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September 7, 2013

Game Rewind: NU back on track with blowout win



A new feature this season, the Game Rewind was created to break down the Huskers' most recent game and hit on the contest's main bullet points. We go deeper into the game's biggest moments, who submitted the best performances and some of the most noteworthy quotes.

Five defining moments

Jean-Baptiste's pick six: With how much the defense struggled last week, the Huskers needed something to go well early on in this game. Stanley Jean-Baptiste got things going by jumping an Allan Bridgford pass and taking it back 43 yards for the score. Jean-Baptiste has already picked off two passes this year, matching his total from last season. The senior had another strong game and seems to have unlocked the great potential he's shown in flashes throughout his career.

Bell's circus catch to end the half: As the first half came to an end, Taylor Martinez forced a pass to Kenny Bell in the end zone on third and ten. The defender got a hand on the ball, but Bell didn't give up on the play, reaching out and snagging the pass as he fell to the turf. The score gave Martinez, who missed on a couple of first-half throws, a shot confidence heading into the locker room.

Armstrong's drive: In the scope of this game, the drive was essentially meaningless. The Huskers led 49-13 near the end of the third quarter when Tommy Armstrong made his first career appearance. But NU fans finally got a glimpse at what very well might be the future of the quarterback position, and it was a good showing. Armstrong didn't get to show off his arm, but he ran four times for 23 yards and displayed good command running the option. The Huskers would go 64 yards in nine plays for a touchdown on the drive.

Bell's 63-yard kickoff return: The Huskers couldn't have looked much flatter coming out of the locker room - the offense quietly went three-and-out and the defense promptly gave up a four-play, 66-yard touchdown drive to Southern Miss. But Bell stole the momentum right back by taking the kickoff and sprinting 63 yards up the right sideline. Ameer Abdullah would find the end zone with a 37-yard run on the next play, solidifying the dominant win.

Corey Cooper's end zone interception: Again, the game was basically over when this play occurred, but I thought it was a statement play. Holding a 56-13 lead, the Blackshirts didn't have anything to play for but pride, and they responded very well. After a Randy Gregory penalty extended the drive, the defenders could have thrown their hands in the air and let up. But that didn't happen and they earned a stop when Corey Cooper picked off a fourth-down pass. For confidence's sake, I think it was a big moment.

Game balls

Ciante Evans: The cornerback couldn't have started his senior campaign off in much better fashion. After picking off a pass against Wyoming last week, Ciante Evans intercepted a tipped pass in the first quarter and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown. He was just getting started, though - Evans read Bridgford to snag a third-quarter pass and set NU up for a short touchdown.

Randy Gregory: The stats don't truly tell the story of Gregory's impact. He was credited with four pressures, but he made life miserable for Bridgford all night. He set up camp in the Southern Miss backfield and was the only Husker to provide consistent pressure. These are the types of performances Nebraska will need every weekend from him going forward.

Josh Banderas: The freshman didn't put up eye-popping stats in his first start, but the defense looked much better with Josh Banderas at the helm this week. Linebackers coach Ross Els raved about Banderas' work in coverage and defensive coordinator John Papuchis said the freshman has an "it" quality that makes him a great leader. Banderas might be filling the MIKE spot for quite some time.

By the numbers

0: Turnovers by the first-team offense. Terrell Newby would fumble in the third quarter, but the game was well in hand at that point. Martinez in particular played smarter, choosing the throw the ball away on several occasions as opposed to forcing passes into coverage.

3: Receiving touchdowns by Quincy Enunwa this season, matching his total from his first three years on campus.

4: NU players who recorded their first career receptions Saturday. Jordan Westerkamp, Terrell Newby, Cethan Carter and Sam Burtch all brought in their first catches.

7: Number of times Nebraska has scored 50 or more points during Bo Pelini's tenure.

They said it

***"It's more internal. I'm a Twitter and Facebook guy just to direct message with recruits and talk with them. I'm not reading the bombardment of what people are saying. It's more internal. Trust me, we have more pressure that we put on ourselves than what others are saying. I don't know how the players responded, but that's how we took it as coaches."

-Els on the pressure the defense was facing after last week's performance

"When you put in the work, you're going to get the benefits and that's the biggest thing with Stanley. We've all known that he's probably the most physically gifted defensive back around here in a long time. Once he put the mental part together, the sky was going to be the limit. The way he's played the first two weeks, I'm just so happy for him. He dedicated himself in watching the film, learning route concepts and how we match things. Now he's playing so fast and when a guy that big can play that fast, he's tough for people to handle."

-Defensive backs coach Terry Joseph on what has made Jean-Baptiste a different player so far this year

Biggest question/concern: Who is this team's kicker?

After two games, the question is still unanswered. After Pat Smith handled the kicking duties last week, he split extra-point responsibilities with Mauro Bondi Saturday night. The Huskers didn't attempt any field goals, so the coaches didn't get a chance to see how either would respond in a game situation. With UCLA coming to town next week, Nebraska figures to have a fight on its hands and will likely need a kicker to step up in a big moment. As of now, we have no idea who that might be.



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