Nebraska had quite a scare on Saturday night in Columbus, and it had nothing to do with the scoreboard as the Buckeyes were decimating the Cornhuskers in Ohio Stadium. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong was taken by ambulance off the field and to a nearby hospital after being knocked out after hitting the ground hard. It was a welcome sight to see Armstrong return to the sidelines in street clothes, but the Huskers quarterback is not quite cleared to play just yet.
On Monday, Nebraska head coach Mike Riley said Armstrong is going through concussion protocol. That makes his status for this week’s game against Minnesota “day-to-day.”
A decision on whether or not Armstrong will be able to play this weekend will be made later this week as doctors continue to monitor Armstrong and check for any signs of head trauma that would prevent him from playing. In the meantime, Riley will prepare for the Gophers as though Ryker Fyfe will be the starting quarterback for Nebraska. Fyfe stepped in for the injured Armstrong on Saturday night.
Holder Zack Darlington will prepare for backup duty behind Fyfe in case of an emergency, but the hope is obviously that Armstrong will be able to return to the field quickly.
Nebraska head coach Mike Riley had a seven-game losing streak against Oregon dating back to his years as head coach of Oregon State. So when Nebraska brought down No. 22 Oregon quarterback Dakota Prukop on fourth down and saw the final seconds tick away off the clock, there was a reason to celebrate with a Gatorade shower for Riley. Nebraska (3-0) held on for a 35-32 victory over the Pac-12’s Ducks and enter Big Ten play with momentum that eluded them a year ago.
Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong ran 34 yards for a touchdown with 2:29 to play, giving the Cornhuskers a 35-32 lead. Oregon once led the game, 20-7, and was unable to hold Nebraska down in the second half.
This one will not be fun to review for new Oregon defensive coordinator Brady Hoke, who made his return to a Big Ten stadium for the first time since being fired by Michigan two years ago. Nebraska had 228 rushing yards, with Armstrong leading the way with 96 rushing yards and a touchdown and Devine Ozigbo nearly equaling him with 94 yards and a touchdown. Terrell Newby chipped in with 42 rushing yards as well. Armstrong’s passing effort helped lead the way too with 200 yards and three touchdowns without an interception.
Oregon’s offense took an early hit in the first half with running back Royce Freeman going down with a leg injury. He did not return, leading the Ducks to look to Prukop, Taj Griffin and Kani Benoit to take care of the ground attack. It was effective with 327 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Oregon’s unique decisions to go for two-point conversions came back to haunt them, perhaps. Oregon attempted five two-point conversions and converted on just the first one in the game. That left four potential points off the scoreboard in a three-point game. Take the points, Oregon. Take. The. Points.
Nebraska will hit the road next week for their first Big Ten game of the season. The Cornhuskers travel to Northwestern, a team that has given Nebraska the fits in recent years. Oregon will return home for its Pac-12 opener against Colorado. Colorado gave Michigan a run for a while in Ann Arbor before the Wolverines put them away in the second half of a 45-28 victory.
In a Big Ten-Pac-12 battle, Oregon and Nebraska may have been expected to put a bunch of points on the scoreboard. The first half has had a more defensive approach, with Oregon holding a 20-14 lead at the halftime break in Lincoln. The main story of the first half, however, has been a notable injury to one of the top offensive weapons for the Ducks.
Oregon running back Royce Freeman left the game with an apparent leg injury after rushing five times for 31 yards. He was spotted on the field with ice wrapped around his right knee on the bench with a towel over his head. The extent of the injury has been unconfirmed, but he has not returned.
Oregon was first to score in Lincoln with a 20-yard touchdown run by Tony Brooks in the first quarter on third down. In typical Ducks fashion, Oregon opted to go for two points instead of kick the extra point, and the conversion was successful. It took slightly longer for the Cornhuskers to answer, but they did later in the first quarter with Tommy Armstrong connecting with Jordan Westerkamp from 22 yards. Nebraska kicked the extra point to create a one-point game.
Oregon expanded its lead in the second quarter with a short touchdown run by Brooks from the two-yard line on third down. The defense came through with a fumble recovery after Armstrong lost control of the football. It was returned 34 yards to midfield by Oregon, and Taj Griffin dashed 50 yards for a score on the very next play for a 20-7 lead..
Nebraska did cut into the lead thanks to some penalties against Oregon’s defense giving the Cornhuskers multiple opportunities right before the half. Armstrong eventually found Westerkamp in the end zone for one last score in the first half.
When the door was left open for 5-7 teams to play in a postseason bowl game, the possibility a team could end the year with a win and a losing record become real. On Saturday night, Nebraska (6-7) took advantage of their rare bowl opportunity by running over, around and through UCLA (8-5) in the Foster Farms Bowl in a 37-29 victory. Nebraska ran for 326 yards as a team to wear down UCLA’s defense.
Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong completed 12 of his 19 selective pass attempts for 174 yards and a touchdown, and he also took off running for 76 hard-earned yards and a touchdown on 10 carries to earn game MVP honors. Devine Ozigbo carried the football 20 times for the Huskers, leading the team with 80 rushing yards. Every time it seemed as though UCLA had taken control of the game, including going up 21-7 midway through the second quarter, Nebraska’s running game found a way to battle back. Mike Riley‘s previous experience in the Pac-12 with Oregon State may have helped prepare a game plan to battle what UCLA does. Riley is now 2-0 against Bruins head coach Jim Mora. Nebraska ripped off 30 straight points before UCLA got back on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter. Armstrong’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Stanley Morgan in the third quarter gave Nebraska its first lead of the game and they never looked back.
Young star quarterback Josh Rosen passed for 319 yards and three touchdowns for UCLA and showed some brilliant touch on his passes at times, but he was also intercepted twice, including one late in the game to help Nebraska seal the game in their favor. Bruins running back Paul Perkins rushed for 68 yards and a score. UCLA managed just 17 first downs and held the football for just under 22 minutes.
For UCLA, this is another disappointing effort for a team that once again failed to live up to any sort of preseason or inseasin hype it seemed to generate. Injuries hurt UCLA at times, but this was a Nebraska team that gave up 55 points to Purdue and lost to Illinois. Nebraska had its share of close calls this season go against them, and one big one go their way against Michigan State, so perhaps a bowl victory was a justified reward for those Husker fans who sat through and took punches to gut on multiple occasions this season.
Nebraska is the second 5-7 team to win a bowl game this season. San Jose State was the first with a win in the Cure Bowl against Georgia State.
WHO: UCLA (8-4) vs. Nebraska (5-7)
WHAT: The 14th Foster Farms Bowl
WHERE: Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California
WHEN: 9:15 p.m. ET, Dec. 26 on ESPN
THE SKINNY: UCLA hit a few bumps in the road this season but still managed to put together a respectable eight-win season in the debut season of freshman quarterback Josh Rosen. The much-hyped freshman lived up to much of the hype surrounding him coming out of high school as he passed for 3,351 yards and 20 touchdowns with just nine interceptions thrown. The scary thing is there is room to improve. Rosen was picked off twice in the final game of the season against SUC, which helped hand the Trojans the Pac-12 South Division and lock the Bruins out of the conference title game. Against Nebraska, Rosen will have a chance to build on his impressive debut season and head to the spring with some good momentum.
Providing a steady and dependable resource for Rosen was junior running back Paul Perkins, who rushed for 1,275 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. Perkins should be a key player for UCLA against Nebraska, as the Huskers bring the nation’s eighth-best rushing defense with them to Santa Clara.
Nebraska managed to take full advantage of a surplus of bowl vacancies to fill without enough bowl-eligible teams to fill them. With a 50-7 record, Nebraska was extended an invite to the postseason by the NCAA by way of APR scores. See? It pays to hit the books for football programs. Regardless of how or why Nebraska got into a bowl game in the first place, it is important to also remember just how close Nebraska was to being bowl eligible the right way.
Nebraska fans were on the edges of their seats all season long with tight games ended in defeat against BYU and Miami as well as Illinois, Wisconsin and Northwestern. Nebraska also gave Iowa a run and the Huskers are the only team to have defeated Michigan State this season. Nebraska should be expected to play a bit of a roller coaster type game once more, with Tommy Armstrong capable of going through upswings and down swings at any moment of any quarter.
THE PREDICTION: UCLA 34, Nebraska 30