LINCOLN — While it’s only logical to blame Saturday’s 9-7 loss to Iowa State on Nebraska’s turnover-plagued offensive unit, senior defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh insisted that the Cornhuskers’ defense also fell short.
Never mind the fact that the offense committed eight turnovers. Forget the fact that Nebraska’s defense allowed just 239 total yards on 67 plays — an average of 3.6 yards per snap — against an injury-ravaged Iowa State offense that started backup quarterback Jerome Tiller and No. 2 running back Jeremi Schwartz.
Instead, Suh noted that for the second consecutive game, the Husker defense failed to produce a takeaway of its own. As a result, NU set a dubious single-game school record with a minus-eight turnover margin.
But in Suh’s view, anything short of a shutout against the Cyclones meant the Nebraska defense didn’t do its job. The All-America candidate said Tiller’s 47-yard touchdown pass to Jake Williams to put Iowa State ahead 9-7 with 6:53 left before halftime was the mistake that ultimately cost the Huskers the game.
“It’s disappointing, even from a defensive side, because if we don’t give up that touchdown, it’s a different ballgame,” Suh said. “It’s disappointing because I know what we have on both sides of the ball and on special teams and it’s not meshing together just yet.
“I don’t know why it’s not, but we’re definitely going to figure it out this next week and get that handled.”
Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini also said the defense played well, but ultimately, came up short. Iowa State’s only other score came on a 52-yard field goal by Grant Mahoney that was set by when Husker I-back Roy Helu Jr. lost a fumble on the game’s first offensive play at the NU 39-yard line.
“We hung in there,” Pelini said. “Defensively, we needed to make a play and we didn’t do it.”
Linebacker Phillip Dillard led the Huskers with 12 tackles, including seven solo stops. Fellow linebacker Sean Fisher added nine tackles, while Suh and defensive tackle Jared Crick had eight tackles apiece.
Suh also had a sack, three quarterback hurries and blocked a point-after attempt kick and a field-goal try.
“Suh played like he normally does — he played his butt off and played well and played a good football game,” Pelini said. “I thought all our guys on defense played really hard and did some good things.”
How did Suh grade his individual performance?
“Average — it wasn’t enough to get the win,” Suh said. “There’s no point to playing a good game if you’re not going to come out with the win. I’d rather have no tackles — no nothing — and have the worst game of my life, but if I come out with the win, I’ll be happy.”
Suh said his only evaluations are based on wins and losses.
“All that matters is winning. That’s all I’m here to do,” Suh said. “I want to win championships and I know everyone else in that locker room wants to, so we just need to keep moving forward.”
Nebraska entered the game ranked sixth nationally in scoring defense, allowing 11.8 points per game. Suh said the lofty standing is something her certainly hasn’t accomplished alone and Saturday was no different.
“Jared Crick played well, Barry Turner played well — everybody on that defense played pretty much played the way we’re supposed to play,” Suh said. “We just had a couple of hiccups here and there — mistakes that we wish we could take back — and obviously one of those mistakes was the touchdown.”
Suh said he felt bad for Nebraska’s offense, which gained 362 yards, but simply couldn’t hang on to the ball. Four of the Huskers’ eight turnovers came inside the Iowa State 5.
“It’s tough because we expect a lot out of them,” Suh said of the Nebraska offensive players. “We know what they can do, as they did in the (first) four games we played at the beginning of the season.
“We still know that our offense is still potent and will be potent again. They just need to work out some kinks.”
Until it does?
“We’ve got to step up on the defensive side and the special teams side,” Suh said. “We’ve got to make the plays.”