Zach Zenner rambled and roamed Memorial Stadium for 202 rushing yards, but the South Dakota State junior was far from satisfied.
"It felt good to go down and score right away. It was nice, but, obviously, we didn't score enough points to win or even (get) close," Zenner said Saturday after the Jackrabbits fell to Nebraska 59-20. "As nice as the beginning was, you have to continue that throughout the whole game."
South Dakota State went toe-to-toe with Nebraska in the first quarter and even took a 17-14 lead at the end of the period. But Nebraska answered with four scores in the second quarter and didn't look back.
And Zenner said he knew exactly what changed for the Jackrabbits.
"We started shooting ourselves in the foot a little bit. We were down deep and had that offensive pass interference, the false start and then the sacks," he said. "I felt like we executed our game plan really well until we made a couple of mental mistakes."
The Jackrabbits piled up 465 yards, but settled for field goals twice and missed a third.
"If you get 465 yards against Nebraska and you're in a situation where you don't have to throw the ball to try to come back, you've done a pretty good job. I'm happy with our offense," coach John Stiegelmeier said. "But we never stopped them on defense. I don't know how many games you win if you can't stop a team on defense.
"We did go ahead and I was proud of our team that we didn't hang our heads and we weren't giddy when we were ahead. But we didn't respond at that time defensively."
As gaudy as South Dakota State's offensive numbers were, Nebraska's were even gaudier — 335 yards rushing and 310 yards passing.
"Ideally, we can identify some issues on defense and right them. Our defense has always been sound and we played hard. But when you don't make them punt, there's some issues," Stiegelmeier said. "We have to identify where we fell short and correct it in a matter of three days."
The Huskers did punt once, with less than six minutes left in the game.
"We didn't get it done today," linebacker R.C. Kilgore said. "We have ingrained in our minds that when something goes wrong, you have to play in the present. You have to get to the next play. If you let that stuff daunt you, then you'll shut down."
It was an emotional game for the 11 Nebraskans on the Jackrabbits' roster.
"It really was emotional, especially when we couldn't punch it in to go up 21-14," said Jimmy Forsythe, a cornerback who was a Super-Stater as a quarterback for Omaha Burke. "We hurt ourselves."
"You need to believe that you can win every week and believe that you can move the ball every week," Zenner said.