The final, deflating blow for the Nebraska defense on Troy’s game-clinching touchdown drive in the fourth quarter was a 26-yard touchdown run by running back B.J. Smith.
Smith ran up the middle and then cut to the outside on a run to the end zone. It was the final blow on a 10-play, 62-yard drive where the major pain was inflicted on third down.
It was another game where the defense gave Nebraska a chance to win for much of the game but didn’t do enough. Troy got away with the 24-19 victory, dropping the Huskers to 0-2.
On the Trojans’ final scoring drive, the Blackshirts did the work on first and second down. But three times on that drive the Trojans converted a third-and-9 play. Talk about a lifeline.
“We just needed to come up with a stop there,” Nebraska defense end Ben Stille said. “Obviously that was crucial for the game to get our offense back on the field and not be down (11). We didn’t get it done.”
On the first third-down conversion of that drive, Sidney Davis had a 13-yard catch. Then, Nebraska limited Troy to 1 yard combined on first and second down. But on third down, Nebraska let Troy off the hook when Aaron Williams was penalized for pass interference.
Again, the Huskers held Troy to 1 yard over first and second down. But then the Trojans did it again, this time with quarterback Kaleb Barker running up the middle for 17 yards. Two plays later, Smith scored and Troy had a 24-13 lead with just 6:45 left in the fourth quarter.
Three of the four third downs Troy converted in 12 attempts during the game came on that drive.
“It sucks to be so close again and come up short,” said safety Tre Neal, who had seven tackles. “Stanley (Morgan) talked to us, and just said we got to work. We’re not working like we want to win. We think we are, but really we’re not.”
With Nebraska quarterback Andrew Bunch making his first start in a major college game, a great game from the Blackshirts would have gone a long way.
“We needed the Blackshirts and the Pipeline to win this game today, and rally and win it, and special teams,” Nebraska coach Scott Frost said. “I think at times, all those position groups did good enough to win, but as a whole, you’ve got to give a lot of credit to Troy for coming in and making more plays than us.”
Senior linebacker Luke Gifford said this is kind of like the Huskers’ loss to Colorado last week, when the Blackshirts played strong at times but were doomed by big plays.
“It’s the same thing as last week,” Gifford said. “Do some good things, but it doesn’t matter, we lost. That’s the way it is. As a defense we've got to take that step. It sucks to keep telling everybody that we’re almost there. We’re almost there. And then have it not happen. It’s where we’re at right now. We've got to find whatever it is to help us take that step.”
Nebraska had 10 penalties for 77 yards. Williams’ pass interference was a bad one, but there were others.
“Guys got to be a lot more tuned in,” Neal said. “We’re letting our emotions run a little bit too high. I think guys are trying to make the splash play, instead of just doing their job and the technique that they’re taught. We got to be under control. We can’t just lose our minds. Because it’s a great atmosphere, but you can’t just go crazy out there. You have to be calm, in control and know what your assignment is.”
Photos from Saturday's Nebraska-Troy game