LUBBOCK, Texas — Nobody put more pressure on Menelik Holt going into Saturday’s game against No. 7 Texas Tech than Holt himself.
“I said, Joe’s going to throw me the ball. Try to make some plays today,” the junior wide receiver said.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder definitely made some plays — a career-high six catches for 55 yards. His play added another dimension to a Husker offense that rolled along until the very end in a 37-31 overtime loss.
Holt hopes his strong play will catch the attention of future teams and give them one other player to worry about while preparing for NU.
“The more players that can make plays across the field, then they have to guard the whole entire field,” Holt said. “Spread the defense out. Hopefully the defenses start covering me because it’s going to help open up the run game, pass game, everything.”
Holt praised senior quarterback Joe Ganz, who threw only eight incompletions in 44 attempts.
“More than anything … he’s a playmaker,” Holt said. “He’ll use his feet. He’ll use whatever he can. You saw him today take a hit on the sideline and get a first down for us. That’s something that we expect out of him and we’re giving the same kind of effort.”
On Nebraska’s first defensive series of the game, three walk-ons were on the field: true freshman linebacker Matt Holt, redshirt freshman safety Lance Thorell and senior safety Matt O’Hanlon.
Holt, from Lee’s Summit, Mo., was in the game when NU played its dime defense, which it did often Saturday.
“I felt prepared. Our coaches had us prepared for this game. I wasn’t too nervous,” Holt said.
Holt needed to step up since the Huskers were without senior Cody Glenn and junior Phillip Dillard, who were both out with injuries. After the game, Dillard had his knee wrapped.
“That’s a tough situation for a true freshman to be put in, but he prepared all week and it was great,” defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said. “Cody and Phil, they were in his ear all week helping with the preparation and he played very well.”
Some players who didn’t see action in NU’s defensive backfield were Rickey Thenarse, Prince Amukamara and Major Culbert.
Thenarse was on the sideline, but wasn’t 100 percent because of a sore shoulder, so coaches kept him out. Amukamara was apparently dinged up and defensive backs coach Marvin Sanders said Culbert was available but didn’t see action.
“Everybody has injuries,” Sanders said, not wanting the excuse. “It’s part of college football at this point in this season.”
Husker offensive line coach Barney Cotton said he felt his line played better Saturday, but is by no means where it needs to be.
Asked if he could have painted a better picture for how NU’s offense controlled the ball Saturday, Cotton said: “I could have painted (a picture) that didn’t include three or four holding (calls) in the second quarter. But our guys played hard. They played to win and we came up short again.
“We’ve got to play a cleaner game. … We’ve got to quit doing the things that can stop drives and that includes the holding and the pre-snap penalties.”
Most noticeable were two holding calls on Nebraska left tackle Mike Smith on the last drive of the second quarter that backed Nebraska into a long 53-yard field-goal attempt that came up short.
After halftime, Jaivorio Burkes got snaps at left tackle. Cotton said he didn’t do any substituting in the second half, playing Burkes, Keith Williams (left guard), Jacob Hickman (center), Matt Slauson (right guard) and Lydon Murtha (right tackle) the whole way.
“I decided to kind of go with what I perceived the hot hand,” Cotton said.
Wesch’s big day
Jake Wesch, the senior from North Bend, got his first start at punter, kicking instead of Dan Titchener, who struggled last week.
Wesch punted just once, after NU’s first offensive series, and he boomed the punt 55 yards.
Adding to his day, he also completed a pass on a fake field goal on fourth-and-7 from the Tech 9-yard line, hitting Mike McNeill, who came up just a foot shy of a TD. NU scored a play later to cut the deficit to 24-17 with 12:10 left in the game.
“It was something that we practiced over and over again and we knew (we’d run it) if they were giving us a certain look on the block team,” Wesch said. “Football is definitely a game of momentum. … It just happened to be that this play was more of a momentum-swinger for us today.”
The Huskers are now 7-6 in Big 12 road openers. Nebraska has lost five straight on the road; its last road win was at Wake Forest last September. … NU has now played six overtime games. Saturday’s was the first loss. …With his 349-yard passing performance, Ganz now has five of the top 10 passing days in school history. … NU’s 40:12 in time of possession was easily a season high, the previous best was 33:57 against Missouri. … NU’s first touchdown drive, a 15-play march that took 8:03, was the Huskers’ longest scoring drive of the season in terms of time and plays. … After his 69-yard kick return, Niles Paull is averaging 27.7 yards on 20 kickoff returns this season. … With five catches for 70 yards, Nate Swift has 128 catches in his career and is just 15 shy of Johnny Rodgers’ school record. … Though not as bad as last week, Nebraska had eight penalties for 55 yards Saturday. “It’s hurt us,” Pelini said. “It’s a problem.”
Reach Brian Christopherson at email@example.com or 473-7439.