Give the young man from Tennessee some credit.
As things turned out Saturday, walk-on sophomore quarterback Andrew Bunch was not quite the heroic playmaker the Huskers needed to avoid the upset.
But Bunch was also not an excuse maker. Far from it. He took the heat, and not just the heat that came with three sacks in Troy’s 24-19 victory at Memorial Stadium.
“Me having two critical errors,” he said, ”one in the critical point in the game, that was really frustrating.”
Those interceptions. They are frustrating in most cases. The second one ended NU’s hopes of putting together a game-winning drive in the final minutes.
Bunch overthrew JD Spielman, and the ball was intercepted by Troy’s Will Sunderland. Game over.
“Just a high ball there,” Bunch said.
My bad. No excuses.
But plenty of praise from the head coach.
“I thought he did a good job getting thrown into that situation,” Scott Frost said. “You know, both kids did. We’ve started two kids that are both (first year players), in their first start ever, in our first two games.
“I thought Adrian (Martinez) played really well in the first one. For what we asked Bunchie to do, I thought he did a good job."
Bunch, playing in place of injured No. 1 Martinez, was 19-of-27 with two touchdowns. He made a beauty of a fourth-down throw on the Huskers’ last touchdown drive, hitting a well-covered Kurt Rafdal for a 26-yard gain. Not long after that, Bunch threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Spielman.
“We had to lean on him,” Frost said, “and when we asked him to make throws, I thought he made some really good throws and did some good things. We got off of our rhythm and off of our game plan early and what we went into the game wanting to do because of how the first quarter went.”
NU fell behind 17-0 and could not get enough going to dig out against the underdog Trojans.
“It’s never easy to play from behind,” Bunch said, “but regardless, we should be able to move the ball at any point in the game, so that’s really frustrating. And then mistakes, like just turning the ball over.”
Without divulging specifics, Bunch said he found out fairly early in the week that he would be starting. He welcomed the opportunity.
“I prepared all week like I was going to be the starter,” he said. “I never felt overwhelmed. I was excited to play. Sometimes things seemed like they were going my way, and sometimes I made some decisions I wish I could take back.”
He took his medicine after the game and shared some wisdom on leadership in the process.
“I think the best way that you can lead is to do your job perfectly,” he said. “Guys that I’ve always looked up to as leaders are guys that are always on time to meetings and take every rep seriously, so for me, the best thing I try to do is I try to do my job perfect every time.”
Now Bunch and his teammates need to address the imperfections and move on. Michigan is next.
“I don’t think there’s anybody in that locker room that’s going to give up,” Bunch said. “That team is full of a bunch of fighters that are going to come to work on Monday the same way we always have.
“We’re going to learn from everything. We’re going to be able to take that in next week. We’ve got a bit of time to learn, and like I said, we’ll be ready to attack it on Monday.”