Randy York's N-Sider
Let the record show that senior quarterback Ron Kellogg III from Omaha and freshman wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp from Lombard, Ill., share Nebraska’s Most Valuable Offensive Player of the Game Award following their successful 49-yard Hail Mary connection that gave the Huskers’ their first-ever game-winning and game-ending walk-off play in Saturday’s 27-24 great escape from Northwestern. Let the record also show that a pair of ultra-athletic first-year defensive ends with Arizona-related backgrounds shared the Defensive MVP Award – Avery Moss, a redshirt freshman from Tempe, Ariz., and Randy Gregory, a sophomore from Fishers Ind., by way of Arizona Western Community College.
Through Nebraska’s first eight games, Nebraska Defensive Coordinator John Papuchis considers Gregory, in many ways, as the team’s overall defensive MVP. He’s been consistently solid and sometimes spectacular. “What he’s able to do in terms of putting pressure on the quarterback and how hard he plays and the athleticism he has, we wouldn’t be able to do a lot of things we do without him,” Papuchis told me.
Moss’s Incredibly Athletic Interception No Surprise
Moss moved into the same territorial limelight Saturday with an incredibly athletic interception and a 25-yard third-quarter touchdown run that didn’t require an escort and enabled Nebraska to pull into a 21-21 tie with the Wildcats. Northwestern players and coaches might have been shaking their heads when Moss changed the dynamic of a hard-hitting physical battle, but no one on Nebraska’s bench was surprised.
“When we recruited Avery we knew he had potential and ability to be tremendous,” Papuchis said, adding that Moss’s climb to significant playing time has not come by happenstance. “He didn’t have the football experience because he was a basketball player. He didn’t really play football until his junior year of high school, and he only played half a season that year. We knew there was a ton of upside with a tremendous athlete, but I don't think anyone would have imagined that Avery would be as good as he is as fast as he is. I mean, he’s a dominating pass rusher and a tremendous athlete with the skill sets and the athleticism that it takes to make the play he made to score the touchdown. That’s not anything you can coach or teach. That’s a great athlete making a play when he had the opportunity. Things like that happen so fast his instincts take over and align with his athleticism. He has a really good future.”
Gregory Continues to Improve, Refine His Game
Gregory’s athleticism is well documented. “He continues to work hard and improve and refine every aspect of his game,” Papuchis said. “The thing I like most about Randy is he plays with extremely high energy.” A great example of Gregory’s extraordinary effort came during Nebraska’s spirited goal line stand in the game’s final moments. An interception and 29-yard return gave Northwestern a first-and-goal on Nebraska’s seven-yard line with 2:25 left. Wildcat quarterback Kain Colter then ran six yards to the Nebraska 1 before Moss and Corey Cooper combined to keep him out of the end zone.
On the next play, Ciante Evans and David Santos stopped Treyvon Green for a 1-yard loss. On third down from Nebraska’s 2-yard line, Colter tried to catch Nebraska napping with an outside run to the right. Gregory wasn’t fooled and tackled Northwestern’s veteran quarterback for a 2-yard loss. Gregory was playing right defensive end at that critical moment and made the tackle on Colton after Andrew Green helped pull him up, so he could run all the way across the field. “It’s rare to see something like that out of a defensive end,” Papuchis said. “Randy’s that athletic and that dynamic. He can go and make a play on the other side of the field … that was really impressive.”
Gregory’s Pressure Enabled Moss’s Interception
It was, however, no more impressive than what Gregory did to enable the critically timed Moss interception. Gregory hit quarterback Trevor Siemian as he threw the ball, and Papuchis pointed out that Gregory had to jump over the offensive tackle to get there. “If Randy doesn’t put that kind of pressure on the quarterback, that play probably doesn’t happen,” Papuchis said. “The quarterback probably threw it a little quicker than he wanted because of Randy’s pressure, and he never saw Avery standing there.” Giddy about the defensive effort after what he called an “ugly” first-quarter, Moss said he also was cut-blocked on his interception play. “I just pushed him down and could read the quarterback wasn’t coming to my side and sure enough he didn’t,” Moss said. “The ball just stuck in my hands. I remember looking down to see if it was still there and then just started running.
"We played lights out on defense in the second half,” Moss said. “We’re starting to grow up. It all comes down to experience, and I’m getting more comfortable every day.” Like all Huskers, Moss used the 24-hour rule to put Saturday in his back pocket and focus on the showdown with Michigan Saturday in Ann Arbor. Two of college football’s biggest all-time winners will collide in a 2:30 p.m. nationally televised matchup on ABC.
Sophomore Jackson Wins Special Teams MVP
Nebraska football coaches awarded four more MVP awards for the influence each player had in helping the Huskers beat Northwestern. Charles Jackson, a sophomore safety from Spring, Texas, won the Special Teams MVP Award for his stellar performance on kickoff and punt returns. Brandon Chapek, a senior offensive lineman from Wahoo (Neb.) Bishop Neumann High School added another Scout Team Offensive MVP Award to his contributions. Two freshmen shared the Scout Team Defensive MVP Award – defensive end A.J. Natter from Milton, Wis., and defensive back Drake Martinez from Laguna Beach, Calif. Jordan "Jordie" Nelson, a redshirt freshman I-back from Omaha Burke High School, won the Scout Team Award for Special Teams.
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