Carter, Armstrong carry Nebraska to brink of bowl bid
Piscataway, N.J. — After being written off by many two weeks ago after losing to Purdue, Nebraska is suddenly a win from a bowl bid.
Tight end Cethan Carter rambled 32 yards for a touchdown on his first career carry and caught one of three touchdown passes by Tommy Armstrong as the Cornhuskers kept their bowl hopes alive with a 31-14 victory over Rutgers on Saturday.
All Nebraska (5-6, 3-4 Big Ten) has to do after a bye week is knock off No. 8 Iowa at home on Nov. 27.
“It feels good and I know the players feel good about that,” Cornhuskers coach Mike Riley said. “This certainly sets up that game with Iowa and it’s a big game for a lot of reasons, but for us, it’s really obvious. It’s a bowl opportunity, playing another top-ranked team. There is lots of stuff out there for us.”
Nebraska, which lost its first five games by a total of 11 points, has rebounded from the loss to Purdue with wins over previously unbeaten Michigan State and now Rutgers.
“It’s just another opportunity for us to go show what the 2015 Huskers are all about,” safety Nate Gerry said. “People were counting us out but we are going to show how much character this team has.”
Nebraska led from start to finish against Rutgers (3-7, 1-6), getting contributions from all three phases.
Jordan Westerkamp and Alonzo Moore also caught touchdown passes and Drew Brown kicked a 44-yard field goal.
Nebraska’s defense limited Rutgers to 259 yards. It sacked Laviano (13 of 27 for 165 yards) six times and had 11 tackles for losses and made two interceptions.
Robert Martin scored on a 1-yard run and quarterback Chris Laviano caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from receiver Janarion Grant for Rutgers, which lost its fourth straight game, putting coach Kyle Flood’s future in jeopardy after a turbulent season.
Rutgers center Derrick Nelson was hurt on a helmet-to-helmet hit on Laviano’s last interception with 58 seconds to play. He had to be carted off the field and was taken to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital for evaluation. He had movement in his extremities, Flood said.
“I think everyone in the program is frustrated,” Floor said. “We want to perform better. We want to be 1-0. There’s no question. We’ve got real competitors in that locker room. We’ve got high expectations for ourselves. We’re not pleased with how we played tonight and we’ll go back to work tomorrow to fix it.”
Nebraska jumped all over Rutgers, opening a 21-0 lead in the second quarter. The Scarlet Knights intercepted Armstrong three times and got within 21-14 on Laviano’s TD catch with 6:03 left in the third quarter. The score was set up by an interception by defensive lineman Kevin Wilkins.
Nebraska responded immediately and went 75 yards in eight plays, with Armstrong lofting an 11-yard, third-down touchdown pass to a leaping Carter, who had a career-best four catches for 57 yards. Brown pushed the lead to 17, converting his field goal after Rutgers was stopped at its own 31 on a fake punt.
The Cornhuskers took the opening kickoff and went 78 yards in eight plays, with Carter scoring on a run that fooled the defense. Lining up as an H-back on the right side, the tight end ran behind his line, took an inside handoff from Armstrong and was not touched circling the left side for a score.
It was the first time a Nebraska tight end had a rushing attempt in four years, the school said.
“You usually try to get a first down on that call and all the sudden it goes for 30 and a touchdown,” Nebraska offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said, adding the team has practiced the play for a month. “That was fun. He has been playing better and better each week.”
Armstrong, who returned to the lineup last week after missing the Purdue game with a foot injury, took over from there.
The junior capped a 45-yard drive with a 15-yard scoring pass to Westerkamp with 2:39 left in the first quarter for a 14-0 lead. He extended the margin early in the second quarter by rolling right to elude pressure and rainbowing a 44-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Moore to a three-touchdown lead. He finished 14 of 21 for 188 yards.
Rutgers safety Anthony Cioffi was a second late trying to break up the Moore catch, but he made up for it later in the quarter, intercepting an overthrown ball and returning it 51 yards to the Nebraska 6. Martin scored from a yard out three plays later.