Brett Smith’s passing was one thing.
But what the Wyoming quarterback did with his feet?
“I didn’t know he could run like that,” Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste said after the Huskers' 37-34 victory Saturday. “That’s what got me on my heels, was him running the ball. That’s where I give him credit.”
Smith ran for 92 yards, including a 47-yard run on a draw play that set up a touchdown. He also was 29-of-43 passing for 383 yards and four touchdowns, including two in the fourth quarter, both following Nebraska turnovers.
NU, at times, got pressure on Smith, but never sacked him, officially. Randy Gregory’s sack was negated because of a roughing-the-passer penalty.
“We weren’t getting home during the whole game,” Nebraska redshirt freshman tackle Vincent Valentine said. “We have to get home. We have to get a sack. We have to stop him.”
“He definitely had a good pocket presence,” Valentine said. “The couple of times I could’ve got home, I was kind of too far behind. He’s definitely a good player and has great awareness in the pocket.”
Coaches warned throughout the week of Smith’s accuracy and competitiveness, at times comparing him to former NFL slinging quarterback Brett Favre.
“Tough, competitive guy, and he’s got arm talent, so when he got out of the pocket and his receivers did a good job, too, in the scramble game,” Nebraska secondary coach Terry Joseph said of Smith. “The deep routes became shallow routes, and shallow routes became deep. And then the first game of the season, we probably didn’t tackle our best, either.”
That’s especially tough against spread teams, Joseph said.
“When you’re playing your spread teams, it’s hard to get that done in practice as much as you’d like,” he said. “Their wide receivers, they’re a good group, so you get yourself in one-on-one situations, and then, obviously, their runs were giving us a problem in the first half, so we were making some adjustments. Now we’re putting ourselves in some situations where it was going to be more one-on-one.”
There were highlights for the Nebraska secondary, most coming from senior cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste, who had two rough hits for pass breakups and intercepted a Smith pass that thwarted a Wyoming scoring drive while also setting up a Nebraska touchdown.
That ended a streak of 183 straight passes by Smith without an interception; his last interception had come in October.
“That was a big-time interception (Jean-Baptiste) had,” Joseph said, “coming all the way across the field.”
But, overall, Nebraska’s secondary, considered the strong point of an otherwise young and inexperienced defense, left much to be desired.
“We have some things we have to clean up on the back end,” Joseph said. “We were on our heels a lot in the second half and didn’t really take adjustments as quick as we would’ve liked as coaches.
“We knew coming into the game that when their guy got outside the pocket, it was going to be trouble for us, and he did a good job of finding some extra time. Late in downs, we were not disciplined enough to make the play late in downs, and the majority of his yards were outside the pocket.”