LINCOLN — Four plays inside the 4-yard line.
Three plays inside the 2, including two running plays.
A pass on fourth down that was knocked away by a walk-on defensive back.
Throw it all together, and you have one of Nebraska’s better goal-line stands in quite some time.
In the big scheme of things, it didn’t have an effect on the outcome of the game. The Huskers downed Northern Illinois 44-8 Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. Whether the Huskies scored on that particular series didn’t matter all that much.
But it was big for the Huskers (2-1) as they prepared for Big Ten play.
“That’s big, that’s what everybody wants to see the Blackshirts do,” senior cornerback Lamar Jackson said. “That was probably one of the best moments for me during a game. I mean, my guys operating in the back end while they were trying to motion and do this and that, but we were just able to get a big stop and I mean that was a great moment in the game for the Blackshirts and for the whole team.”
The goal-line stand began after Northern Illinois quarterback Ross Bowers completed a 15-yard pass to Cole Tucker for a first down on the Nebraska 8-yard-line.
A 6-yard run by Spencer Tears around the left end made it second and goal on the 2.
Running back Tre Harbison tried to go up the middle, but was stonewalled for a 1-yard gain by Will Honas and Damion Daniels.
On third down, Harbison tried again up the middle, and once again Honas and Daniels turned him back.
So on fourth down, the Huskies tried to go through the air. Bowers fired an out pass for Daniel Crawford, but walk-on safety Eli Sullivan knocked it away to end the scoring threat.
“That drive right there, we just didn’t want to give up a score,” defensive lineman Carlos Davis said. “They tried to run it twice then the third time they threw it. They could have ran it on that third play, but they chose to throw it. That just shows the strength of our defense. It was a big play.”
Nebraska coach Scott Frost loved what he saw on that goal-line stand.
“Oh, that was great,” Frost said. “The defense last week played three really good quarters and then the house of cards just kind of fell in on us. We had to learn a lot of lessons as a football team coaches and players alike since I got to Nebraska.
“ I kind of feel like we’ve rounded a little bit of a corner, only had one penalty all night it was a good thing to get those kind of stops and get that kind of play in the fourth quarter even from our second string defense to play well with our second string offense so a lot of good things happen. That goal line stand is just kind of a symbol of what happened tonight when we really needed those guys they stepped up.”
For the third straight game, the Blackshirts held their opponent to under 100 yards rushing. Northern Illinois ended up with 74 yards on 32 attempts.
“It just shows the type of defense we got,” Davis said. “We take pride in stopping the run. They only had like 60 yards or something like that. That’s our goal every game is to keep them under 100 (yards).”
Davis did his part with six tackles, including two tackles for losses of a total of 15 yards. He said the defense as a whole was well prepared for the Huskies.
“It just comes down to preparation during the week,” Davis said. “I thought we had a better week of preparing for this game all the way from Monday down to Friday. We were a lot more focused and executing.
“We just wanted to finish this thing right. We had a bad taste in our mouth last week, and we didn’t want to have that again. This team came in two years ago and beat us real bad, and we didn’t want that.”
Now the Huskers will turn their attention to the Big Ten Conference season. That starts Saturday at Illinois.
Davis said the Huskers are better prepared for the Big Ten this year than a year ago when the opener against Akron was canceled because of the weather.
“I think we needed those first three games to get ready,” Davis said. “Last year, we missed a game and were kind of behind. Now, we are ahead of the game and ready for Big Ten play.”