LINCOLN – Nebraska offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf knew something was different about a particular play call Saturday against Southern Mississippi in Lincoln.
Near the end of the third quarter Langsdorf called a fullback trap, and Andy Janovich busted up the middle, broke a tackle and raced 28 yards to the Eagles 41 for a first down.
The crowd roared in approval. Perhaps the Nebraska fullback tradition is going through a re-birth.
“We felt good about it going in,” Langsdorf said about the play. “It’s a good play for us. It’s a quick-hitter. It was pretty crazy when he popped that first one. The fans had a different vibe on that one. We want to continue to get him involved.”
It wasn’t the only time the Gretna, Nebraska, product delighted the crowd during Nebraska’s 36-28 win. Janovich carried the ball five times for 68 yards, for an average of 13.6 yards per carry. In addition, he caught one pass from Tommy Armstrong.
“He is a really good football player and had one of the best special teams game I’ve seen just about ever a week ago,” Nebraska Head Coach Mike Riley said. “He’s just a good all-around player. He’s obviously versatile. He can catch. He can run. He’ll run down on kicks and he’ll block on kick returns. That’s what you have to do in the whole coaching world, is utilize the talent you have, and Andy’s a good player. I don’t know if every game running-wise will work out like that for our fullback, but it certainly was good today.”
In was a big offensive day for Nebraska that included 431 total yards of total offense for Armstrong with 368 through the air and three total touchdowns. In all Nebraska racked up 610 total yards, but struggled mightily on third down and in the red zone.
Jordan Westerkamp led all receivers with 11 catches for 118 yards and a touchdown. Terrell Newby was a workhorse at running back with 18 carries for 76 yards.
Sophomore kicker Drew Brown tied an NCAA record with five field goals in a half in the first half. Nebraska led 22-0 at the break, but struggled to find the end zone so much that it allowed Southern Miss to close the gap in the second half to within 29-21.
If the five field goals had been touchdowns, Nebraska would have led 42-0 at half.
Brown said the opportunities in the kicking game help to build confidence after a shaky start to the season. In particular, he said hitting a 50-yard field goal before the half was big.
“You’ve got to be ready when it happens,” Brown said. “So through this roller coaster I had a really bad start. I definitely had a pretty big day. It’s definitely good to have days like these. The confidence level is a lot higher than it was.”
Armstrong said it was frustrating to struggle moving the ball in the red zone.
“Sometimes I made bad reads,” he said. “The first half we kind of killed ourselves. We can’t go and settle for 3 points when we’re on the 5 or 6 yard line. We’ve got to be physical. We’ve got to make plays. We have to be sure we play every single minute of the game.”
Nebraska opens up Big Ten play on the road next week at Illinois.
Riley said hopes his team learns and grows from the non-conference games.
“We’ve won a couple of games and we have lost a couple of really close games,” he said, “and now we are entering into the conference. We’ve been through a lot of different situations, which I hope will be very good learning for us as you stack your experiences up and hopefully get better.”