10 Ways to Honor Riley?s Milestone, Armstrong?s Gem

Randy York N-Sider
Official Blog of the Huskers

Winning never has been, nor ever will be everything. But the incredible effort that winning requires can define those who have the character, confidence and chemistry to overcome heartbreak and remain unified. So here’s one big thumb’s up to Mike Riley’s first-ever Big Ten Conference win Saturday, a 48-25 crushing of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

Minnesota rushed for 552 yards in back-to-back victories over the Huskers the past two seasons, but managed only 65 rushing yards on 26 attempts against the Blackshirts Saturday. Nebraska established an identity that Riley, his staff and team hope will resurrect a season that has been defined mostly by losing four games in the last 14 seconds when the Huskers were leading BYU, Illinois and Wisconsin and tied with Miami.

Saturday was a gut-check in the Huskers' Hunt for a Red October, which needed a 1-0 launch for the second half of the regular season. That giant step gives Nebraska hope that it can compete in the Big Ten’s West Division and, perhaps, win at least three of its last five games to qualify for a bowl game, which is ultra-important for recruiting and absolutley vital for earning another month of competitive growth. Now 3-4 overall and 1-2 in the Big Ten, Nebraska hosts Northwestern Saturday with the chance to push the reset button even more dramatically. The new Nebraska you saw on ESPN2 Saturday warrants another ESPN2 appearance a week later.

Tommy Armstrong's Consistency Triggers Full Arsenal of Offensive Playmakers

Tommy Armstrong Jr. had the vision and the resolve to get Nebraska on a faster, more productive track after falling short at Illinois and against Wisconsin at home. "Let's have some fun. Let's make a statement," Armstrong told his teammates. "Everybody's counting us out." Not anymore, though. Armstrong's self-willed consistency triggers a full arsenal of Husker offensive playmakers, and his performance showcased the leadership he wants to bring every week.

Armstrong completed 18 of 26 passes Saturday for 261 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Armstrong now has 46 career touchdown passes, moving ahead of Tommie Frazier (43), Joe Ganz (44) and Zac Taylor (45) in the process. He also rushed for 38 yards. Nebraska's goal was to start faster and finish stronger, and the Huskers have re-established themselves as an improving team that's much healthier and definitively stronger.

Terrell Newby's Breakaway Speed Complements Armstrong's Double Threat

Every college football team covets having a multiple threat quarterback paired with a dangerous running back. Nebraska continues to mold its playmakers into a combined force, and Saturday showed signs of promise with junior Terrell Newby’s 69-yard, first-quarter touchdown run, the Huskers' longest play from scrimmage this season. Newby's smooth footwork bypassed two 55-yard plays from the shared previous top plays. One featured Andy Janovich’s electrifying touchdown against Wisconsin. The other was Armstrong's 55-yard TD pass to tight end Cethan Carter at Illinois. Newby finished with 116 yards rushing on 13 carries.

What are the Odds of This Masterful Grab Ending Up Being a Touchdown?

If Nebraska somehow creates enough momentum to beat Northwestern Saturday in Lincoln and improves enough to challenge current unbeatens Michigan State and Iowa down the stretch at Memorial Stadium, the Huskers need all the offensive weapons they can find. Having All-American De'Mornay Pierson-El back in the huddle and on the field again is a B1G deal. Check out DPL's acrobatic skills above. What are the odds that he could emerge from that entanglement and convert it into a touchdown?

Pierson-El was in end zone traffic with two Minnesota defensive backs. The ball didn't just fall into his hands. He timed his jump to bat the ball to himself and then scurried to paydirt in the corner end zone where the ball fell softly into his waiting hands. TV commentators compared the play to a sole survivor beating double-coverage. Whatever, however, just know this: Pierson-El caught three passes for 31 yards and returned a punt 42 yards...seemed like old times after a painstakenly long recovery from a broken foot.

More Balanced Offense Rediscovers, Reconnects with Jordan Westerkamp

Remember last week when Riley basically said in his weekly presser that three combined Jordan Westerkamp catches in Nebraska's down-to-the-wire losses to Illinois and Wisconsin were basically, in a word, unacceptable? Well, captain Armstrong solved that problem with captain Westerkamp rather nicely Saturday. The roommates teamed for six catches for 76 yards, including one completion that covered 27 yards. Together, that's worth at least one Hip, if not a "Hip-Hip" for outbattling two defenders. Once Armstrong and Westerkamp collaborate again on a touchdown, the feat will be worthy of the full "Hip, Hip, Hooray!"

Alonzo Moore Has the Same Kind of Glue-Like Hands as  Captain Westerkamp

Westerkamp isn't the only Husker with glue-like hands. Alonzo Moore is equally blessed. The junior from Louisiana proved it sliding through the end zone on his rear end after catching a 32-yard touchdown pass from Armstrong. In high school, Moore played quarterback, running back and receiver. He high jumped 6-foot-5. You haven't seen the last of Moore, so here's hoping end zone celebrations like the bouncy one pictured above with Mooreand freshman receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. continue.

No. 10 Josh Kalu Smiles after Returning Intercepted Pass for a Touchdown

One of our 10 feature photos from this pivotal performance includes No. 10 himself, Josh Kalu, who continues to gain confidence game-by-game. Kalu finished the game with seven overall tackles, including five solos. He also put  the exclamation point on the game's final chapter, returning an intercepted pass for a 41-yard touchdown. The Blackshirts put a premium on playmakers, and Kalu is improving at the same time he's learning.

Welcome, Josh Banderas, Jonathan Rose; It's Nice to Have You Back 

Examine the postgame stat sheet and you'll understand why fans across Husker Nation are welcoming Josh Banderas and Jonathan Rose back to the positions where they belong. After a long wait to return to the lineup, Banderas, a Lincoln native, was Nebraska's leading tackler Saturday with eight solos and two assists at linebacker. Rose, a senior cornerback from Leeds, Ala., shared second place with senior safety Byerson Cockrell (Columbus, Miss.) with eight tackles apiece. All eight of Rose's stops were solos. Cockrell had six solos and two assists. Linebacker Nate Gerry (Sioux Falls, S.D.) contributed five solo tackles and one assist.

Andy Janovich's Physical Style Continues to Set the Pace for Huskers

Saturday's physical matchup with Minnesota played right into the well-honed skills of senior walk-on fullback/special teams star Andy Janovich (pictured above setting the tone for another rugged game). Janovich carried seven times for 27 yards. He also reinforced his reputation as a blocker and was credited with a tackle on special teams. Husker fans crave every time Janovich lines up as the running back for a strategic change of pace. Because of his toughness, tenacity and unique skills, Riley envisions a solid career for Janovich in the NFL. Check out No. 35 and follow wherever he goes. The collisions he causes are NFL-caliber physicality.

Jack Gangwish Shows His Love for Big Red Fans Who All Stick Together

We end this N-Sider with a poignant photo of senior co-captain Jack Gangwish showing his appreciation to all loyal Husker fans who made the road trip to Minneapolis feel like a home game in Lincoln. At last Monday's press conference, Gangwish vowed that Nebraska was determined to change the course of its season not only for the team, but for loyal Big Red fans who all stick together in all kinds of weather.

Saturday, Nebraska did not need a late comeback at Minnesota. The Huskers played with purpose and authority for four quarters in a 48-25 victory over the Golden Gophers. "I'm really happy for everyone involved here," Riley said. "I've said all along Nebraska has the greatest fans in the world. All they want to do is win, and we certainally understand that."

Gangwish gushed about how important Big Red fans are in influencing the way players look at competition, results and loyality. Despite last-minute issues that cost the Huskers four wins, they did not feel sorry for themselves. They continue their climb back into relevancy with Saturday's game against Northwestern, which owns a 16-6 win over No. 10-ranked Stanford. Kickoff at Memorial Stadium is 11 a.m. The game will be televised on ESPN2.

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