Huskers fall to Ducks despite big second half

Arnold Nichols
September 10, 2017

The Ducks then scored on a five-yard run from Kani Benoit to make it 35-14, and a second interception from Lee with 1:45 left in the second half led to a 17-yard pass from Herbert to receiver Dillon Mitchell, and OR went up 42-14.

The Blackshirts, meanwhile, forced two turnovers and other turnover on downs to redeem themselves from a first half in which OR (2-0) amassed 409 yards and scored 21 straight points to close the second quarter.

Taggart still managed to wear a 2-0 smile after Jim Leavitt's defense did the heavy lifting down the stretch to deliver Oregon's 42-35 victory over the Cornhuskers in front of a blended red and yellow crowd of 58,389 on Saturday at Autzen Stadium. The Huskers' next drive - with 2:17 left - was stopped when Lee was picked off by Ugochukwo Amadi.

The Ducks, like the Huskers, have gone to a 3-4 defense this year.

Lee threw for 252 yards and three touchdowns, including 103 yards and two touchdowns to Stanley Morgan Jr.

Senior receiver De'Mornay Pierson-El caught Lee's only touchdown (23 yards) in the first quarter. The Ducks will take what's given, but are also committed to dictating. In 2016, USF quarterback Quinton Flowers rushed for 157 yards and three scores, while running back Marlon Mack added 107. Freeman had a 28-yard run in the drive.

Herbert's main target was wide receiver Charles Nelson, who caught five passes for 99 yards.

The Huskers got a big break when they recovered a fumble deep in OR territory, and running back Mikale Wilbon capped it off with a three-yard touchdown to make it 42-35 with 2:47 to go. However, Lee threw four interceptions as well. It was Herbert who got the fireworks started on the opening drive of the game - a five-play, 75-yard touchdown capped by a 32-yard touchdown pass to Brenden Schooler.

Said Nebraska defensive coordinator Bob Diaco: "We went in with an idea and it was just a sequential mess early in a lot of areas". Royce Freeman took the ball in for the score as the First Quarter came to an end putting the Ducks up 21-7.

Needing to answer, the Huskers hitched their wagon to running back Tre Bryant.

The Nebraska defense then held serve, forcing a punt after six plays.

The defense forced OR to punt after three plays to get the ball back on its own 43-yard line with 2:09 left. In Week 2 a year later, the No. 5 Sooners returned the favor, outplaying, overmatching and overwhelming the No. 2 Buckeyes in every facet of the game in a 31-16 win. Runs like 15 yards or long pass plays are big.

OR scored 21 points in the final 7:10 of the second half to blow the game open, turning a 21-14 lead into a 42-14 advantage at halftime.

A second-half shutout was digestible if not sorely needed.

A personal foul in the redzone almost derailed Oregon's next drive, but the Ducks got a big break on a deflected ball that resulted in a 21-yard gain on third-and-17, and they punched it in from there on a 1-yard dive by Freeman.

Nebraska's next drive began at the Huskers' 47-yard line. The senior carried the ball 11 times for 61 yards and two touchdowns. "I loved all my time at Oregon State coaching, but all these games are about the team, about the team I'm coaching and it's really fun to be where I am".

Riley expects his young roster to respond well at OR, but he'll be watching corners Eric Lee and Dicaprio Bootle, both of whom got their most extended playing time in the season opener against Arkansas State.

Nebraska stopped OR on the ensuing possession, which gave Nebraska a shot to tie it with a little more than two minutes remaining.

Nebraska won the toss and deferred to the second half.

Kalu went down on a deep pass attempt into the end zone in the second quarter and limped off. Williams also notched an interception and recovered the fumble that Reed forced. But over two weeks, Herbert has turned the promising flashes he offered periodically last season into regular occurrences and led OR to a nonconference win over a Power 5 division contender.

Nebraska returns home Saturday to play Northern Illinois.

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