First, a positive.

Nebraska won Saturday's football game, and the Husker defense held Arkansas State to 10 points in the second half and made a game-saving stop on the final play.

In the first half, though, the Blackshirts didn’t get great reviews.

In the first quarter, Arkansas State quarterback Justice Hansen completed 12 of 13 passes for 111 yards and a TD. The Nebraska cornerbacks were giving the ASU receivers plenty of space.

On a first-quarter scoring drive, Hansen completed all eight passes on the drive, using several short passes before connecting on a 29-yard TD pass to Chris Murray.

Arkansas State finished with 497 yards of offense, most of it coming through the air (415). 

“It was a long game, it was a tough game, hard-fought,” linebacker Luke Gifford said of the Huskers’ 43-36 victory. “I’m just really, really glad we came out with it at the end, obviously. You have to have that happen, but I’m glad we showed we could bow up when it mattered.”

NU first-year defensive coordinator Bob Diaco didn't stop for an interview with reporters after the game, like coordinators typically do.

Sophomore cornerback Eric Lee did talk with reporters. Lee thinks some of the respect given to the wide receivers was specific to the game plan for the Red Wolves.

“In the film we have, they do a lot of vertical game, so, definitely, making sure we don’t get beat over top, and just kind of playing the coverages that were called,” Lee said.

Hansen completed 46 of 68 attempts for 415 yards. That’s a school record for completions.

The Red Wolves had 289 yards of offense — 245 of them passing — in the first half, averaging 6.0 yards per play.

Arkansas State managed 208 yards of offense in the second half.

This was the first halftime where Diaco was in charge of the defense, and Gifford said it went well.

“We came in, made some adjustments and really for the most part, we carried everything out on the field,” Gifford said. “We started executing a lot better and made some good changes.”

After Arkansas State scored with 47 seconds left in the game and recovered an onside kick, the Blackshirts had to go back out and stop the Red Wolves’ last-minute drive.

“Coach Diaco, we’ve talked about how there is nothing better than having the defense come out there and win the game for us, so we kind of kept that in our heads and made sure we came out with a ‘W,’” Lee said.

The defense did get two interceptions and a safety.

In the second quarter, Freedom Akinmoladun tipped a ball that Tyrin Ferguson intercepted.

Early in the fourth quarter, Joshua Kalu jumped in front of a pass to Murray and snagged the interception. The Huskers scored off that turnover for a 41-26 lead.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7435 or bwagner@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsWagner.

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Brent has worked at the Journal Star for 14 years. His beats include Nebraska volleyball, women's basketball and high school soccer and cross country.

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