The good, the bad and the ugly

LINCOLN, Neb. – SDSU’s one quarter of respectability was washed away by three quarters of Nebraska dominance Saturday.  

SDSU played well in the first quarter, even holding a 17-14 lead on Nebraska but the Cornhuskers scored the next 38 points and blew away the Jacks with ease, 58-20, with 90,614 fans in attendance at Memorial Stadium. 

The Jackrabbits allowed 645 yards of total offense and watched Big Red score on eight of their first 10 drives of the game. 

“We never stopped them on defense, so I don’t know how many games you can win when you don’t stop a team,” SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier said. 

Without starting quarterback Taylor Martinez who was out with a turf toe injury, the Huskers didn’t miss a beat with backups Tommy Armstrong Jr. and Ron Kellogg Jr., in the game. Each threw a touchdown in the first half and Armstrong ran the option like Tom Osborne’s title teams of the 1990s. Together, the pair was 20-for-24 passing the football for 305 yards and two touchdowns and it marked the first time in NU history that the Huskers gained more than 300 yards via both the ground and the air attacks. 

It made for a long day for the SDSU defense. 

“I thought we had good schemes but a lot of mental errors that we need to fix going into next week,” linebacker R.C. Kilgore said. “Film will tell a lot. We have to look at it as a great opportunity to get better.”

Nebraska or not, it was another day of work for the Jacks’ All-American running back Zach Zenner, who finished the game with 202 yards on 21 carries before leaving the game with a sprained ankle in the second half. He’s expected to be at full strength this week for North Dakota State’s visit to Brookings. 

He was a big part of the Jacks’ hot start, as well. After Nebraska scored the opening touchdown in just 1:31 and four plays, the Jackrabbits answered with running back Zenner, who covered the final 40 yards of a 75 yard drive in 1:22. The back-and-forth continued as running back Imani Cross scored his second touchdown of the quarter to put NU up 14-7 and to see Zenner tie the game with a 3-yard touchdown run. 

The Jacks were flying high when R.C. Kilgore caused a fumble and SDSU appeared to take the lead before a penalty wiped it away and the Jacks were pushed back to the 31 yard line, where a Justin Syrovatka 48-yard field goal gave SDSU its first and only lead, 17-14. 

“It felt good to go down and score right away,” Zenner said. “It was nice, but obviously we didn’t score enough points to win or even close. As nice as the beginning was, you have to continue that throughout the whole game.”

Nebraska poured it on from there, scoring 24 in the second quarter and 21 more in the final two frames. Syrovatka’s 29-yard field goal with 12:58 left was SDSU’s final score. 

One of the defensive bright spots came in the form of the linebacker Kilgore. The senior from Cottage Grove, Minn., had 15 tackles against Huskers Saturday and two fumble recoveries. But it was the lapses as a whole on defense that stand out, which will have to be eliminated from the SDSU defense before the Jackrabbits take on the No. 1 Bison (4-0) Saturday at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium. Game time is 2 p.m.

“We came down here, we worked hard and our goal was to win the football game,” Stiegelmeier said. “We didn’t come close to playing like that but that was still our goal, we didn’t come down here to look at a bunch of people wearing red.”