A tough week got even tougher at halftime Saturday. Nebraska took the field while its head coach headed to the hospital in an ambulance.
And there was a moment — with Nebraska up 28-10 and 5:12 left in the third quarter — where you couldn’t help but wonder if the Huskers were going to be overwhelmed by it all. Arkansas State had the football on NU’s 15-yard line.
The UCLA loss. The frustration echoing from different corners of the fan base all week. Chase Rome’s departure. Bo Pelini hospitalized. The Red Wolves coming back.
But the Huskers responded exactly the way they needed to, holding ASU to a field goal before scoring touchdowns on their next two offensive possessions to put the game away. They improved to 2-1 on the year with a 42-13 win.
Said defensive coordinator John Papuchis: “The theme of this week was, ‘How are we going to respond?’ … There were so many life lessons that I think our guys can take from this. It’s been a very trying and emotional week.”
And offensive coordinator Tim Beck: “We were able to gain our composure again and finish the game out, for the most part, like we wanted to.”
Obviously, the story Saturday is Pelini’s status. We’ll continue to pass along updates when we can. He released a statement after the game, saying he was “fine” and planned to be back to work Sunday.
Until we hear more, here’s a look back at Nebraska’s bounce back win, courtesy of Papuchis and Beck…
>> Biggest concern for NU’s defense going in? Adjusting to Arkansas State’s up-tempo offense. The Red Wolves moved faster than Nebraska thought they would. The Huskers were back on their “heels” early on. But that was expected. Said Papuchis: “We knew we had to survive that initial surge.”
>> Zaire Anderson, who started at weakside linebacker, showed a bit of nervousness and did miss some assignments, according to Papuchis. That’s OK, though. The staff played him because it needed his athleticism. “We knew there were going to be some bumps in the road,” Papuchis said. Anderson had three tackles.
>> This defensive lineup may not be the same one you see when Nebraska plays Wisconsin in two weeks. Going forward, Papuchis said the “style of offense will dictate who plays on defense.”
>> The game plan on offense was to establish the run and stick with it, Beck said. Mission accomplished. He didn’t plan on getting Ameer Abdullah so many carries (30 rushing attempts for 167 yards), though.
>> Taylor Martinez finished 13-for-14 (92.9 percent), the program record for the best single-game completion percentage with at least 10 passing attempts. The junior quarterback was “efficient” and “patient,” Beck said. “He just played within the confines of the offense,” Beck said.
>> What didn’t Beck like about Saturday’s performance? The four turnovers. And an illegal chop block in the third quarter that wiped out a third down conversion.