Nebraska quarterback Zac Lee showed a lot of toughness in the second quarter when he popped up after a nasty late hit by linebacker John Houlik along the KSU sideline. Three plays later, Lee, with a rushing defender in his face, gunned a 17-yard touchdown pass to Mike McNeill to give NU a 10-3 lead.
Leading 10-3, Nebraska seemed ready to take control of the game in the second quarter. Facing second-and-goal at the KSU 5, Lee was sacked for a 14-yard loss. On the next play, safety Tysyn Hartman intercepted Lee’s pass in the end zone and returned in 42 yards.
On Nebraska’s first possession of the second half, the Huskers faced third-and-1 at their 29. Zac Lee faked a handoff to Roy Helu and gunned a 47-yard strike to Niles Paul. Helu scored on a 14-yard run on the next play, pushing NU’s lead to 17-3.
Brian Christopherson’s take
The good: The game-turning hit by Larry Asante as K-State was going in for a score. …
The bad: Barry Turner tried to pick it up and missed. Just fall on it. K-State almost got it back.
The ugly: Cheap hit by K-State’s John Houlik as Zac Lee ran out of bounds in the second quarter. “Hey, I popped right up,” Lee said with a smile.
Best play call: The play-action call by Shawn Watson on third-and-1 from the NU 39-yard line early in the third quarter. KSU bit hard on the fake and Lee went deep to Niles Paul for a 47-yard gain. Also loved going for it on fourth-and-1 from the NU 36. And, yes, I assure you I would have said that had it failed.
They said it: “It’s like he’s using a pitching wedge with golf balls. It’s kind of ridiculous,” said Lee about the punting ability of Alex Henery, who twice pinned KSU inside its 5.
Thinking out loud: Maybe they can put Suh and Colt on the same flight to NYC for the Heisman after that game in Big D.
Reader questions from the Life In The Red blog
1. What is it with Shawn Watson calling option plays with Zac Lee? It’s a guaranteed 4- or 5-yard loss.
Nebraska ran its quarterback twice early on options, then closed that page of the playbook the rest of the game.
It’s safe to say Zac won’t win too many foot races with the K-State defensive ends or linebackers. Maybe the Huskers thought they could get the Wildcats to play undisciplined, but the runs with Lee were a pretty accurate barometer of the entire game: NU usually had to earn everything it got during a night it managed 267 yards.
2. Where is the push from the D-line? I think those boys have been reading too many press clippings!
Kansas State’s O-line definitely held its own, but we have to give a lot of the credit for Nebraska’s lack of push to the Wildcats’ play calling. There were a lot of formations out there to handle and, at times, that seemed to overwhelm the Huskers.
Nebraska also had some issues keeping track of quarterback Grant Gregory on rollout plays, and we also were left with the impression that K-State running back Daniel Thomas will some day be playing on Sundays.
But, hey, with all that, NU still gave up three points. That’s going to get you a win at least 99 out of 100 times.
3. So, how did Rex Burkhead look the first time back since suffering a hairline fracture in his foot?
The freshman I-back missed the past five games, but surprisingly showed little rust while spelling Roy Helu. More encouraging was that he appeared to have good strength, power and burst.
Burkhead did get just six carries, and his long run was a 7-yarder. We did notice, too, that he wasn’t asked to make aggressive cuts. His carries weren’t toss sweeps, but more of the North-South variety.