The football gods were on Nebraska's side at Indiana
Before you read too much into that headline, let’s start with this.
Nebraska deserved a victory on Saturday. Winning on the road against a quality team like Indiana — yes, a quality team — is not an easy thing to do. The Huskers put themselves in positions to succeed for most of the afternoon and benefitted from it. This team finally figured out how to close out a game, and that’s why it;s sitting at 6-0.
But man, Nebraska can count its lucky stars for that.
Saturday in Bloomington was wild, and not in the fashion games are usually wild at Indiana. It wasn’t some high-flying, Big 12 shootout that those who didn’t pay attention thought it would be.
It proved to be an extremely even game between two solid teams. And fortunately for the Huskers, they got a whole bunch of lucky bounces and escaped with a victory.
You got the sense that it was going to be that kind of day when Brandon Reilly caught a ball on his back in the first quarter.
I mean, how do you wind up with a catch like this?
After Reilly’s improbably grab, the Huskers scored their first and only offensive touchdown of the first half.
How did the Huskers score their next and last offensive touchdown? Tommy Armstrong rolled out and hit Stanley Morgan for a 72-yard touchdown.
Oh, but it didn’t happen in conventional fashion:
— Nebraska On BTN (@NebraskaOnBTN) October 15, 2016
Ok, so Nebraska’s two offensive touchdowns were the result of a bit of luck. That doesn’t mean that the entire game was lucky. The Blackshirts didn’t get lucky by holding a potent IU offense in check for most of the afternoon.
But the Huskers did get plenty of game-changing breaks to go their way.
How about the fourth-and-one conversion for Armstrong on the last drive? The Husker quarterback fumbled the snap and managed to corral it and still pick up the first down.
Minutes later, Terrell Newby ended a long run by putting the ball on the ground and Indiana recovered. Initially, two refs on the spot ruled that it was a fumble but were overruled. They reviewed the play and by a split second, it appeared that Newby’s knee barely got down, which kept the ball in Nebraska’s possession.
T Newby, knee down as ball coming out. pic.twitter.com/SJMP0Ej3EK
— Brian Christopherson (@HuskerExtraBC) October 15, 2016
If Newby fumbles a split-second earlier, Indiana gets the ball back down two points with two minutes left. There’s no guarantee the Hoosiers score, but it has a different feel than a five-point game — Nebraska hit a field goal — with 40 seconds left.
So Nebraska caught some breaks. This was not a game in which the Huskers looked like the No. 10 team in the country. But really, does that matter?
The Huskers aren’t playing for style points. Vegas knew there probably wouldn’t be many of those gained by Nebraska on Saturday. That’s why the spread was three points.
Saturday just showed how different this season has been than Mike Riley’s first year. It wasn’t long ago that Nebraska couldn’t get anything to go its way in coin-flip situations. Football can be a game of inches. Last year, it seemed like the Huskers were inches away from being a nine-win team.
Did that matter? No. And did it matter that the Huskers squeaked out a “lucky” win on Saturday? No. Undefeated in mid-October is undefeated in mid-October.
Who cares if it took a little luck to get there?