Updated

It happened so fast Saturday, it should be a blur.

Unfortunately for Steve Sarkisian and the Washington Huskies, the beginning of the second half against Nebraska is all too clear.

"The reality of it is that we had a complete meltdown in the third quarter. We lost our composure a bit and we got rattled," Sarkisian said of Nebraska's two quick touchdowns that opened up a tight game. "We drop the kickoff and they get on the 1-yard line and score again. We go down the field and have fourth-and-2, and we don't convert.

"That sequencing of plays in the third quarter I thought were really the difference in the ball game."

Sarkisian said the Huskies recovered from a gaffe to start the game and found themselves in good position, trailing 20-17 at halftime, before losing 51-38.

"I thought we were prepared for play-action passes to start the game, but we let a guy get behind us right off the bat," he said of Kenny Bell's 50-yard reception on the first play of the game. "Second half, on the road, this is where we want to be. We can't ask for much more.

"We can't control what flags are called or not called. In the meantime, Nebraska was playing sound football and getting after us."

Jermaine Kearse, who caught the Huskies' first two touchdown passes, said the team needed to repeat that sequence in the second half.

"We started off really well. We ran our plays to a T. Everyone executed their assignments," he said. "We just had to continue doing that throughout the game, and we unfortunately didn't."

Quarterback Keith Price, who had a tender right knee entering the game, injured his left knee and was hobbling at the end.

"This doesn't feel as serious as the right one was," he said. "Chris (Polk) opened it up a lot and our offense began to get going. We had some good play-action passes that loosened them up a bit."

Polk, who blistered Nebraska for 177 yards in the Huskies' victory in the Holiday Bowl, finished with 130 yards, but he got 50 of them in the final 10 minutes of the game.

"They have two great defensive tackles, a good defensive end and an All-American middle linebacker. They're a good football team,"  Sarkisian said. "We found a little something to get it going. I would have liked to balance it out even better."

Washington's 21 fourth-quarter points were an example of the team's spirit and resolve, according to Sarkisian.

"At the end of it all, there was more good than bad. There was a handful of plays that could have swung this game in either direction, some of which were self-inflicted and some maybe I don't agree with the call.

"These kids made this very interesting. This is a team that has spirit and knows how to compete."

Reach Ryly Jane Hambleton at 402-473-7314 or rhambleton@journalstar.com.