EVANSTON, Ill. — Quincy Enunwa deserved a pat on the shoulder for his fourth-quarter performance.
As he stood outside the Nebraska locker room, though, Enunwa cautioned anyone who might try doing that.
“Uh, my right shoulder, that would be pretty bad, yeah,” he said.
So pat gently, on his left side. Or just tell him good game.
Just don’t inflict any more pain on a shoulder that, at one point, had Enunwa, a junior wide receiver, wishing he was back in Lincoln.
“Me, myself, my morale was so down,” Enunwa said of his shoulder injury early in the second half of Saturday’s game. “I didn’t even want to go back in. I took my pads off, and I was kind of upset for just the fact that it happened.”
The doctors told him he was fine, that he could go back in, and they wouldn’t let him play if they didn’t think he should.
“So I gave it a shot,” Enunwa said, “and it ended up the way it did.”
That way, of course, was a Nebraska victory.
And it wouldn’t have happened without some strong resolve from Enunwa, who played through some pain and caught four fourth-quarter passes, sparking Nebraska’s comeback for a 29-28 victory against Northwestern at Ryan Field.
“For him to be able to come back and get back on the field and come up with those catches is tremendous,” Nebraska receivers coach Rich Fisher said. “Huge character.”
Enunwa left the game in the third quarter when he went up to make a play on a post pattern, and landed awkwardly on his shoulder.
Without the football, no less.
He watched from the bench, shoulder pads off, as Northwestern built a 28-16 lead early in the fourth quarter.
“We were down. I was injured,” Enunwa said. “I just kind of wanted to go home.”
Instead, coaches put him back in midway through the fourth quarter. He caught a 7-yard pass along the sideline, and then coaches went back to that same post route in which Enunwa hurt his shoulder.
“The second time, he caught it. Almost the exact same play, the exact same coverage,” Fisher said.
The pass from Taylor Martinez went for 30 yards to the Northwestern 8-yard line, setting up Martinez’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Taariq Allen, pulling the Huskers within 28-23.
“We were just reading the middle of the field, and they gave us the same coverage,” Fisher said of the long completion to Enunwa. “We pretty much had a good idea, based on formation, how they were playing us coverage-wise.”
After Nebraska’s defense forced a three-and-out, giving the Huskers possession at their 24, Martinez hit Enunwa again, this time for 31 yards down the middle.
“He’s so big and strong and physical, and he attacks the ball,” Fisher said. “He does it in practice. I see it every day. He’s such a tremendous talent, and he’s a competitor.”
Enunwa had another 6-yard reception on the game-winning touchdown drive, part of his six catches for a career-high 110 yards. He’d had only four receptions, combined, over Nebraska’s previous three games.
“Quincy is a talented player, and he just, for whatever reason, hasn’t really had a chance to shine,” Fisher said. “It was nice for him to be able to put things on his back a little bit. Made some huge catches down the stretch.”
Enunwa, of course, wouldn’t have been in those positions without the steady fourth-quarter play of Martinez, who threw for 140 of his 342 yards in the final period, when he was 10-of-14.
“He really showed as a leader, man,” Enunwa said of Martinez. “He came out and made sure all of our heads were in the game. Even after I celebrated after one of the catches, he said, ‘Stay focused.’ He was really making sure we stayed focused and got this win today.”
Is this victory a turning point for Nebraska?
“I don’t know if you can say it’s a turning point,” Enunwa said. “It’s just another step toward our goal. Our goal is to get to the Big Ten Championship, and we’ve been talking about it this whole year. We’re just using this as a platform to get to the next level.”