Game replay: Troy 24, Nebraska 19
Four keys from Nebraska’s 24-19 loss to Troy on Saturday, including a peculiar play, a questionable call and more.
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There were odd moments on Nebraska’s side — back-to-back personal foul penalties on linebackers, an illegal formation on a punt — but the one that stands out was a 58-yard punt return for a touchdown by Troy’s Cedarius Rookard. Watching it live, Nebraska was in good position to tackle Rookard for a modest gain before overcommitting on tackles. And why was punter Caleb Lightbourn so far up the middle of the field at his own 45, 13 yards into Rookard’s return, instead of closer to the end of the play where he could have played more of a safety? As it was, offensive tackle Matt Farniok was NU’s “last man” and he’s not going to track down a punt returner.
Anytime Nebraska called a delayed screen to a running back? Troy’s consistent focus on running the ball when NU shut down all but one play? There were many. But Nebraska’s decision to punt when it had a fourth-and-1 at its own 43 was a stinger. The Huskers immediately picked up a delay of game penalty, then Lightbourn hit his worst punt of the season for 24 yards. In other words, Nebraska gained all of 19 yards on the change of possession — and lost possession!
Nebraska’s offense seemed to operate better when the Huskers had two backs in the backfield — with JD Spielman or Tyjon Lindsey motioning out for a swing screen pass. Once NU showed more of that look in the second quarter, it immediately had two good drives into Troy territory, one of which resulted in a touchdown. When the Huskers simply went with three wideouts, they didn’t look nearly as good.
Not many from Nebraska’s side, but the pass rush — which notched three sacks and helped force a bad pass that led to a Lamar Jackson interception — was one bright spot. It’s very hard for opponents to sit back in the pocket and scan the field right now, and it likely won’t be any easier for Michigan or Purdue in the next two weeks.