Lincoln NE- When Nebraska wins less than ten games it is often seen as failure by their passionate fan base. The Huskers may not have won 10 this season but if you go out to Lincoln and talk to the fans there won’t be many unhappy. In Mike Riley’s first year as head coach Nebraska won just five games only getting a bowl bid due to a lack of six win teams. The Huskers won that game to finish the season 6-7 which was awful by Nebraska standards. A year later under Coach Riley the Huskers won four regular season games more than the year before a huge leap, and were ranked as high as 7th best in the country. Not to mention the Huskers could still grab hold of a 10th win if they can take down the Tennessee Volunteers in the Music City Bowl. Let’s take a look back at the season it was for Big Red, and white at hand back some report cards, and give out a few awards.
Game 1 Saturday September 3rd VS Fresno State W 43-10:
The Huskers took the field with heavy hearts in there home/season opener against Fresno State. Tragedy struck the Huskers when Senior Punter Sam Foltz was killed in a car crash that also took the life of former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler in July. With Foltz on their minds one of the most powerful moments in Husker history took place. When Nebraska took the field for their first fourth down the Huskers elected not to put a Punter on the field to honor Foltz taking a delay of game which was declined by Fresno State. The ball game was close at the half as the Huskers held just 14-10 lead over the Bulldogs, but Nebraska owned the second half scoring 33 unanswered points including 22 in the Fourth Quarter. Nebraska was led by Running Back Devine Ozigbo who ran for 103 yards and two scores. Tommy Armstrong went 5/10 passing with 108 yards and a Touchdown, and ran for 42 yards with a pair of scores. The Blackshirts forced three turnovers with Kieron Williams, and Chris Jones grabbing picks, and Mick Stoltenberg recovered a fumble in the Husker win. After losing a year ago on opening day that broke a 29 year opening day win streak Head Coach Mike Riley got the Huskers off to his first 1-0 start in his time at Nebraska.
Game 2 Saturday September 10th VS Wyoming W 52-17
Mountain West foe Wyoming came into Lincoln and came to play. Despite trailing by 10 at the half the Cowboys came back and tied the ballgame at 17 at one point in the third Quarter the Huskers entered the fourth with just a Touchdown lead but left the game with a 35 point blowout thanks to a high powered offense, and a dominant defensive performance in the Fourth Quarter outscoring the Cowboys 28-0 in the Fourth. Tommy Armstrong threw three touchdowns one going to Alonzo Moore who led the Huskers in receiving yards for the second straight week with 109, the other two went to Captain Jordan Westerkamp who hauled in 105 yards. Armstrong also ran for touchdown his third in the first two games. Devine Ozigbo also found the end zone upping his season total to three with just two games played. Nebraska’s defense who pitched a shutout in the Fourth Quarter for a second straight week picked off Wyoming Quarterback Josh Allen five times and forced him to fumble once. Captain Nate Gerry grabbed two picks, Chris Jones had one, Aaron Williams had one, and Kieron Williams had the biggest of the five returning one 23 yards to the endzone for a Touchdown. Ross Dzuris was responsible for recovering Allen’s fumble as the Blackshirts led the way as the Huskers got off to a 2-0 start.
Game 3 Saturday September 17th VS #22 Oregon W 35-32:
On a day that marked the 350th straight sellout home crowd for the Huskers Nebraska put together one of their best wins of the season by defeating #22 Oregon at home in front of a riled up Memorial Stadium crowd. The Huskers saw there 28-20 lead disappear halfway through the Third Quarter when Oregon went 97 yards in under three minutes to take a 32-28 lead. Tommy Armstrong was able to march Nebraska back capping off the game winning drive with an incredible 34 yard touchdown run. The Huskers were able to take serious advantage due to the fact everytime Oregon found the end zone they went for a two point conversion. The Ducks were only successful on ⅕ of attempts which helped the Huskers to victory. Nebraska was led on offense by their Quarterback who did a little bit of everything. Tommy Armstrong threw three touchdowns, with no picks, and 200 yards. He also ran for a score. Two of Armstrong’s touchdowns went to Jordan Westerkamp while Bryan Reimers hauled in the third. Devine Ozigbo also found pay dirt running in a Touchdown for Big Red. The Nebraska defense had trouble stopping the run as all five of Oregon’s touchdowns came threw the air but the defense came through when it needed to. Shutting down ⅘ of Oregon’s Second Down Conversions, and stopping Oregon from tying or taking the lead when they took over following Armstrong’s game winning rushing touchdown by turning the Ducks over on downs with 39 seconds left in the ballgame. Nebraska’s win had the Huskers ranked in the AP Poll for the first time of the season coming in at #20 entering B1G Ten play.
Game 4 Saturday September 24th @ Northwestern W 24-13:
In the B1G Ten opener #20 Nebraska traveled to West Division Rival Northwestern for their first road test of the season. The Northwestern crowd had more Red Shirts, then Purple so it wasn’t exactly the most intimidating of road crowds. Nebraska came in looking to get revenge on the Wildcats as they beat the Huskers 30-28 a season ago in Lincoln. Again the game was close entering the second half with the Huskers up just three but that would change quickly as the Huskers pulled away thanks to the outstanding play of Tommy Armstrong. Armstrong was terrific throwing for 246 Yards, and a Touchdown, along with 132 rushing yards all without any turnovers. His Touchdown pass went to Tight End Cethan Carter who hauled in his first Touchdown grab of the season. Terrell Newby the Senior Running Back finally got things going as he ran for 69 yards with a score, and Wide Receiver Jordan Westerkamp ran in a reverse for a Touchdown. Nebraska’s defense was able to sack Northwestern’s Clayton Thomson four times. Kevin Maurice had a pair of sacks, Chris Jones had one, and Nathan Gerry and Mick Stoltenberg split one. The Huskers also picked off Thomson twice as Aaron Williams, and Joshua Kalu both grabbed picks. The Blackshirts pitched their third Fourth Quarter Shutout of the season as they improved to 4-0 overall, and started unbeaten in B1G Ten play. The win helped Nebraska jump five spots to #15 in the AP Poll heading into Week Five.
Game 5 Saturday October 1rd VS Illinois W 31-16
Nebraska’s B1G Ten home opener came against the Fighting Illini of Illinois. The Illini handed the Huskers a painful loss in Champaign a season ago so for the second straight week Nebraska was seeking revenge. The game did not start off well for the #15 Huskers as they had a rough first half due to a key Tommy Armstrong interception and shaky defense play which sparked Illinois to a 13-10 halftime lead. Illinois defense played very well in the opening half and came into the second half with the same energy as Illinois took a 16-10 lead into the game’s final Quarter. That’s when it became evident the strongest trait of this Nebraska team was their Fourth Quarter play. Nebraska outscored Illinois 21-0 in the final Quarter to win the ballgame by a final of 31-16. Terrell Newby’s first touchdown of the ball game gave Nebraska a one point lead after Drew Brown knocked through the extra point. Nebraska quickly added two more scores with a Armstrong Touchdown pass to Tight End Trey Foster, and a huge run by Newby who ran the ball 63 yards to the house. Newby finished the game with 140 rushing yards and two Touchdowns. Though the Husker defense struggled early, were unable to force any turnovers, and only recorded one sack, they pitched their fourth fourth Quarter shutout in five games. Nebraska went into a Bye Week at 5-0, 2-0 against the B1G Ten, and #12 in the AP Poll.
Game 6 Saturday October 15th @ Indiana W 27-22
After some Bye Week help that put Nebraska in the Top 10 of the AP Poll ranked at #10 the Huskers first top ten ranking since 2011 the #10 Huskers put their unbeaten record to the test in Bloomington where a matchup with the Indiana Hoosiers loomed. The game started off excellent. Nebraska quickly jumped on top with 17 unanswered points to open the game. Following a Drew Brown Field Goal, and Terrell Newby rushing score Nebraska’s defense came through as Chris Jones picked off Indiana Quarterback Richard Lagow and returned it 33 yards for a Touchdown. Though Nebraska was up 17-0 Indiana did not give up. They cut the lead down all the way to two taking advantage of a blocked punt that was knocked into the endzone for a safety, some soft Nebraska run defense which Indiana was able to take advantage of and get into Field Goal range, and a Tommy Armstrong interception which set the Hoosiers up in Field Goal Position making the game 17-8 at halftime. After both teams exchanged punts Indiana’s offense was able to finally break through and cut the Nebraska lead to 17-15 as the Third Quarter expired with a 33 yard Devine Redding touchdown run. Despite a two interception game Tommy Armstrong was able to make a big play which helped the Huskers to victory when he rolled out and found Stanley Morgan for a 72 yard score putting the Huskers up 11. Indiana would cut the lead down to two but the Huskers were too much. Tommy Armstrong, and Terrell Newby led a 15 play drive wasting nearly 8 minutes of clock which ended in a Field Goal. With just 37 seconds to go Lagow threw a pick to Aaron Williams clinching Nebraska’s 6th straight win. The win put the Huskers at 6-0, 3-0 in the B1G Ten, and boosted them to #8 in the AP Top 25.
Game 7 Saturday October 22nd VS Purdue W 27-14
Following the close call in Bloomington #8 Nebraska returned home before a huge two game road trip to take on Purdue. This matchup was another chance for Nebraska to get some revenge as Purdue defeated the Huskers a year ago in a 55-45 shout out in West Lafayette. After a quick start for Big Red that saw Purdue try a reverse pass on their first offensive play that resulted in a Kieron Williams interception and resulted in a Tommy Armstrong rushing touchdown on the very next play momentum shifted to the Boilermakers. Purdue took a lead into the half thanks to a great rush defense that shut down Terrell Newby, Armstrong and company along with great play by David Blough who tossed a pair of Touchdowns including a 88 yard touchdown bomb to DeAngelo Yancey. Purdue also was able to pick off Armstrong while Nebraska closed in on the end zone at the end of the half as the teams went to the locker room with Purdue up 14-10. Nebraska’s defense was able to really bear down in the second half shutting down the Boilermakers. Linebacker Josh Banderas had a huge day for Big Red recording 13 tackles, the Huskers racked up three sacks, and got a second Kieron Williams pick which lifted the defense to their Fifth fourth Quarter shutout in just seven games played. Tommy Armstrong and the offense also got it going. Armstrong hit De’Mornay Pierson El for a 40 Yard Touchdown to give Nebraska a 17-14 lead, and then Alonzo Moore took an end around 24 yards to the house giving Nebraska took a 10 point lead sealing victory. Drew Brown’s longest Field Goal of his college career came late in the game as he knocked down a 51 yarder to put Nebraska up 27-14 which was ultimately the final score. Nebraska improved to 7-0, and 4-0 in the B1G Ten. The team also took a two game lead in the B1G Ten West, and jumped to #7 in the AP Top 25 poll.
Game 8 Saturday October 29th @ #11 Wisconsin L 23-17 OT:
The biggest game of the season loomed for Big Red when the team traveled to Madison to visit #11 Wisconsin who came in with one the country’s top defenses. Their only two losses came to a pair of top five teams (Ohio State, and @Michigan) both of whom Wisconsin lost to by a Touchdown. With a chance to put away the B1G Ten West, along with adding a win over a great football team, and seeking revenge over a Wisconsin team Nebraska had not beaten since 2012 going into the day Nebraska played inspired football. The Huskers struggled to get it going with the Badgers top flight defense on their A game for three quarters. Tommy Armstrong threw a pair of picks, and Nebraska scored just two Touchdowns in the game’s first three Quarters but yet again Nebraska owned the Fourth Quarter. Down 17-7 Nebraska drove down the field a 75 yard, 14 play drive that ended with Tommy Armstrong running into the end zone from two yards out cutting the Badger lead to 17-14. Nebraska’s defense came through soon after when Nate Gerry picked off Wisconsin’s Alex Hornibrook but Nebraska was unable to capitalize. A second chance however quickly emerged. Wisconsin’s second Quarterback Bart Houston also threw a pick and again it was Captain Nate Gerry hauling it in. The Huskers took advantage this time as Drew Brown knocked through a 35 yard field goal with just under four minutes to go tying the game at 17. With no one else scoring the game headed to overtime where the game ended quickly Wisconsin took just four plays to find the end zone, but did miss the extra point giving them a 23-17 lead. All Nebraska needed was a Touchdown, and an Extra Point and they would leave Madison with a win, but against Wisconsin’s defense the order was too tall. Nebraska quickly turned the ball over on downs as they lost a heart breaker by a final score of 23-17. In the loss Nebraska’s defense earned their sixth fourth quarter shutout. The Huskers loss knocked them back two spots to #9 in the AP Top 25 with a record of 7-1, and 4-1 in the B1G Ten.
Game 9 Saturday November 5th @ #6 Ohio State L 62-3:
After a heart breaker in Madison #9 Nebraska was set to take on their first top ten opponent in Columbus #6 Ohio State. The visit to Columbus could not have been worse as the Huskers suffered their second worst loss in program history falling to Ohio State by 59 points. However there was one reason to smile for Husker fans. Down 24-3 Tommy Armstrong tried to make something happen with his legs after picking up the first down Armstrong collided hard with the turf and laid on the turf with what looked to be a very scary neck injury, he was carted off the field and taken to a nearby hospital but luckily there was no neck injury. He ran back onto the field to be on the sidelines with his teammates midway through the second half showing just how tough a Quarterback, and man he is. In the loss Nebraska turned the ball over twice as Armstrong threw a pick six, as did backup Quarterback Ryker Fyfe after he came into replace Armstrong. The Huskers had no answer for I.T. Barrett and Ohio State Barrett threw four touchdowns, and the Buckeyes added two more on the ground in the route of the Huskers. With the terrible loss Nebraska fell to #21 in the AP Pool, and 19th in the first College Football Playoff rankings. The team fell to 7-2 overall, and 4-2 in the B1G, and worst of all lost their lead in the B1G Ten West Division to Wisconsin, and Minnesota.
Game 10 Saturday November 12th VS Minnesota W 24-17
#19 Nebraska needed a win after two straight losses that set the team back in the B1G West. Nebraska faced one of the two teams they were tied with in the West Minnesota at home with a chance to knock out at least one of the teams ahead of them at that is what they did. er what looked to be possibly the end of Tommy Armstrong’s college career the man who was carted off just one week earlier was not just ready to return a week leader, he led the Huskers to a win in his best performance of the season. After falling behind by a Touchdown early Armstrong led the Huskers to 10 straight unanswered points. He led Big Red on a nine play drive resulting in a field goal, and t He threw a 35 yard touchdown to True Freshman Running Back Tre Bryant giving the Huskers a 10-7 lead. Minnesota responded with ten unanswered points of their own to end the half putting Armstrong and company down 17-0. Again the Huskers defense would play great second half defense as Minnesota would not score. While the Blackshirts held down Mitch Leidner and Minnesota, Tommy Armstrong went to work opening up the second half with a 79 yard Touchdown drive ending in a 31 yard touchdown pass to Terrell Newby to tie the game. Armstrong despite injuring his hamstring stayed in the ball game to lead Nebraska down the field with a 91 yard Touchdown drive capped off with his legs as Armstrong ran in a 13 Yard Touchdown to give Nebraska a 24-17 lead. Armstrong again was injured however as he was carried off the field by teammates following the Touchdown as he fell on his ankle awkwardly. Armstrong was done for the day but the damage was done he threw for 217 Yards, with Two Touchdowns and ran for 61 yards in the score all without any turnovers. The Huskers defense clinched the win when Leander was picked off by Kieron Williams at the Huskers 14 yard line allowing backup Quarterback Ryker Fyfe to kneel the ball down clinching a Nebraska win. The Blackshirts who earned their seventh Fourth Quarter shutout were led by Josh Banderas, and Aaron Williams who all recorded 11 tackles in the win. The win helped the Huskers improve to 8-2, and 5-2 in the B1G Ten. They also jumped up to #19 in the AP Top 25, and 18th in the playoff hunt.
Game 11 Saturday November 19th VS Maryland W 28-7
Senior Day in Lincoln came with many emotions for the Huskers. The last home game marked the last home game for an outstanding Senior Class that included Wide Receiver Jordan Westerkamp, Safety Nate Gerry, Linebacker Josh Banderas, Center Dylan Utter, and Quarterback Tommy Armstrong. The team also was missing one Senior. Sam Foltz was honored at home one last time as the Huskers said goodbye to their Fourth Down Quarterback one more time. In order to keep their hopes alive for a B1G Ten West title Nebraska needed to take care of business against Maryland at home and they did just that blowing out the Terps. Tommy Armstrong was unable to go due to an ankle injury suffered in the win over Minnesota so Nebraska native Ryker Fyfe was able make his first career home start, and second overall start of his career on his Senior Day. The Senior Backup Quarterback did an amazing job replacing Armstrong as he went 23/37 on passing attempts, which was good for 220 yards, and a touchdown. Fyfe also added a 21 yard run on the ground. Terrell Newby had a big day rushing for 98 yards, and three touchdowns on his senior day leading the way to a Husker blowout win. Though the Blackshirts were unable to record any turnovers, and failed to hold Maryland scoreless in the Fourth Quarter they did record five sacks, and allowed just seven points on the day. Josh Banderas led the way with nine tackles. Freedom Akinmoladun had a pair of sacks in the big win which helped Nebraska improve to 9-2, 6-2 in the B1G Ten, and bolstered Nebraska up to #17 in the AP Top 25, and #16 in the Playoff race. The win also left Nebraska a chance to with the B1G Ten West needing a win over Iowa, and a Wisconsin loss to Minnesota to clinch a bid in the B1G Ten Title game.
Game 12 Saturday November 25th @Iowa L 40-10
The final chance at revenge from a 2015 loss came during rivalry week when Nebraska travelled to Iowa City to take on the Hawkeyes where the Hero’s Trophy was up for grabs. Tommy Armstrong returned after missing the Maryland game due to a leg injury but perhaps Nebraska brought him back a little prematurely. Armstrong went 13/35 with just 125 yards, and a Touchdown. Though he never turned the ball over he missed a lot of wide open men down field, and struggled to run the ball on his bad ankle. Tommy Armstrong wasn’t the only struggling Husker in Iowa. Both the Huskers offense and defense struggled in every phase as Iowa was able to come through with big play after big play to win the ballgame in blowout fashion by a final score of 40-10. With the loss Nebraska finished the regular season with a record of 9-3 overall, and 6-3 in B1G Ten play.
Quarterbacks: Starter: Tommy Armstrong Sr, Also Saw Action Ryker Fyfe Sr Grade A:
Tommy Armstrong certainly saved his best football for his senior year has he had an incredible senior campaign. He shattered every single Nebraska Quarterback record this is to shatter. He became the Huskers all time passing leader, pass completion leader, Touchdown passes, among many others. Armstrong this season used both his arm, and legs to help Nebraska win games. He threw for 13 touchdowns, and ran in 8 more. He added had 2,180 passing yards, and 512 rushing in an outstanding Senior Season. Not to mention the toughness he showed just a week after being carted off the field in Columbus when he suffered a scary looking injury against Ohio State he played his best game of the year in a win over Minnesota. The one week even Armstrong could not play which was on Senior Day in Lincoln Ryker Fyfe stepped in and helped keep this grade an A. He played an outstanding game in his only career home start. He went 23/27 with 220 passing yards, and a score to help the Huskers to a win. All in all it was a stellar year from the senior Tommy Armstrong, and with a job well done by Ryker Fyfe in his lone start this duo together earns an A.
Running Backs: Starter: Terrell Newby Sr, Also Saw Action Devine Ozigbo So, Mikel Wilson So, Tre Bryant Fr Grade B-: The Nebraska rushing attack wasn’t just all from their Quarterback. Their group of halfbacks did a solid job throughout the season. Early on in the season it looked like Sophomore Devine Ozigbo was going to be the guy. He scored four Touchdowns in the Huskers first three games. He would end up finishing the season with just five as Senior Terrell Newby became the primary running back for Big Red down the stretch. Newby but together an outstanding season he averaged 4.8 yards a carry finishing the season with 864 rushing yards, and seven rushing touchdowns. He also added a 138 receiving yards the only Husker running back to have over 100 receiving yards, and a receiving Touchdown. Toward the end of the season true freshman Tre Bryant also got a good amount of work. He was good for 172 rushing yards, and two total touchdowns as he campaigned for the starting job that he will battle Devine Ozigbo, and Mikel Wilson who got some touches for the Huskers in 2016. Overall led by Terrell Newby this group did pretty well, though there wasn’t too much contribution to the passing attack, or a great about of consistency.
Wide: Receivers/Tight Ends : Starters WR Jordan Westerkamp Sr, WR Stanley Morgan So, TE Cethan Carter Sr, Also Saw Action WR Alonzo Moore Sr, WR Brandon Riley Sr, WR De’Mornay Pierson El Jr, WR Bryan Reimers So, TE Trey Foster Sr, TE Sam Cotton Sr Grade B+:
In order for Tommy Armstrong to be great throwing the ball he needed his Wideouts, and Tight Ends to have big years and with the talent of this group it wasn’t too hard these guys played some great football. What made this group grade is the fact there really wasn’t a number one target for Armstrong as the Huskers leading receiver Jordan Westerkamp led by just 101 yards over the second leading receiver Stanley Morgan. Westerkamp one of the four Husker captain’s had 38 grabs, 526 yards, and five touchdowns all good for the team lead. Sophomore Stanley Morgan showed Husker fans he’s ready to be the number one option next season hauling in 425 yards, on 30 grabs with a pair of touchdowns. Seniors Alonzo Moore and Brandon Riley also played key roles Moore had 372 yards and two scores and Riley racked 314 yards receiving. It was a bit of a disappoint for the Husker Tight Ends as the three seniors Cethan Carter, Trey Foster, and Sam Cotton did not do much. The starter Cethan Carter battled injury and finished the regular season with just 156 yards and a Touchdown a bit of a letdown. Sam Cotton had just 87 yards, and Trey Foster served more as a blocking tight end but did find the endzone on his lone catch of the year against Illinois. Since we are combing the Tight Ends and Receivers this grade is pretty high. These wideouts did a great job and with most of them being Seniors the Huskers have some big holes to fill next season as a pair of four star recruits committed to Nebraska including Keyshawn Johnson JR may be needed from day one at Nebraska to help replace this outstanding group of veteran receivers.
Offensive Line: Starters LT Nick Gates So, LG Jerald Foster RS Fr, C Dylan Utter Sr, RG Tanner Farmer RS FR, RT Cole Kenard So Also Saw Action RT David Knevel Jr, T Corey Whitaker Sr, Sam Hahn SR Grade: C+: In all fairness this group dealt with a lot of injuries. Jerald Foster did not return until the third to final game of the season, Cole Kenard missed time, Tanner Farmer and missed time which forced a lot of backups into action. However as a whole this group was pretty average. Tommy Armstrong and Ryker Fyfe were sacked a combined 11 times this season which on paper isn’t too bad. However the reason for that wasn’t just because the offensive line played pretty well, it was because of Armstrong’s ability to roll out, get rid of the ball, and even sometimes make spectacular plays on the run. The Huskers also did not have an 1,000 rusher. Again that is not all in the offensive line but with Terrell Newby in the backfield a 1,000 yard season was expected. Unfourtney the offensive line at times failed to create big holes which is why the grade is a little low. All in all however this group was pretty good and with a lot of young players that started like Nick Gates, Jerald Foster, Tanner Farmer, and Cole Kenard this group will be together for a long time and will have chanced to improve.
Defensive Line : Starters DE Ross Dzuris Sr, DT Mick Stoltenberg So, DT Kevin Maurice Sr DE Freedom Akinmoladun So Also Saw Action DE Mick Stoltenberg Also Saw Action DT Carlos Davis RS FR, DT Khalil Davis RS FR Grade B-:
This Nebraska team did a pretty good job all season long at getting to the Quarterback and stopping the run. Whenever a team can get pressure or shutdown a run game credit starts up front. The Blackshirt defensive line was solid all year long. They were 52nd in the nation with 26 team sacks, and 62nd in run defense. Ross Dzuris was the leader for the Husker pass rush as he had 5.5 sacks, and put a 10 tackle game together in the loss to Iowa. Freedom Akinmoladun broke onto the scene with a three sack season including a pair of sacks in the win over Maryland. Freedom made key plays all season long for the run defense as well as the pass rush as he looks to be a force going forward with Dzuris set to leave. Kevin Maurice filled in very well for now NFL nose tackles Vincent Valentine, and Malik Collins. The 300 pound senior on top of three sacks was a tackle machine for the Huskers. Leaving brothers Carlos Davis, and Khalil Davis with big holes to fill next season. All in all the Huskers had a handful of players up front do solid jobs. The run defense was a little shaky down the stretch epically in the loss to Iowa which is why this grade isn’t as high.
Linebackers Starters SLB Michael Rose Ivey Sr, MLB Josh Banderas Sr, WLB, WLB Dedrick Young So Also Saw Action: Marcus Newby Jr, Chris Weber Jr Grade A-
The next group of blackshirts to look at is the Linebacking core. This group was very solid all year long and the leader was captain Josh Banderas. To say Banderas will be big shoes to fill next season is an understatement based on what we saw from him this season. From the 6th game of the season vs Indiana all the way to the regular season finale in Iowa City Banderas recorded at least eight tackles proving to be a force for Big Red. His biggest performance was against Purdue when he recorded 13 tackles. Michael Rose Ivey also played well recording three eight plus tackle games. Along with Dedrick Young, Marcus Newby, Chris Weber and company Banderas and Rose Ivy anchored a very successful group of veteran Linebackers. Though they finished 62nd in the country at stopping the run the Linebackers had a stellar year. The way Josh Banderas played makes this grade higher than it would have been without him and for that hopefully he’ll get the chance to play on Sundays next season.
Cornerbacks Starters: Joshua Kalu Jr, Chris Jones Jr also saw action Lamar Jackson Fr Grade B:
Nebraska’s pass defense ranked 42nd best in the country and the two men assigned to shutting down opponent’s top Wide Receivers did a very good job in their junior seasons. Chris Jones and Joshua Kalu both had solid years for Nebraska. Jones had three picks including a pick six, and Kalu had just one pick but was among the Husker tackle leaders. The downside was they did struggle with their two biggest tests of the year. Tanner Gentry of Wyoming, and DeAngelo Yancey of Purdue were the only top 40 Wide Receivers in terms of receiving yards that the Jones and Kalu went up against and they both went over 100 yards. In order to be among the best you have to stop the best and the Huskers could not shut them down. All in all it was still a pretty good year for both Jones, and Kalu and look for them to continue to get better entering their senior season.
Safeties Starters: Kiron Williams Jr, Nathan Gerry Sr also saw action Aaron Williams So Grade B+:
Going into the season captain Nathan Gerry was a household name that nearly the entire country knew about. By the end of the regular season it was Kiron Williams and Aaron Williams getting the majority of the praise in Lincoln. That however takes nothing away from Gerry as he was great yet again for the Huskers and very well may end up in the NFL. In his senior season Gerry had at least six tackles in all but three games, and had two multi interception games making him a force for both the run defense and pass defense. Junior safety Aaron Williams had a great year he had three picks including a pick six, and a game sealing interception in crunch time against Minnesota. Kiron also put together a huge game in Indiana when he had 10 total tackles all 10 of them solo. Aaron Williams proved he can be the man to step in for Nate Gerry the next two seasons. The Sophomore had two picks including a game clinching pick of his own in the win over Indiana. He had huge games against Northwestern and Minnesota. He had a pick and seven tackles in Evanston to help lead the Huskers passed the Wildcats, and 11 tackles with a pass defended in the win over Minnesota. This group really did a great job and with the combo of Williams and Williams should have Husker fans excited for next year even with the departure of fan favorite Nate Gerry.
Punter Caleb Lightbourn Fr Grade C: Before grading Caleb Lightbourn he deserves a ton of praise. The plan was to redshirt the Freshman and that’s when tragedy struck. Sam Foltz wasn’t just an amazing young man, he was an amazing punter among the best in the country. Leaving the Freshman Lightbourn to not just replace one of the most loved men in the state of Nebraska but an outstanding punter. Lightbourn had an up and down season but struggled as the weather got colder. He had a -2 yard punt at home against Minnesota and shanked a punt so badly it landed in the Kinnick Stadium crowd against Iowa. Still give the man kudos he did well for a True Freshman filling shoes in a way he never should have had to.
Kicker Drew Brown Jr Also Saw Action Spencer Lindsay Sr Grade A+: To keep this simple Drew Brown was incredible. A Kicker I fully expect to have an NFL career after his senior year next year. Brown went 11/13 and even knocked through a 51 yard field goal against Purdue.
Return Game Tre Bryant Fr, and De’Mornay Pierson El Jr Grade C-:
In his Freshman year De’mornay Pierson El broke onto the seen as one of the most feared return men in the country. After injuries plagued him his Sophomore year though he looked to lose a bit of his ability as a Punt Returner and that carried into his Junior Year. He failed to bring a return back to the house averaging just 7.3 yards per Punt Return with a long of 45 yards. In the Kick Return game Freshman Tre Bryant averaged 22.1 yards a return with a long of 59 showing he will most definitely be the guy in that role the next three years.
Coaching Staff Grade A+: Though Husker fans expect to win 10 games every regular season they can’t complain with the job Mike Riley did in his second year as Head Coach. Riley led the Huskers to a 9-3 record a four game improvement from his first year where they went 5-7. Riley will look to lead the Huskers to his second bowl win as Nebraska Head Coach in as many years when they take on the Tennesse Volunters in the Music City Bowl.
Offensive Player Of The Year: RB Terrell Newby Sr
Defensive Player Of The Year: LB Josh Banderas Sr
Special Teams Player Of The Year: K Drew Brown Jr
Best Freshman: RB/KR Tre Bryant Fr
Outstanding Sophomore: WR Stanley Morgan So
Team MVP: QB Tommy Armstrong Sr
Offensive Play Of The Year : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWpJKY3jI5E
Defensive Play Of The Year: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSOKiQlEJZA
Best Moment : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4c9Zg2qmDeU