Casey Thompson threw two touchdown passes and ran for another as Nebraska defeated Indiana 35-21 on Saturday night, its first win over a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent in 364 days.
Nebraska defeats Indiana 35-21
Thompson, who had been benched for a series in the first half and had been shaken up by a heavy hit in the third quarter, threw a 71-yard touchdown pass to Trey Palmer early in the fourth quarter to break a 21-all tie and then followed with a 1-yard run to give the Cornhuskers a two-score lead.
The victory snapped the Huskers’ nine-game losing run against FBS opponents (the last one was against Northwestern on October 2, 2021), and it was Mickey Joseph’s first since being designated interim head coach following Scott Frost’s dismissal on Sept. 11.
“I adore Mickey.” “I’d like to ride with Mickey,” said defensive end Garrett Nelson. “He was placed in a challenging situation, and he thrived in it.”
The Huskers (2-3, 1-1 Key Ten) opened to open the game in the fourth quarter when Thompson came up with big plays after an inconsistent performance.
Palmer had a couple of steps on Phillip Dunnam on a third-and-9 and caught the ball in stride for a 28-21 lead with 13:43 left.
“My phone number was phoned. I initiated the play. “That’s why I’m here,” Palmer explained.
Palmer now has the first 100-yard receiving game of his career. The fourth-year athlete, who transferred from LSU following last season, has eight receptions for 157 yards.
Thompson guided a 12-play, 54-yard drive that took more than six minutes off the clock after Indiana (3-2, 1-1) went three-and-out. He threw three short passes and passed off seven times to Anthony Grant for 31 yards before running in for the winning touchdown. Grant gained 136 yards on 32 carries.
In Bill Busch’s first game as interim defensive coordinator, the Huskers held Indiana to 290 yards and had three sacks and six quarterback hurries.
“As a defense, we’re finally discovering who we are,” Nelson said. “Excellent victory. We demonstrated our abilities. That has to be carried over to the following weeks.”
Thompson gave the Huskers a scare in the third quarter when he held his right shoulder area after being struck hard by James Head Jr. Chubba Purdy took over for one play on the next series after Thompson’s fumble in the end zone resulted to an Indiana touchdown in the first half.
Thompson completed 18 of 27 throws for 270 yards and an interception in addition to his two touchdown passes. Connor Bazelak of Indiana was 22 of 44 for 223 yards with a score and an interception.
In one of the more flag-filled FBS games of the season, the teams combined for 23 penalties for 202 yards.
Indiana scored twice in the final 3:09 of the second quarter to level the game at 21.
The main point
Indiana: The Hoosiers’ offense was hampered by the absence of their top two receivers, Cam Camper and D.J. Matthews, due to injuries.
“Obviously, they’re important components of our offense,” Bazelak said. “It was tough not having them, but we had other people come up and make some plays, but we need to make more.”
Nebraska was able to win despite spurts of sloppy play and periods of stalled offense.
Thompson was yelled at by an irate offensive coordinator Mark Whipple on the sideline after taking a drive-killing sack in the second quarter. Thompson was on the bench when Nebraska regained possession of the ball at its 10-yard line.
Whipple was delivering a message to Thompson, but it came at a cost. Purdy fumbled on third down while being blitzed. Louis Moore started dragging him down, and Myles Jackson recovered for a touchdown.
That punt was blocked
Nebraska’s Chris Kolarevic intercepted James Evans’ second-quarter punt, giving Malcolm Hartzog an open path to the end zone for a 30-yard score. It was Nebraska’s first touchdown from a blocked punt since 2009.
Turner Corcoran of Nebraska was ejected late in the second quarter after being flagged for unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike behavior on consecutive plays.
Thompson’s facemask was pulled while he was down, and Corcoran charged into the pile to prevent the Hoosiers from receiving a penalty. On the next play, Corcoran punched Aaron Casey while he was on the ground.