Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Six Nebraska-Rutgers Photos Worth a Thousand Words

By NU Athletic Communications

How the Huskers Produced a Winning Formula

By Randy York

The expression “use a picture because it’s worth a thousand words” first appeared in a 1911 newspaper article that quoted editor Tess Flanders’ take on journalism and publicity.

More than 100 years later, that staple of communication still applies to the written word, especially when Nebraska football fans are already looking forward to Friday's 7 p.m. national telecast game at Illinois on Fox Sports 1.

The locker room photo above after the Huskers’ 27-17 Big Ten Conference win over Rutgers Saturday shows the excitement of two leaders on a team that’s doing its best to unify forces –  No. 67 Gerald Foster (left guard, Lincoln) and No. 44 Nick Stoltenberg (nose tackle,  Gretna).

Foster is one of five 2017 captains who helped engineer the Huskers’ bounce back from the Northern Illinois loss a week earlier. Nebraska has set its collective sights on the Illini Friday night before hosting back-to-back top 10 powers Wisconsin and Ohio State on Oct. 7 and Oct. 14.

Before Husker Nation gets ahead of itself, here are five more photos from Saturday’s win to help fans appreciate the Huskers’ obvious improvement and their collective desire to stay on course.

No. 22 Devine Ozigbo Rises to the Challenge, Gains 101 Rushing Yards on 24 Carries

Congratulations to Husker junior Devine Ozigbo (No. 22 pictured above). With sophomore starter Trey Bryant out with injury, the power run game fell into the hands of junior starter Mikale Wilbon and Ozigbo, who delivered a career-high 101 yards rushing on 24 carries, including 19 carries for 85 yards in the second half. 

Deservedly, Ozigbo was interviewed by the Big Ten Network after Saturday’s performance. “We all love each other and we’re all here for each other,” Ozigbo told BTN. “When things aren’t going like we want, we gotta bounce back and do it for each other. We had to play our kind of ball, and we did it together.”

Wilbon finished with 78 yards rushing, including a 4-yard touchdown that gave Nebraska a 14-10 lead at halftime.

Linebacker Luke Gifford Helps Lead Stingy Blackshirts with Six Tackles and a 19-Yard Interception 

Nebraska's Blackshirts performed well Saturday, and one of their most pivotal leaders was junior Luke Gifford (No. 12 above), who has made great progress after switching from safety to linebacker. Last year, the Lincoln Southeast graduate played in just four games as a reserve backer.

After leading Nebraska with a career-high nine tackles in the season-opener against Arkansas State, Gifford has steadily increased his role while sharing playing time with fellow junior outside linebacker Marcus Newby. Gifford had six tackles Saturday, plus a pass interception and a 19-yard return.

Gifford shared team-high defensive honors with junior safety Antonio Reed, who also contributed six tackles, including three solo stops, plus an interception and a 19-yard return. Reed backs up starter Aaron Williams but played most of the game when his teammate was sidelined.

Junior inside linebacker starter Dedrick Young matched Gifford and Reed with six tackles Saturday. All three game-high leaders were credited with three solo tackles and three assists apiece. Interestingly, Reed's first career interception was returned to the end zone, but illegal blocks thwarted a "pick-six". 

Nebraska, however, converted the turnover into three points five plays later.

Pierson-El Contributed Three Catches, Including a 22-Yard TD, Giving Nebraska the Lead for Good

De'Mornay Pierson-El (No. 15 above) showcased his multiple abilities in Nebraska's competitive 27-17 win in the Big Ten Conference opener for both teams. Pierson-El's 22-yard touchdown catch transformed a 17-14 deficit into a 21-17 Husker lead with 2:49 left in the third quarter.

A 5-9 senior wide receiver, Pierson-El became an All-American as a freshman before battling a number of injuries. His biggest play Saturday was returning a punt 63 yards midway through the second quarter. The explosive burst set up a four-yard touchdown for Wilbon. 

Nebraska finished the game with 306 yards of total offense on 73 plays while accumulating 35 minutes and 21 seconds of possession time. The Blackshirts held the Scarlet Knights to 194 yards on 53 plays, including a meager 68 yards rushing on 24 carries. 

BTN Analyst Long Credits Bob Diaco's Blackshirts and Envisions More Husker Offensive Simplicity

The sheer beauty of being a member of the ubiquitous Big Ten Conference is how sharp their analysts are covering the conference's 14 universities. BTN analyst Chuck Long described how Nebraska, with Tanner Lee (No. 13 above) at the helm, completed just 13 of 26 passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns Saturday. Long also mentioned Lee's two interceptions Saturday that led to 10 of Rutgers' 17 points on the afternoon. 

Commentators praised the way Lee led the Huskers on a 17-play, 97-yard march that consumed 8:10 before the drive was culminated with Lee's 8-yard touchdown strike to Pierson-El with 2:49 left in the third quarter. The scoring drive was indeed the catalyst for a Nebraska offense that held a 22:50 time of possession advantage in the second half.

Long, the former Iowa quarterback who works for BTN, offered up some intriguing commentary. "I thought Mike Riley made great halftime adjustments in putting Tanner Lee under center," Long said, pointing out how it helped the Huskers' big running backs succeed. "It simplified the passing game, and it simplified the running game. I believe that Tanner Lee is more comfortable under the center than he is in the shotgun formation. Nebraska figured that out and made some great adjustments."

Nebraska's Placekicking and Punting? Both Expected to Be Very Positive Competitive Influences 

We end this brief analysis with two more crucial skill sets that weigh heavily in most games' outcomes. Nebraska sophomore Caleb Lightbourne had five punts Saturday for 194 yards and a deceiving 38.8-yard average per punt. One was a 64-yard punt and three of his five punts were downed inside the opponents' 20-yard line.

Senior Drew Brown (above) converted his two field goal attempts with explosive fourth-quarter kicks. The first was a 32-yarder 50 seconds into the fourth quarter, followed by a 27-yarder with 5:59 remaining in the game, changing a precarious 21-17 lead to a 27-17 final. Brown's field goals were the only scores for either team in the final period.

There's potential for a possible emerging story about Drew, who now has kicked 52 field goals in his career, trailing only two other Huskers on the all-time list  Alex Henery (2007-10) with 68 and Kris Brown, Drew's older brother, who kicked 57 field goals for Nebraska from 1995-98.

With power teams like Wisconsin and Ohio State visiting Nebraska in early and mid-October, let's hope that the range of Drew Brown's kicks will be a nice weapon to have.

P.S. We promised a thousand words on this blog, but had a few dozen more words than that, counting captions. 

Send a comment to ryork@huskers.com (Please include city, state)

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