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BYU vs. Nebraska, 9.5.2015

Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. (4) throws in third-quarter action at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015.

It's understood at this point you'd rather just take out that "Men In Black" memory eraser and wipe the whole Hail Mary thing away.

So we'll revisit it quickly. Had Nebraska gone over such a play? Yes. Had coaches talked about such a play recently. Yes.

As recently as Friday, in fact. True freshman Aaron Williams, who was out there on the play, said NU went over its defense plan on such a play during the final walk-through.

Defensive coordinator Mark Banker chose to rush three on the play — Jack Gangwish, Maliek Collins and Ross Dzuris — and that's hardly an uncommon approach. Though, afterwards, the coach said, "maybe the next time we do it we'll just try to go knock the quarterback's head off, I don't know."

Everyone recognizes that NU botched some things on the back end, with nobody in front of the receiver to bat the ball harmlessly to the turf. But just as big, in Banker's view, was allowing BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum to get outside to load up for a throw.

"It's just a tough one. I don't think there's anybody in that room that doesn't understand that," Banker said. "That game was taken away from us and we gave it to them."

To the "yays" and "nays" from the Saturday that was:

Yay

Tommy Armstrong received some just praise from Mike Riley after the game for having "competed like crazy." Indeed. He was 3-of-15 during that second quarter Nebraska would like to forget, but he sure didn't get much help up front during that ugly stretch. In the other three quarters, he was 21-of-26 passing. For whatever flaws Armstrong still needs to work on, he fights. His hurdle over a BYU defender on a third-quarter option run was his personality in one play.

Nay

Pass rush. It was known going into the season the Huskers didn't have that dynamic presence coming off the edge it enjoyed with Randy Gregory. Some good signs were shown from freshman Freedom Akinmoladun, who even had a sack on the first series. Whatever news comes Monday on Jack Gangwish, who injured his arm on the final play, will be important. The Huskers are not deep at the end spot. The good health of Gangwish and Greg McMullen is critical.

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Yay

The Huskers aren't as thin at linebacker as advertised if true freshman Dedrick Young comes along at a fast pace. Saturday was a strong start. Only the fourth true freshman to start on opening day Nebraska since World War II, he flashed exactly how athletic he is on a perfectly timed pass breakup in the third quarter. He would have liked one fourth-quarter sack attempt back, when he let BYU QB Tanner Mangum get outside of him and fling a completed prayer. But all in all, a pretty impressive debut. His seven tackles were second-most on the team. Think how many of those he might rack up in his career.

Nay

The Huskers had a good third-down conversion day going until three failed third-and-shorts in the fourth quarter. NU ended up 6-of-13 but needed to be 7-of-13 to land a win. Probably the one third-down play call some wonder about came early in the fourth quarter when Nebraska tried to sneak it on a long third-and-1. NU didn't even get close on the play.

As for the late third-and-3, when NU could have put it away, offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf explained why they chose to try Jamal Turner on the fly sweep. "I think we had hit some good power inside," he said. "We had some good sweeps early in the game. Hadn't run it for a while. Felt good about it. But we weren't thinking about throwing. We wanted that clock to be as low as we could."

Yay

Adjustments. You know, if that Hail Mary had fallen harmlessly to the turf the big narrative would have been about how well the Huskers adjusted in the second half after building a 10-point ditch. As it is, it's still worth giving attention. The Husker defense was littered with holes in the second quarter. In the third, BYU gained only 55 yards.

Nay

The Huskers didn't enjoy the advantage in the kicking/punting game some may have predicted going in. Some of it couldn't be helped. The loss of Sam Foltz (we'll learn how long on Monday) is giant. And credit to BYU's rugby punter for putting the ball where NU returnmen could do little with it. But two field-goal misses by Drew Brown, who admirably showed up to the postgame room, came back to haunt. Had Brown made the final one, BYU still may have won it on some final throw. But it did seem to give the Cougars a bounce going into that final possession.

Quote for the road

"There hasn't been a bigger win for me personally," said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall, "and maybe it's just the way it came about to be a part of."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7439 or bchristopherson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.

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