Lincoln – Nebraska showcased an effective running game in a balanced offense that featured strong performances for Tommy Armstrong Jr., Devine Ozigbo and Alonzo Moore, as the Huskers rolled to a 43-10 season-opening win over Fresno State at Memorial Stadium on Saturday night.
Playing in front of the NCAA-record 348th consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium with 90,013 fans on hand, the Huskers helped Ozigbo produce the first 100-yard rushing game of his career. The sophomore I-back from Sachse, Texas, finished with 103 yards on 17 carries with two touchdowns to give Nebraska Coach Mike Riley his 100th career collegiate coaching victory.
Ozigbo scored both of his touchdowns in the first quarter to give the Big Red a 14-0 lead at the end of the opening period. While Ozigbo, along with senior I-back Terrell Newby who finished 56 yards on 11 carries including 40 on eight totes in the first half, got the Huskers to a strong start on the ground, Moore and Armstrong fueled Nebraska’s 29-0 domination of the second half.
Armstrong completed 5-of-10 passes for 108 yards for the game, including a 57-yard touchdown strike to Moore on the first play of the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach. Moore’s career-long catch also gave him a career-high 92 receiving yards on three catches.
Moore added a career-long 24-yard run on Nebraska’s second drive of the fourth quarter to help set up Armstrong’s second rushing touchdown of the game. Moore, a senior from Winnfield, La., finished with 34 rushing yards on two carries, while Armstrong closed with 11 carries for 42 yards and two rushing touchdowns.
Armstrong, a senior quarterback from Cibolo, Texas, engineered a Nebraska offense that finished with 405 total yards, including 292 yards on the ground. The Blackshirt defense held Fresno State to just 274 total yards, including a suffocating 31 rushing yards.
Although Nebraska jumped to a 14-point lead, Fresno State changed momentum midway through the second quarter with a blocked punt by Robert Stanley that was recovered by Dalen Jones that led to the first Bulldog score of the season.
Following the blocked punt, the Bulldogs cashed in with a seven-yard pass from Chason Virgil to Aaron Peck with 5:38 left in the half to pull within 14-7.
Fresno State added a 26-yard Kody Kroening field goal to close the half and went to the locker room trailing 14-10.
The Huskers regained momentum immediately in the second half and never relinquished it. After the Blackshirts opened the half with a three-and-out, Armstrong and the offense took over. They marched 57 yards in nine plays over the next 4:07, before Armstrong finished the drive with a nine-yard touchdown run to give the Huskers a 21-10 lead.
Neither team was able to mount a serious scoring threat the rest of the quarter, but safety Kieron Williams gave the Huskers a boost heading into the fourth quarter by pulling down his first career interception on Nebraska’s final defensive play of the third.
Williams’ pick gave the Big Red the ball at its own 38, and Armstrong turned the turnover into points two plays later by hitting Moore with a 57-yard touchdown strike on the opening play of the fourth quarter. Drew Brown’s extra point pushed the Husker lead to 28-10 with 14:54 to play.
Moore provided another highlight on Nebraska’s next drive, ripping off a career-long 24-yard run. On the next play, Ozigbo notched his first career 100-yard game, pounding his way for 10 yards to the Fresno State 4 to push his career-best total to 103 yards.
On the next play, Armstrong notched his second rushing touchdown game, bulling his way through Bulldog defenders into the end zone to push the Big Red lead to 34-10 with 9:50 left. Nebraska then extended the edge to 36-10 with a successful two-point conversion run by sophomore wide receiver Zack Darlington.
The Blackshirts continued to flex their muscles on the next defensive possession, and Ryker Fyfe took over at quarterback for the next drive with freshman running back Tre Bryant joining him in the backfield. Bryant erupted for a 13-yard gain on his first touch, then added 12 yards on his second carry. He came up with a bruising five-yard gain on 4th-and-2 to keep Nebraska’s drive alive, before Mikale Wilbon ripped off a 16-yard gain.
Fyfe then hit senior wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp on a short gain to extend Westerkamp’s streak of games with at least one reception to 27.
Bryant finished Nebraska’s third touchdown drive of the fourth quarter with a three-yard run to cap a 10-play, 67-yard drive in 4:03, giving the Huskers a 43-10 lead after Spencer Lindsay’s extra point. Bryant carried five times for 36 yards and a score on the first drive of his career.
Junior corner back Chris Jones capped a big night for the Blackshirts and the Huskers with an acrobatic interception in the end zone to close the game for the Big Red.
Nebraska honored Husker senior punter Sam Foltz before and during the game. Foltz, who was killed in a tragic car accident in Wisconsin prior to the start of fall camp, was the Big Ten Punter of the Year in 2015. Nebraska honored his friend and teammate place-kicker Drew Brown with the presentation of the first Sam Foltz Memorial Scholarship on the field in pregame ceremonies. Foltz’s parents and many family members joined the Brown family on the field for the presentation.
Prior to Nebraska’s opening punt, the Huskers lined up without a punter in the formation and took a delay of game penalty at which time Nebraska’s players and many of Fresno State’s players pointed to the sky to remember Foltz. Fresno State declined the penalty.
Nebraska continues its season-opening three-game home stand by taking on Wyoming on Saturday, Sept. 10. Kick-off with the Cowboys is set for 11 a.m.