Huskers ramp up their ground game with Haarberg and Grant in a 28-14 win over Louisiana Tech
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Heinrich Haarberg ran for 157 yards and a touchdown and Anthony Grant for 135 yards and a score to lead Nebraska past Louisiana Tech 28-14 on Saturday.
Haarberg, who started his second straight game at quarterback in place of Jeff Sims, worked in tandem with Grant as the primary ball-carriers in the absence of injured running backs Gabe Ervin Jr. and Rahmir Johnson.
The Cornhuskers (2-2) had four runs of at least 30 yards and finished with 312 yards on the ground and 419 total yards.
“It wasn’t our best game,” coach Matt Rhule said, “but any time we have (312) yards rushing we’re going to be excited about that. Some of the option plays were really good plays for us. The speed options allowed us to get on the perimeter. There’s still a lot of things to improve and clean up.”
Louisiana Tech (2-3) lost its 16th straight road game over four seasons.
For Nebraska, it’s apparent the quarterback run will have to be a big part of the offense regardless of who’s playing because of a lack of depth at receiver and a shortage of running backs.
Haarberg had two more carries (19) than pass attempts (17). Nebraska hadn’t had a quarterback run so many times since Adrian Martinez had 21 attempts against Michigan State two years ago. All but 10 of Haarberg’s rushing yards came on three carries totaling 147 yards, including a 72-yard TD.
“For me, I want to be confident in myself but also want my teammates to be confident in me, so I hope they look at me and see someone who went out there and battled to the end,” Haarberg said.
Grant, the Huskers’ leading rusher last season, was projected to be the starting running back in the preseason but he got limited carries the past two games following his critical fourth-quarter fumble in the season-opening loss at Minnesota.
A week after Ervin and Johnson went down with season-ending injuries against Northern Illinois, Grant had 22 carries and went over 100 yards for the sixth time in his career.
“I feel like this is my best game, despite everything,” Grant said. “I feel like there’s more in store for us, more in store for me.”
Louisiana Tech quarterback Jack Turner made the first start of his career in place of Hank Bachmeier, who injured his right (throwing) shoulder in the second half against North Texas last week.
Turner was 27 of 42 for 292 yards. Cyrus Allen had six catches for 102 yards and a touchdown and Smoke Harris caught 10 balls for 73 yards. Harris has at least one reception in 37 straight games.
Turner got no help from the running game that managed just 46 yards on 21 attempts.
“Offensively, it was a sloppy game to say the least,” Tech coach Sonny Cumbie said. “We had too many drops. We probably had more drops than we’ve had at any point during the season. Running the football, we knew it was going to be tough against one of the top run defenses in the country.”
Grant led the way on the tie-breaking touchdown drive to open the second half. He broke a 34-yard run down the right sideline and bounced off a tackler to pick up 19 yards on a fourth-and-1 before he bulled into the end zone from the 2.
The Huskers took control of the game on the first play of the fourth quarter when tight end Thomas Fidone II caught a short pass and turned it into a 29-yard touchdown.
The Bulldogs’ touchdowns came on Jacob Fields’ 14-yard run in the second quarter and on Turner’s 20-yard pass to Allen after a 55-minute delay in the fourth quarter because of lightning.
Louisiana Tech: Turner missed on a couple first-half passes that could have been big plays but otherwise made no glaring errors. His lone interception came on a tipped ball in the final minute. The Bulldogs earned a $1.55 million guarantee for the game.
Nebraska: The Huskers have held four straight opponents under 60 rushing yards for the first time since 1999.
FAKE LEADS TO TD
A fake field goal on fourth and 4 from the Tech 19 set up Nebraska’s only touchdown in the first half. Holder Timmy Bleekrode took the snap and ran through the right side for 10 yards. Billy Kemp IV scored two plays later on a jet sweep.
“I was really happy for Timmy,” Rhule said. “He’s a guy who was the starting kicker (in 2022). He’s the backup kicker, backup holder, unbelievable team guy, great student. He had a chance to go affect the game and I thought that was one of those plays ... that gave us some juice.”
Louisiana Tech: visits UTEP next Saturday.
Nebraska: hosts No. 2 Michigan next Saturday.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll
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