Published Saturday, October 19, 2013 at 9:39 pm / Updated at 10:00 pm
Nebraska defense: Top 10 plays of the first half

Which plays stood out for the Blackshirts in the first half of the season? Take a look back at the 10 best plays with World-Herald staff writer Jon Nyatawa.

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10. Stanley Jean-Baptiste's interception vs. Wyoming: Film study told Jean-Baptiste that the Cowboys liked to attack the middle of the field, so that's where he rolled. The interception was easy. He returned it 42 yards to set up a first-quarter score.

9. Kenny Bell's special teams tackle vs. Wyoming: One-on-one with Jalen Claiborne, Bell wrapped up the returner on the heels of a 56-yard punt in the second quarter. Never mind that Bell might have been blocked in the back.

8. Randy Gregory running down a screen vs. Illinois: The play design went to the right, but tight end Jon Davis caught a throwback screen on the opposite side and had three blockers in front. Every NU player was fooled. The pass went for 16 yards, but Gregory dragged Davis down from behind to limit the damage.

7. Jean-Baptiste's hit vs. Purdue: Right as the swing pass arrived in the second quarter, Jean-Baptiste crashed into Dalyn Dawkins, forcing an incompletion. But the referees ruled it illegal (targeting). Otherwise this play ranks higher on our list.

6. Ciante Evans' pick-six vs. Southern Miss: The pass bounced off the hands of receiver Tyre'oune Holmes and Evans was right there. He caught the deflected football in stride and took it 22 yards to the house.

5. Gregory's pick-six vs. South Dakota State: The 6-foot-6 defensive end dropped into coverage on a third-down pass play and quarterback Austin Sumner never saw him. He returned the interception 33 yards to the end zone.

4. Jean-Baptiste's pick-six vs. Southern Miss: The senior cornerback knew what route was coming, so he baited quarterback Allan Bridgford into throwing the pass. Jean-Baptiste took the interception back 43 yards for a score.

3. Jean-Baptiste's third-down stop vs. Wyoming: Just one out of the 11 Husker defenders was ready for this first-quarter play. But Jean-Baptiste didn't need help. He fought off a block and stopped a bubble screen in the backfield.

2. Jason Ankrah's interception vs. Illinois: Evans hit quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, forcing an errant throw. Ankrah backed away from his rush when he saw the wobbly football floating toward him, so he was able to snag it off his shoelaces for the pick.

1. Gregory's sack-safety vs. Purdue: Freshman Danny Etling saw Gregory coming and tried to escape. But it didn't work. Gregory pulled down the freshman quarterback 17 yards into the backfield, just beyond the goal line.

Contact the writer: Jon Nyatawa    |   402-473-9585    |  

Jon Nyatawa has covered local sports, primarily Nebraska football and baseball, for The Omaha World-Herald since 2008.

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