fall off after the play. For some reason, Curt Johnson’s crew stopped the clock long enough for ASU’s FG crew to come on and get the kick off. Sawyer Williams made the 39 yarder as the clock hit :00 to end the half at 27-26 Nebraska.
Halftime came and went and Arkansas State started the half with a pooch kick. The ball went to Ketter, who made the fair catch at the Nebraska 30. Bryant started the half with a four yard run over Tanner Farmer, then 4 more bringing up third and two. Bryant got the ball and went over Farmer again for 7 yards and new downs. Bryant then went counter trey around left end for 35 yards, taking him over 100 yards. Another Bryant carry went for a loss of one, then Nebraska burned a timeout after a personnel issue, pissing Mike Riley off. Second and 11 brought A NIFTY ASS CATCH from Tyler Hoppes, down to the one yard line. A Luke McNitt dive got no yards on first down, with second down being stalled by a Arkansas State timeout. The Red Wolves got hit with another unsportsmanlike, giving Nebraska another First and Goal at the one. Tre Bryant got the ball on the famed trap down that Hoss diagrammed, and the Huskers put the biscuit in the South endzone basket.
The lead goes back to 8 at 34-26 Nebraska after the eight play, 70 yard drive.
Arkansas State started at their 25 after the touchback by Brown. Justice Hansen started the half for ASU with a 10 yard out to Murray, then a Wand carry for five yards. Wand got a checkdown from Hansen to get the ball past midfield. Jones came into the game for a six yard carry over RG, then Eric Lee almost had an interception of Hansen. third and four brought a throw from Hansen to Murray, but ASU stayed on the field for 4th and four. A false start on a check with me on ASU brought the ball five yards back and the punt team out. Another ASU pinback by Jeremy Smith gave the Huskers back the ball at their nine yard line for the next drive.
Tyler Hoppes got the ball outside the 20 by taking a Lee pass and breaking a couple of tackles. Bryant got some patience on the next play, waiting for overpursuit to go away and getting 12 more by reversing field. Lee took a shot with Morgan down the field, but the pass fell incomplete. A Nick Gates false start made it second and 15, where De’Mornay Pierson-El took a fly sweep, initially for a TD, but review confirmed out of bounds for a 10 yard gain. Third and four from the 40 found Spielman with a nice catch, getting to midfield. A nifty Bryant run was negated by a Morgan block, making it first and 13. Morgan nailed a Lee toss, but was clearly out of bounds. A perfect draw to Bryant got flagged for holding by Cole Conrad, taking it to first and 23. A fade screen to Wilbon did nothing on second down. Third and Kearney was a dumpdown to Wilbon for thiree yards. Lightbourn’s second punt results were much better! It was downed by Marquel Dismuke on the ASU 10 yard line, where the Red Wolves got the ball back by rule.
Ward started the drive for the Wolves up the middle for five, then Luke Gifford blew up a ladder screen to make it third and six. Dedrick Young brought the heat FINALLY and got Nebraska’s first sack of the season for the Blackshirts, causing a three and out. Stanley Morgan took Grace’s punt and got to the Nebraska 35 for their next set.
Bryant kept being the bellcow for Nebraska, starting the drive with five yards up the middle, then another carry on a counter for nine more to midfield. One more time for Bryant, but the middle clogged up for no gain. Lee went play action, hitting Morgan to get the first down inside the ArkSt 40. Tanner Lee went out of the pistol for the first time, giving the ball to Bryant for two. Then, Lee went shotgun but the pass was incomplete to Reimers. Third and eight brought a blitz from ASU, and Lee had to hurry the throw to Morgan where it fell on the ground. Lightbourn, however, pinned the Wolves inside the three with the help of Kieron Williams.
The Red Wolves started the drive deep in their own territory, where Hansen got it to Murray on the left. The third quarter ended at 34-26 Nebraska.
The final 15 started with a Wand 11 yard run up the middle, but then Joshua Kalu said THAT ENDS RIGHT HERE.
Arkansas State tried to test a No Fly Zone.— Nebraska On BTN (@NebraskaOnBTN) September 3, 2017
It didn't end well: pic.twitter.com/TJ7m40dQ8X
The Houston Senior gets the interception, giving the Huskers the ball at their 47. Bryant started the drive with a 5 yard run. Lee’s worst throw of the night made it third and five, where Lee made up for it with a DIME to Spielman, getting 35 yards on the play and getting inside the ASU 15. Two plays later, Bryant busted up the field for five, setting up third and five at the ASU eight. Lee, after a late sub, hit Pierson-El on the quick slant for the TD.
DPE has a reservation for six. ✋☝️@TannerLee13_ finds @DontPunt_15 to open up a two-score lead on A-State: pic.twitter.com/GduWSTy65j— Nebraska On BTN (@NebraskaOnBTN) September 3, 2017
The Huskers take advantage of their second INT and made it 41-26 after the six play, 53 yard drive.
Arkansas State took the kickoff and got out to their 25. The drive started again with a Hansen to Booker screen, followed by Booker again but it came to third and one. Hansen hit Booker again on the slant to move the sticks. A false start penalty took it back five yards, but Hansen hit Edwards, the Arkansas transfer, for 38 yards. Two plays later, Booker got another pass from Hansen to move the sticks. Hansen completed a pass to Murray in the end zone, but the ball came out as the process of the catch was being made. The inital call was TD, and after review the call was overturned. Second and 10 from the 14 delivered a Hansen incompletion. 3rd down brought Hansen under pressure & another incompletion, this time to Murray. Sawyer Williams hits the kick from 31 yards, making the score 41-29 Nebraska with 9:27 to go in the game.
The Red Wolves tried to be tricky with an onside kick, but Luke McNitt handled the hot potato and got the ball at the Nebraska 40 yard line. Bryant kept on the pony, starting the drive with a seven yard carry over left tackle. Nebraska gave it to Morgan on a reverse, but it only got a yard. Third and two brought a Wilbon flare, who got the first down. After an injury timeout to David Knevel, Langsdorf went left with Bryant again for five yards. Second and five brought an incomplete pass to Stanley Morgan, bringing up third and five. Arkansas State fired an A gap blitz, making Lee fire it early and falling incomplete. Lightbourn did the damn deed again, using Dismuke again to pin the ball inside the five yard line.
At the four yard line, Red Wolves QB Hansen went after Dijon Paschal deep but the ball went to the ground with Bootle’s help. A Wand run for two yards made it third and eight inside their own 10 for ASU. On that third, Gifford had a breakup from Hansen. However, rules state that since Jaypee Philbert held Carlos Davis in the end zone, it’s a safety! The deuce returned to Nebraska, who led 43-29 with 6:43 to go in the contest.
The ASU free kick was fantastic, driving Stanley Morgan back inside his own 25 yard line. Two Bryant carries made it third down & four to go, where Lee launched it into the ASU bench, making for three and out. Lightbourn went to punt, got it out, and Blaise Taylor had the fair catch at the ASU 37 yard line.
Hansen slung the bean to Bayless to start the drive, but a drop to Bayless made it third and 6. Hansen, in one of his few times tonight, scrambled out of the pocket and got the first down. Hansen got it to Murray on the next play, then Jones met Mohammed Barry the hard way but not before he got the first down. An incomplete pass on 1st down was followed by a Hansen to Edwards for a first down & 11 yards. Jones got the next pass, but Gifford hit him for a minimal gain with time going away from the Red Wolves. McGinnis got the pass to move the chains & get inside the 20 yard line. Blake Mack got it inside the five yard line, where Hansen wasted one pass. On second down and under a minute to play, Hansen hit Edwards on the back-shoulder fade for the TD. The XP finished off the 12 play, 63 yard drive to make it 43-36 Huskers with :47 seconds left.
Arkansas State engaged onside kick mode, and it got activated with a Chris Murray recovery on the Nebraska side of the field which was confirmed on review. Hansen got it started with a completion to Mack. Hansen sent a pass over Booker’s head with :21 to go in the game. Another incompletion brought third and 10 with :15 left. that play brought Edwards on a 10 yard out to get a first down with :09 down. Antonio Reed with a hands to the face took it to the 11 yard line on the same play. Deontre Thomas almost saved the game, but Hansen threw it incomplete with :02 to go. With one last shot, Hansen sent it through the back of the end zone. Game over.
Final Score: Nebraska 43 Arkansas State 36