Season in review: Nebraska

Sep 10, 2016; Lincoln, NE, USA;  Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback Tommy Armstrong (4) is congratulated after scoring a touchdown against the Wyoming Cowboys in the first quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Team: Nebraska

Record: 9-4 (6-3 B1G)

After a five-win regular season in 2015, the Huskers bounced backed nicely in Mike Riley’s second season in Riley. Nebraska was a dark horse to win the West entering the year, and it had a shot to win the division until the final week of the season.

High point of the season: The 7-0 start

Nebraska opened the year with its first 7-0 start since 2001 and climbed as high as No. 7 in the AP polls midway through the season.

You could probably make the argument that the thrilling 35-32 win over No. 22 Oregon was the highest point of the season for the Huskers, but the Ducks finished a measly 4-8 at the end of year.

There were no monumental victories for the Huskers during this stretch, at least in retrospect. Still, starting the season so strong was a pretty special accomplishment for a team that was 6-7 only a year ago.

Low point of the season: Losing to Ohio State 62-3 in Columbus

After taking Wisconsin to the wire in Madison a week earlier, the Huskers looked every bit as good as that top 10 ranking they had earned as they traveled to Columbus.

That was all washed away in a four hour span.

Nebraska’s defense took a beating, giving up 590 yards, 34 first downs and allowing the Buckeyes to score on every offensive possession in a blowout victory. And things weren’t any prettier offensively.

Aside from a 72-yard drive in the first quarter and a 63-yard drive in the second quarter, the Huskers gained just 69 yards on their remaining nine possessions. Ohio State also intercepted two passes, taking both back for touchdowns.

To make matters even worse, Armstrong was taken out of the stadium in an ambulance after a nasty hit to the head left him briefly motionless on the sideline.

Most meaningful play: The tribute to Sam Foltz

Tragedy hit Nebraska and the rest of the college football world when punter Sam Foltz was killed in an automobile accident in July.

In the Huskers’ season-opener, the Huskers honored Foltz with this touching moment on the field:

No matter how long the run, how great the catch or how big the situation, there was no moment better than this one for Nebraska.

Team MVP: Tommy Armstrong Jr., QB

Armstrong has been the heart and soul of the Huskers for the past three seasons and has earned the badge of honor as one of the toughest competitors in college football.

He wasn’t always great, but when he played well, Nebraska played well. He finished the year completing 151-of-294 pass attempts and threw for 2,180 yards and 14 TDs in 11 games. Armstrong was also an effective runner, gaining 512 yards and eight TDs on 113 carries.

The numbers don’t give you the whole story, though. It was plays like this, a TD run on a bad leg in the closing minutes against Minnesota, that really illustrate why Armstrong was just so important to Nebraska in 2016:

Overall grade: A-

Despite injuries, suspensions and so many unforeseen circumstances that hit Nebraska this season, the Huskers were in the B1G West hunt until the very end and nearly doubled their regular season win total from 2015.

Losing four of the final six games wasn’t a great way to conclude the year, but with all things considered, Nebraska enjoyed a pretty successful season thanks to one heck of a coaching job by Riley.

REFERENCES

Photo Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

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