Nebraska football: My 10 favorite moments of the 2020 season
The 2020 Nebraska football season can largely be summed up with one word: disappointment.
It’s hard to predict how the Huskers’ future will unfold, because right now, after a 3rd straight losing season under head coach Scott Frost, things aren’t looking great. Next season’s outlook became even more muddied after Nebraska’s best player, receiver Wan’Dale Robinson, who some rightly say is the face of the program, decided to enter the transfer portal.
Robinson said he wants to be closer to his mother, who battled COVID-19, and be at a place where he can grow as a receiver. No one can blame the guy for wanting to be closer to his family and in a better football situation.
Although Nebraska will return nearly all of its defense while bringing in immediate help on offense through the transfer portal in former USC running back Markese Stepp and FCS All-American receiver Samori Touré from Montana, the future still looks uncertain.
The 2020 season wasn’t all bad, however. There were still moments that Huskers fans can hang their hat on and be proud of. Here are 10:
10. Nebraska never had a COVID-19 breakout
This is a testament to the dedication and mental fortitude of the Huskers players, coaches and staff who wanted to play football and followed the rules to the best of their ability in order to do so. The only game that was canceled was Wisconsin, and the issue wasn’t on the Huskers’ side.
While games across the nation were getting canceled, Nebraska never even had to pause practice. That’s commendable.
9. Thomas Fidone commitment
Getting Fidone, the top-ranked tight end in the nation according to 247Sports, was a massive commitment for Nebraska, and it became even bigger after Robinson’s departure.
Yes, the 6-5, 225-pound Fidone will only be a true freshman next season, but the expectations are that he should see the field right away and be a contributor, whether that’s as an in-line tight end or flexed out as more of a receiver.
That’s a lot to put on a kid’s shoulders, but Fidone understands the Huskers offense is in need of playmakers — he’ll get the opportunity to fill a role early.
8. The tight end position got involved
Let’s stick with the position we just mentioned. It was a coming out party for Austin Allen, Nebraska’s 6-foot-8 tight end. The Aurora, Neb., native caught a career-high 18 passes for 236 yards and 1 score.
This was an incredible catch by Austin Allen. pic.twitter.com/74VctAIzqk
— Jacob Padilla (@JacobPadilla_) November 15, 2020
Coming into the season, the coaches were vocal about wanting to use the tight ends more, and they accomplished that for the most part. Many times during the season the Huskers used more than 1 tight end on the field. Unfortunately, Jack Stoll’s season was ruined due to a knee injury against Ohio State while Travis Vokolek, the transfer from Rutgers, grew as a blocker.
Even without Stoll, the Huskers are still set at tight end heading into 2021 as Allen and Vokolek are returning. Don’t forget about the three incoming true freshmen at the position either, as Fidone, AJ Rollins and James Carnie are loaded with potential. More 2- and 3-tight end formations should be expected in Lincoln.
7. Adrian Martinez’s leadership before Penn State
Martinez was benched in favor of Luke McCaffrey toward the end of the Northwestern game in Week 2. McCaffrey got the nod a week later against Penn State, and he led the Huskers to a win.
Following the game, Nebraska’s social media team released a video that detailed the win. Thanks to that video, fans caught a glimpse of what kind of leader and person Martinez is.
“It’s not about me, it’s not about him (McCaffrey), it’s about us. Let’s not forget that,” Martinez said.
— Nebraska Football (@HuskerFBNation) November 17, 2020
Martinez has always had Husker Nation’s respect. But watching how well he reacted to being benched gained him even more fans. For all his shortcomings as a quarterback, Martinez has few as a man.
6. Martinez regaining his starting role, playing well vs. Iowa
We just went over Martinez losing the starting quarterback spot. Now we’re going to talk about him getting it back — and making fans realize he’s the best option they’ve got.
McCaffrey got his chance as the starter, but it became clear fairly early in his reps that his passing is not yet, and maybe never will be, of Division I caliber. Not all interceptions are the quarterback’s fault, of course, but McCaffrey’s performance of 1 touchdown pass against 6 picks doesn’t exactly inject optimism into the fanbase.
Martinez came back as the starter against Iowa and played fairly well. Well enough, in fact, that he basically cemented himself as the one who should be starting for good. He completed 18 of 20 passes for 174 yards — that’s taking care of the ball and not putting it in harm’s way, which McCaffrey did more often than not when asked to throw.
5. Feel-good win at Rutgers
On paper, there wasn’t much to get excited about for the Huskers’ final game of the long, on-again-off-again season against Rutgers. By the end of Nebraska’s 28-21 win in Piscataway, though, there was a little bit of hope — even if there were 4 turnovers.
Hope in that maybe Nebraska finally found an offensive identity. The Huskers rushed for a season-high 365 yards and 6.29 yards per carry. It was a downhill, smash-mouth attack with a healthy Dedrick Mills rushing for 191 yards and Martinez going for 157 with 2 touchdowns.
Huskers fans had been waiting for a rushing performance like that all season. It’s the style of football they yearn for and want to be known for — it’s in their DNA. The Rutgers game showed it was possible for Nebraska to be a tough, run-heavy offense in this conference. The coaches just need to keep the pedal to the metal.
4. Myles Farmer picks off Northwestern twice
Farmer showed a ton of potential as a backup safety this past season, and he had the game of his life against Northwestern when he got the start while Deontai Williams spent the 1st half on the sidelined due to a targeting call against Ohio State.
Farmer picked off Peyton Ramsey twice in the game, and those turnovers turned into 10 points. Unfortunately, he had his season end early due to a freak injury in pregame warmups at Purdue. Even though he only played in 5 games, Farmer still tied for the team lead in interceptions with Cam Taylor-Britt.
3. Held Purdue to -2 yards rushing
I don’t care that Purdue was the most pass-happy offense in the B1G and averaged 43 attempts per game — it’s darn impressive that Nebraska’s defense held the Boilermakers to -2 yards rushing in the Huskers’ 37-27 win.
Running back Zander Horvath runs hard and is incredibly difficult to bring down. The fact that the Huskers held Purdue to negative yardage on 17 attempts is something to be proud of for Nebraska fans.
2. Cam Taylor-Britt’s performance against Purdue
Taylor-Britt announced that he’s returning to Lincoln, and that’s great news for Erik Chinander and the Huskers defense.
Taylor-Britt was a key member of the D as a starting corner, and his day against Purdue may have been the most noteworthy of the season. His 2 pass breakups, both of which were crucial to ending Purdue’s hopes of a come-from-behind victory in the 4th, came against one of the top wideouts in the B1G in David Bell.
Impressive pass breakup by Cam Taylor-Britt against Bell pic.twitter.com/zjXPkTCn1N
— Billy M (@BillyM_91) December 5, 2020
1. Defense’s 4th-quarter stand against Penn State
Nebraska’s 1st win of the season didn’t come without a bit of drama at the end. With Penn State trailing 30-23, the Nittany Lions had the ball on the Huskers’ 13 on 4th down.
An in-state kid, senior defensive end Ben Stille, came through for his team by getting to quarterback Will Levis to seal the victory. In a season that didn’t have many positive moments, this one had to feel good.
😤 @b_stille_ called game
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 14, 2020