Kendrick Edwards knew he was going to be the target when Arkansas State lined up for its final play of the night, a pass from Nebraska's 11-yard line that could have given Arkansas State a tie or even a win Saturday. Instead, the Red Wolves fell 43-36.
"The last play was specially designed for me to just run across the field and up for it," Edwards said. "I could only get one hand on it. It was almost there. I felt it slip out of my hand. It was very catchable."
That missed connection ended the Red Wolves' determined effort to upset the Huskers
"I'm not much for moral victories," said Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson. "Getting close is not what we came here for. I'm pleased the guys didn't give up and we had a chance to throw it long into the end zone a couple times there at the end. But at the end of the day, I feel like we made mistakes that cost us the game.
"We had a chance to win the game and I'm frustrated we didn't do that. You don't get that opportunity very often."
Things went particularly awry in the third quarter. Nebraska punched in a touchdown on the opening possession of the quarter to open up an eight-point lead, then added another TD on the first possession of the final period, creating a 15-point margin that Arkansas State couldn't overcome.
"Nothing about the third quarter is what we wanted," Anderson said, noting that his team ran only eight plays in the third quarter. "I thought we got off rhythm. We kept coming up short, couldn't get that first down. Defensively, we struggled to tackle. We've got to come out better in the third quarter."
Among those who struggled to tackle was defensive end Ja'Von Rolland-Jones, a sack master who finished with just two assisted tackles.
"It was pretty frustrating," Rolland-Jones said. "Coming into the game, I knew they were going to have two people on me, slide to me, all the time. I hit the quarterback a couple times, but it was too late. It was frustrating."
In the first half, Arkansas State sliced apart the Nebraska pass defense, repeatedly going to sideline bubble screens, for gains of 7, 10 and 12 yards. Justice Hansen went 8-for-8 on a first-quarter drive that ended with a 29-yard scoring pass to Chris Murray that put the Wolves up 14-10.
"They were giving us the quick game when we wanted it," Hansen said. "The offensive line was giving me time and the receivers were getting open. It was as simple as that."
By the end of the night, Hansen had an Arkansas State record for completions in a game at 46.
"I didn't know that until you just told me," Hansen said of the record. "I guess I'll take it. But at the same time, we're here for the win. It still hurts."