Twice in the opening half of the Huskers' 21-3 victory, the K-State defense came through with seemingly drive-ending plays on third down. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, on both occasions, the Husker coaching staff came through with calls that seemed to catch the Wildcats completely off guard on the following play.
The first such occasion came on the opening drive of the ballgame. After a 48-yard run by Brandon Jackson brought Nebraska into K-State territory, the Wildcats stopped Nebraska running backs Cody Glenn and Jackson for 2-and 0-yard gains, respectively. On third down, the Wildcat defenders forced quarterback Zac Taylor into throwing an incomplete pass. The safe bet was that the Huskers would kick a field goal to jump ahead for a 3-0 lead.
The Huskers' field goal unit hit the field, but the kick that so many in Bill Snyder Family Stadium were expecting never took flight. Instead, placeholder Jake Wesch found Hunter Teafatiller, who had leaked through the defensive line, wide open for a 17-yard touchdown.
"It was a very well executed fake," coach Ron Prince said. "We could have defended that better, and that put us behind 7-0 in the start.
Linebacker Brandon Archer said the Wildcats had prepared for a possible fake field goal, but didn't execute on Saturday. "To work on that play so much in practice and to allow a play like that definitely hurts," the Wildcat captain said. "That definitely changed the momentum of the game."
"We've been putting a significant amount of pressure on people with our (kick) blocks. We knew eventually someone would find a fake. We felt that one of the things we had to do in this game is that we were going to have to block a kick. If they drive the ball down there into field-goal position and we get a chance to block it, we could turn momentum early. I'm sure they were thinking the same thing, and the play was well executed."
Despite the fact that the Husker fake was executed by a pair of walk-ons and was a play that had just been implemented over the previous week, Nebraska executed the play in flawless manner.
"It couldn't have been better timing," Nebraska coach Bill Callahan said of the situation in which the play was run. "They were going after that first field goal to establish some momentum, so I think we kind of diffused that somewhat for that first drive."
The touchdown as a result of coaching trickery was a bit of a stomach-punch for the K-State defense, but defensive end Ian Campbell said it didn't knock them out of the game. "I don't think it took the wind out of our sails," Campbell said, "because a one-play game is not that big of a deal."
"If something like that happens, you've got to just fight back," cornerback Justin McKinney said. "It's like a fight. You get knocked back; you've got to get back up. It was still the first round."
For the game, the Wildcats kept the Huskers from converting on 10 of 17 third down plays. Meanwhile, K-State had only allowed opponents to convert on 32-percent of third downs entering Saturday's contest.
In the second quarter, the Wildcats came up with another big third-down stop in their own territory, stuffing Glenn for no gain on a third-and-two at the Wildcat 27. This time the Huskers did not mask their intentions, leaving the offense on the field. Nevertheless, the Wildcats were left grasping for air, as a Husker play-action fake provided Taylor with an abundance of running room on a bootleg, which he took advantage of for a 24-yard gain. The Huskers went to the play action again on the following play, with Taylor finding tight end Josh Mueller for a three-yard touchdown.
Defensive end Rob Jackson said seeing the Huskers score after the defense put up such a fight was not easy. "You dig in three plays in a row, and then for them to make that big play, it's just like (sighs)," Jackson said. "We've got to start from scratch all over again. That's frustrating for any team and any defense."