#6 South Dakota State Leads Early, Falls at Nebraska 59-20
Sixth-ranked South Dakota State played one solid quarter of football against Nebraska Saturday in Lincoln, but unfortunately for the Jackrabbits, games are still four quarters, as a 17-14 SDSU lead turned into a 59-20 loss to the Huskers in front of 90,614 fans.
For the first time in 44 games, Nebraska started someone other than Taylor Martinez at quarterback, as redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong got the start for Martinez who was sidelined with a toe injury.
It took exactly four plays for Armstrong to lead his team into the end zone, with 65 yards of rushing and receiving from Ameer Abdullah and a 5-yard touchdown run from Imani Cross to make it 7-0 Huskers 1:31 into the game.
But the Jacks responded with a four play drive of their own. Quarterback Austin Sumner hit back-to-back passes for first downs, and running back Zach Zenner did the rest with a 4-yard run followed by a 40-yard scamper to the end zone to make it 7-7 less than three minutes into the game.
Nebraska kept up the frenetic offensive pace on their next drive, as Armstrong showed off his arm with 44-yards of passing, part of a 9-play, 66-yard drive, with Cross ending up in the end zone for the second time, this time from 2-yards, 14-7 Cornhuskers.
On SDSU’s next possession , the offense was keyed by a 3rd and two from their own 37, when Zenner broke off three tackles and went for 35 yards. Two plays later, Zenner was back in the end zone from 3-yards out and the game was tied at 14 with 6:45 left in the first quarter. Zenner finished the first half with 164 yards rushing, 202 yards rushing on the day..
Nebraska rotated in Ron Kellogg III at quarterback on their third series, and he lasted just two plays before Abdullah fumbled at midfield, recovered by R.C. Kilgore. The turnover was the 13th forced by the SDSU defense this season.
The Jackrabbits appeared to take the lead when Sumner hit tight end Cam Jones for a 4-yard score, but the touchdown was called back because of offensive pass interference on Jason Schneider.
That was followed by a false start penalty, pushing it back it first and goal from the 24, then after a Zenner 12-yard run, SDSU gave up back-to-back sacks, pushing them back to the 30. From there, Justin Syrovatka kicked a 48-yard field goal, and South Dakota State had the lead, 17-14 after the first quarter. Sumner was sacked five times on the day.
On the Huskers next drive, it was another SDSU penalty that helped Nebraska, as Andrew Brown was called for pass interference on the third play, and the Huskers had it on the Jacks 43. Five plays later, Abdullah scored from a yard out and Nebraska recaptured the lead at 21-17.
The first defensive stop of the day belonged to Nebraska as they held the Jacks to three and out on the next possession and they appeared to take advantage when Armstrong returned at quarterback and dropped a 42-yard pass right into the hands of Kenny Bell at the goal line, but Bell dropped the ball and it fell incomplete.
The Huskers regrouped and five plays later, Armstrong had his first touchdown pass, 16-yards to Sam Burtch, 28-17 Nebraska.
The Nebraska defense continued to step up their next time on the field, forcing Sumner throw his first interception of the year, as Stanley Jean-Baptiste grabbed his fourth pick of the year, and the Huskers were in business at the SDSU 47.
It took just two plays for Nebraska’s offense to convert, as Kellogg returned at quarterback to find Tyler Wullenwaber for a 23-yard touchdown and a 35-17 Husker lead.
After forcing SDSU to turn it over on downs with 1:29 left, the Huskers tacked on a Mauro Bondi 22-yard field goal, giving Nebraska 24 unanswered points and a 38-17 halftime lead.
The Cornhuskers outgained the Jackrabbits 401 – 289 in the first 30 minutes.
The Jackrabbit defense forced its second turnover of the game on Nebraska’s first possession of the second half, when Winston Wright forced a Bell fumble at the SDSU 10, recovered by Kilgore. SDSU failed to take advantage when Syrovatka missed a 32-yard field goal, snapping his streak of 15 straight.
Nebraska got the ball back on the 20 and went 80-yards in nine plays, with a Terrell Newby 10-yard touchdown run giving the Huskers 31 unanswered points and a 45-17 lead.
The Nebraska defense made it 38 straight moments later when Randy Gregory picked off Sumner and returned it 33-yards for a touchdown, and the rout was on, 52-17.
SDSU did stop the Huskers scoring run early in the fourth when Syrovatka connected from 29-yards to make it 52-20.
Newby finished the scoring with his second touchdown of the second half with a 5-yard touchdown run on their next possession, 59-20 Nebraska.
Nebraska’s quarterback tandem of Armstrong and Kellogg III were a combined 20-of-24 passing for 305 yards passing and two touchdowns.
SDSU’s Sumner was 19-of-29 with two interceptions.
The Jackrabbits (3-1) open Missouri Valley Conference play at home next Saturday with #1 North Dakota State. Kickoff is 2:00pm at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium.
Nebraska (3-1) is off next week. The Huskers open Big Ten play at home with Illinois, October 5th at 11:00am.