Ron Brown has seen a lot of option football in his many years as a Nebraska assistant coach, but few that worked out like the Huskers’ winning touchdown against Michigan.
In fact, Brown said he couldn’t recall any off the top of his head that included the pitch going forward from the quarterback to the I-back, as it did from Tommy Armstrong to Ameer Abdullah.
The 5-yard play was ruled a TD pass because the lateral was forward. It was legal because it was behind the line of scrimmage, like a shovel pass.
“The kid on defense made it a tough read,” Brown said.
Armstrong hesitated and held on to the football because Michigan defensive end Frank Clark never committed to either the quarterback or back. Abdullah kept running and ended up in front of Armstrong as he went to pitch.
Brown said the other part of the play that stood out was receiver Alonzo Moore holding his block on Wolverines cornerback Raymon Taylor in the end zone to give Abdullah a clear path to the goal line.
From big catch to big drop
Jordan Westerkamp got a taste of how emotions can swing from Saturday to Saturday in college football.
A week ago, the redshirt freshman was the hero with a 49-yard touchdown catch on the Hail Mary pass from Ron Kellogg to beat Northwestern.
In the fourth quarter Saturday, the receiver muffed a punt that was recovered by Dennis Norfleet on the Huskers’ 26-yard line, setting up the Wolverines’ go-ahead field goal with 8:08 left in the game.
Westerkamp got off to a good start Saturday, catching a 27-yard pass from Armstrong on third-and-15 on the Huskers’ first series and then adding a 17-yard return after Michigan’s first punt.
A simple ‘pitch and catch’
When Nebraska faced on fourth-and-2 at Michigan’s 31 late in Saturday’s 17-13 win, coach Bo Pelini didn’t hesitate much when choosing to go for it.
First, he didn’t like the “tricky” wind that would have been set up for kicker Pat Smith, who would have been trying a 48-yard field goal. Second, he liked what Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck had cooked up for that play.
Which was a pass from Armstrong to junior wide receiver Kenny Bell.
Why did Beck call a pass? Because Michigan had switched its early-game defense into one where it stuffed the box with defenders. The Wolverines were playing a Cover-3, Beck said — that’s three defensive backs dropping into deep coverage, and the quick throw was open.
“It’s pitch and catch,” Beck said. “You gotta be able to execute something like that. And we did.”
Sterup steps in on offensive line
The veterans on the offensive line could sense a little bit of nervousness from their inexperienced right tackle, who was suddenly inserted into Saturday’s game after another injury up front.
Zach Sterup hasn’t seen much game action. Yet there he was at the Big House, filling in for the most seasoned NU lineman (Jeremiah Sirles) who was helped off the field just before halftime.
So senior Andrew Rodriguez made it a point to do everything he could to keep Sterup loose and relaxed.
“I was messing with him,” Rodriguez said, smiling. Between plays and on the sideline, Rodriguez said he kept shouting over to his young teammate. “Let’s go, Sterup! Let’s go, big dog!’”
The nerves didn’t seem to impact Sterup’s play, according to Rodriguez. Offensive line coach John Garrison wasn’t sure what to make of Sterup’s demeanor.
“(He was) almost eerily calm,” Garrison said. “I almost had to smack him to see if he was awake.”
Sterup, from Hastings St. Cecilia, was certainly nervous, though. He played the entire second half trying to act like he’d been there before. Not many Michigan defenders were able to maneuver around his 6-foot-8, 315-pound frame.
“I was pretty nervous on the inside, just tried not to show it too much,” he said.
Another hot start for Nebraska
Nebraska didn’t score on its first offensive series Saturday, but did have another successful first quarter.
The Huskers took a 10-0 lead and now have outscored their opponents 114-51 in the first quarter, by far their biggest advantage in any period this season. Pat Smith kicked a 21-yard field goal on NU’s second possession and Abdullah scored on an 8-yard run on the third.
Nebraska crossed midfield four plays into the game but then was forced to punt. It was the first time in Armstrong’s five starts that the Huskers didn’t score a touchdown on their first possession.
Enunwa joins elite group
Quincy Enunwa became the eighth player in Nebraska history to reach 100 career receptions.
The senior caught a career-high seven passes for 69 yards, pushing his four-year total to 104. Enunwa has at least four receptions in six of nine games, and now a team-leading 41 on the season.
This and that
Ľ Nebraska’s game against Michigan State on Saturday will kick off at 2:30 p.m. and will be televised regionally on ABC and on ESPN2 outside the Big Ten region.
Ľ Nebraska’s win snapped Michigan’s 19-game home winning streak and gave coach Brady Hoke his first home loss.
Ľ The three sacks by Randy Gregory were a career high.