EUGENE, Ore. — Stanley Morgan and De’Mornay Pierson-El provided plenty of fireworks in Nebraska’s uphill slog against Oregon.
But the two receivers were left lamenting key plays — one early and one late — each didn't make that could have turned the tide for the Huskers in their 42-35 loss on Saturday.
Morgan finished with seven receptions for 103 yards and two touchdowns as the favorite target of quarterback Tanner Lee, who went Morgan’s way 14 times among his 41 passes. However, the very first one was a costly misconnection.
Lee’s pass deflected off Morgan’s hands for an interception, which the Ducks quickly turned into their second touchdown. At that point, Nebraska had run one play and already trailed 14-0.
"That was just terrible,” Morgan said quietly. “I don’t even know what I was doing. I was just fighting back after that.”
Morgan atoned in the third quarter with his touchdown catches of 18 and 28 yards on Nebraska’s first two possessions to give the Huskers a fighting chance at 42-28.
Then, after the Blackshirts forced a fumble late in the fourth quarter and Mikale Wilbon cashed in a 2-yard score, the Nebraska sideline lit up with confidence. And when the defense forced the suddenly struggling Ducks into a three-and-out, Pierson-El dropped back for the punt.
Oregon, however, kicked away from the Husker return man and left Pierson-El kicking himself for settling for a fair catch. On the next play, Lee threw his fourth interception as his arm was hit as he threw, and all that remained was for the Ducks to run out the clock.
“We’re not even going to talk about that right now,” Pierson-El said before continuing, his sore left shoulder covered with a bag of ice. “That’s on me. It’s 50-50. It can be a good call to fair catch it.
“Me personally, I should have returned it, and if I could have that one back, I would have, but it is what it is. It goes with the game.”
Pierson-El had four catches for 67 yards and an acrobatic 23-yard touchdown in the first quarter, but he also was flagged for illegal procedure on a fourth-and-inches call from the NU 34 in the second quarter with the Huskers desperately trying to hold serve. They punted instead.
“I wasn’t on the line, so that was on me,” Pierson-El said. “I just didn’t check with the ref before I went out there. I thought I was already on (the line) and I looked back in and I wasn’t, so that was on me.”
Still, on an afternoon when he threw an unexpected 41 times, Lee came away happy with the performance of his receiving corps.
“They saved us countless times in that game,” he said. “They played great, and you can’t ask for anything more from them.”