EUGENE, Ore. — As Nick Gates made his way off the field following Nebraska’s 42-35 loss to Oregon, a solemn figure in black, team-issued sweats met him for a few words of postgame encouragement.
Gates appeared to offer a few of his own to senior safety Joshua Kalu, who injured his hamstring midway through the second quarter and did not return.
He was not the only key contributor lost for the Huskers. Sophomore running back Tre Bryant injured his right knee on his 20th carry and also did not return.
Head coach Mike Riley did not have immediate updates on either player, but said Bryant perhaps avoided a worst-case situation.
“I did get a little bit better news than I thought about (Tre),” Riley said. “They’re not sure about him, but it’s a knee for sure. I don’t know, I shouldn’t say anything until I know more. I hope he’s alright.”
Bryant did not put any weight on his right side as he left the field, but later was seen on the sideline working with trainers and trying to run. He still had his pads on at the end of the game.
Kalu went down on a deep pass attempt into the end zone in the second quarter and limped off. Riley said he hoped the captain’s hamstring injury was not "a big one," but had no details on the severity.
“It was just kind of that, ‘next-man-in’ mentality,” sophomore cornerback Eric Lee said. “It was a smooth transition.”
Junior safeties Aaron Williams and Antonio Reed each set or met career bests, as Williams finished with 12 tackles and Reed five. Williams also notched an interception and recovered the fumble that Reed forced.
Senior right tackle David Knevel (ankle) did not play and Riley indicated he could miss more time.
“We hoped that he could play, but obviously he couldn’t,” Riley said. “We don’t know how soon he’ll be back.”
Farniok fares well in debut: Redshirt freshman Matt Farniok started in Knevel’s place at right tackle and overall fared well, according to offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf.
“I think pretty good without grading the film,” Langsdorf said. “It didn’t seem like it was real obvious that he was in there on his first start.”
“Just playing football, the same thing I’ve done since third grade, the same thing just a bigger stage,” the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, native said, adding he knew he would start since Wednesday or Thursday. “Obviously I could have been better. I made some mistakes. I’ve got to just learn and grow from them.”
Right guard Tanner Farmer reported no problems with a new partner to his right.
“Matt’s a great player and he did a great job for his first time out there,” Farmer said. “He did a great job keeping his head on his shoulders and looking around at everything, communicating with me.
“He stepped up and showed us what he can do and what kind of player he can be,”
On Nebraska’s final offensive play, Oregon outside linebacker Jonah Moi got to quarterback Tanner Lee off NU’s right side and hit his arm, resulting in an interception. A replay showed tight end Tyler Hoppes crossing the formation to handle Moi, though, indicating it was his assignment as Farniok blocked down. Moi walked Hoppes back into Lee’s throwing path.
Overall, the Ducks caused some protection problems for the Huskers, recording three sacks and a pair of other hits on Lee.
“Tough today, for sure, without Knevel,” Riley said.
Seeing red: Of an estimated 15,000 Huskers fans in attendance Saturday, the majority took over Autzen Stadium’s west end zone, surrounding the Oregon band and turning the entire end of the stadium red.
NU entered the field before the game from a tunnel on the east end, meaning they ran out with their fans straight ahead of them.
“That was awesome,” Farmer said. “I really enjoyed it and loved the support even though we’re away.”
Said Riley, “I think it’s beautiful, I think it’s awesome. I’m really proud to be with those fans out here. I think it’s great that they came to Oregon to watch this game and, every time this happens, the whole country sees the loyalty and passion of this fan base. It’s pretty special.”
Third-down disparity: The Huskers forced Oregon into third-and-long situations on each of the hosts’ first two possessions, but couldn’t get off the field.
Instead, Ducks sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert threw touchdowns on both downs, a 32-yarder to Brenden Schooler on the first and an 8-yarder to Charles Nelson on the second, accounting for Oregon’s first 14 points.
Tanner Lee responded, throwing a third-down touchdown of his own to De’Mornay Pierson-El later in the first quarter, but the Huskers failed on their final nine attempts to finish 2-of-14.
“That kills us,” Lee said. “Running the ball, field position, third downs, that wins games and that’s going to be a big reason why we didn’t get a win today.”
The Ducks also had 14 third-down tries and converted seven.