So, the Huskers’ top kicker, Barret Pickering, is back. That’s the good news.
Just a few minutes after those jets flew over Memorial Stadium and off into the mid-Saturday blue, Pickering made a PAT to give NU a 7-0 lead over Indiana. Life was good again.
He made another one as the Huskers went up 14-3 midway through the first quarter.
But from that point on, special-teams highlights were hard to find in NU’s 38-31 loss.
Pickering, a sophomore who missed the first seven games because of a leg injury, missed his first field-goal try of the season, a 32-yard attempt that went wide left in the second quarter.
Rust? Nope. Pickering would not hear of it.
“At this stage of my career,” he said, “there should be no rust from that distance. I should be executing, not missing kicks like that.”
Pickering, who said he felt close to 100% but would not share any more details on the leg ailment, made a 30-yard field goal that tied the game 24-24 in the third quarter.
Senior punter Isaac Armstrong had two punts for 60 yards, including a 19-yarder that gave Indiana the ball at Nebraska’s 35 early in the third quarter.
Not long after that, kickoff specialist Will Przystup knocked one out-of-bounds after Pickering’s field goal in the third.
Like a kick to the rear, it all stung on Saturday.
“You can’t punt balls out of bounds and kick balls out of bounds,” said NU coach Scott Frost.
The kicking game has been rocky with Pickering on the sideline. Nebraska is now 5-for-12 on field-goal tries this season.
By comparison, Indiana senior kicker Logan Justus is 10-for-10 this season on field-goal attempts, although he did miss an extra point Saturday.
The Huskers could use just a fraction of that kind of kicking success right now. With Pickering back in the lineup, there is more hope. No surprise at all that he said it has been frustrating to be stuck on the sideline.
But he said fill-ins such as Armstrong and Dylan Jorgensen and Lane McCallum have done as well as you might expect on place-kicks under the circumstances.
“Lane and Dylan and those guys, they handled it pretty well,” Pickering said. “It wasn’t their primary job at the beginning of the year, so for them to step in, they did a good job.”
As for Saturday, Pickering said it was nice to be back on the field, but it was still hard to watch as small errors added up to another painful defeat.
“A lot of little things across the board,” he said. “I definitely didn’t help out on those little things.”