LINCOLN — The debate raged around the state all week long.
Zac Lee or Cody Green? Which Nebraska quarterback would start Saturday’s game against Iowa State?
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini indicated early in the week that a change might be made, but Lee was still No 1. It was to be a game-time decision — or more accurately, a game-time announcement.
When the game started, it was Lee who was directing the Husker offense.
Lee completed 20-of-33 passes with three interceptions in Nebraska’s 9-7 loss to the Cyclones.
The bottom line was that the coaching staff thought Lee had earned the starting job with his practice performances this week.
“He had a good week and a steady week,” offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said. “He really rebounded and played well and so did Cody, which is good. They’re pushing each other, which is good. Cody is getting better. Both really had good weeks. Zac was just a little bit more consistent.”
Pelini said it wasn’t really a difficult decision to make.
“Zac’s more prepared,” Pelini said. “Cody Green is not quite ready. He’s getting there, but Zac is ahead of Cody right now. It’s not a difficult decision for me at this point.”
It certainly sounds like there won’t be any quarterback questions this week.
“I think it’s pretty obvious from watching the football game: Zac Lee was the least of our problems,” Pelini said. “I thought Zac played well. I thought he did a lot of good things. His worst play was probably that last throw.
“We didn’t play well around Zac. We had dropped throws. We had bad execution around him. We had a chance to have boatload of points in this game, but we put the ball on the ground.”
Many thought if Lee started, Green would see some action at some point. That never happened.
Lee played every one of the Huskers’ 65 offensive play.
Lee said he appreciated that vote of confidence from the coaches.
“It meant a lot,” Lee said. “We were moving the ball well. It wasn’t necessarily anything one guy was or one guy wasn’t doing. We were kind of shooting ourselves in the foot. It was really as simple as that.”
Lee tried to stay focused this week on doing what he needed to do. That wasn’t always easy with all the quarterback discussions going on.
“I really tried to keep it like any other week,” Lee said. “This game, we just didn’t finish. I don’t really know what else to say. We just didn’t execute when we had to and gave the ball away too many times.”
Lee did have those three interceptions, but the first was on a ball that was tipped, bobbled and finally pulled in by Iowa State’s David Sims at the ISU 1 and returned to the 16.
That Iowa State drive eventually turned into a 47-yard touchdown pass from Jerome Tiller to Jake Williams that provided the Cyclones with what proved to be the winning margin of victory.
Lee later added two more interceptions in the final two possessions of the game. The final interception came on a fourth-and-10 play.
“He was trying to make a play,” Watson said. “Especially that last drive.”
The most encouraging aspect of the Husker offense may have been the emergence of true freshman running back Dontrayevous Robinson.
Robinson led the Huskers with 77 yards rushing on 15 carries including a 3-yard touchdown run.
“Dontrayevous came in and gave us some spark,” Watson said. “He’s going to be a really good football player. He’s young. He’s a freshman. This is the first time he’s seen these kinds of lights. Overall we were pleased with his effort and pleased with how he worked this week in practice.”
But overall, the it was a rough game for the Huskers.
“We’re frustrated with ourselves — mad at ourselves,” Lee said. “The defense played a good game, we had some big plays on special teams and even if we just kick a field goal any of those times we were in the red zone instead of hand the ball away, it’s a completely different game.”