BYU stuns Huskers with Hail Mary upset
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[rl]Mike Riley's official debut went from a dramatic comeback win to a gut-wrenching loss in a matter of one second.
With just one tick left on the game clock, BYU was at the NU 42-yard line down by one point with one last chance to try and knock off the Huskers. Backup quarterback Tanner Mangum rolled to his right and heaved the ball towards the south end zone of Memorial Stadium. Six-foot-6 receiver Mitch Mathews came down with the ball, giving the Cougars a 33-28 victory and leaving the crowd of 89,995 in silent shock.
The loss snapped Nebraska's streak of 29 consecutive wins in season openers, which was the longest active streak in the country going into Saturday. It also got the Riley era off to an unforgettable start for all the wrong reasons
Nebraska actually got going fairly well early, as the defense forced a punt on BYU's opening drive and then quarterback Tommy Armstrong connected with receiver Jordan Westerkamp three times for 53 yards on the first possession. The third catch of the drive resulted in a 14-yard touchdown pass where Westerkamp reversed his field after the catch and picked up a nice block from Armstrong to reach the end zone.
But the momentum wouldn't stay entirely in the Huskers' favor for long. Despite being pinned at their own 1-yard line, starting quarterback Taysom Hill delivered passes of 24 and then 53 yards before moving the ball to the NU 3 on a defensive pass interference call in the end zone. Hill then tied it up on a touchdown run on the next play to cap off a 99-play scoring drive that took just four plays and 1:31 off the clock.
The Huskers would quickly answer on their ensuing possession, though, as Armstrong connected with wide out Alonzo Moore on a 19-yard pass and then a 22-yard bubble screen down the right sideline for a touchdown to reclaim the lead at 14-7 with 16 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Armstrong ended up completing 10 of his first 12 passes in the opening quarter for 156 yards and two touchdowns.
When the second quarter got underway, however, the tide shifted entirely in BYU's favor when Hill tied it back up with a 21-yard touchdown run. Nebraska was then forced to punt, and then the Cougars took their first lead of the day on a 41-yard field goal by Trevor Samson with 5:42 to go in the half.
The problems only got worse for NU from there, as Armstrong fumbled a handoff to Mikale Wilbon two plays into the next drive and BYU recovered at the Huskers' 22-yard line. Three snaps later, Hill found a wide open Matthews for a 15-yard touchdown pass to make it 24-14.
Desperately needing something to go its way, Nebraska finally caught a break a few minutes later when BYU's Algernon Brown dropped what would have been an easy first down pass to turn the ball over on downs deep in NU territory. Two tough third-down conversions helped the Huskers drive the ball into field goal range and set up Drew Brown for a 40-yard field goal with one second left in the half.
It would end up being a missed opportunity, though, as Brown's kick sailed wide left and sent Nebraska into the locker room down 10 points at the half. When all was said and done, BYU had out-gained the Huskers in yards 171-58, and 46 of NU's yards in the quarter came on that final drive of the half.
The early minutes of the third quarter didn't get off to a much better start, as Nebraska quickly went three-and-out and then punter Sam Foltz suffered an ankle injury on the punt and was lost for the rest of the game. BYU's offense moved the ball near midfield, but safety Nate Gerry came up with the Huskers' biggest defensive play of the game by snagging an interception and returning it deep into Cougar territory.
A 14-yard run by Imani Cross, an 11-yard reverse run by Brandon Reilly and finally a 10-yard touchdown run by Terrell Newby got the Huskers back on the board and cut the deficit to 24-21 with 10:39 left in the third.
Nebraska forced another turnover on downs by BYU, and the offense responded with four plays of 10 yards or more, including a pretty 11-yard option keeper by Armstrong on a third down, and then punched it in with a 9-yard touchdown pass to tight end Trey Foster to make it 28-24.
The Huskers nearly forced yet another turnover on downs next time out, but Mangum, who replaced an injured Hill, floated up a jump ball up to 6-foot-5 receiver Nick Kurtz for a 38-yard gain down to the NU 21. The Blackshirts were able to hold BYU to a 35-yard field goal by Samson, which still cut the lead to 28-27 with just under eight minutes to play.
Nebraska looked to have a chance to put the game away when Reilly came down with a 27-yard catch deep in BYU territory, but the Huskers were stuffed on a third-down run and Brown shanked another field goal from 41 yards out to keep the game within reach. Turns out it would come back to haunt them.
BYU drove the ball down to the NU 42, and the Hail Mary by Mangum turned a win into a devastating loss for the Huskers. Nebraska will try to regroup for its next game at home against South Alabama at 7 p.m.
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