Story by Bob Hamar of The Grand Island Indepedent
Picture courtesy of Jimmy Rash/The Grand Island Independent
The Nebraska Danger made the plays when it needed to in a 47-46 victory over the Tri-Cities Fever Saturday night at the Heartland Events Center. That was particularly true in the final minute of play.
Tri-Cities pulled to within a point on a 24-yard TD pass from Patrick McCain to Akeem Foster, but Steven Wakefield's extra-point attempt was wide right with 1:22 left. The Danger, with the help of a big 15-yard run by quarterback Jameel Sewell, was able to run the clock out from there.
"That's the nice thing about having a veteran O-line and Sewell," Danger coach Mike Davis said. "He can't do it by himself. That's what I keep telling them. These guys have got to make plays for him and he's got to make plays for us as well and he did that when we had to have a play and seal the game for us."
That big offensive line did the job for the Danger (1-0). Nebraska pounded Tri-Cities' defense for 182 yards on the ground. Sewell picked up 109 yards and four touchdowns on just 10 carries. Running back Lyle McCombs added 73 yards on 14 carries.
"He has a chance to be special," Davis said of McCombs. "He's a hard-nosed kid, small but quick as a cat. He catches the football. Line him up at receiver and we don't miss a beat ether. We're looking for big things from him."
The Danger needed to run the ball because it struggled with the passing game. With almost all new receivers, Sewell was 6-for-19 passing for 82 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Davis said his young team just needs to get more experience with the indoor game. The Danger hasn't been able to practice even once in the events center.
"We have good players," Davis said. "They have a chance to be great. We're just so young. We don't know the game. We've been in the arena twice, and I'm not making excuses. Omaha was the first time and here tonight was the second. Our guys still don't understand spacing and things like that. It will be nice to be in the arena this week and fine tune some things."
The Danger got started fast early in the game. It only took two offensive plays for Nebraska to get into the end zone for the first time in the 2016 season. One running play and then Sewell hit receiver Reggie Lewis Jr. with a 35-yard TD strike against the Fever. But it wasn't going to be that easy. On the next play from scrimmage, Fever receiver Dejuan Miller caught a pass that was tipped by a teammate and went 43 yards for a touchdown to tie the game.
The second quarter went back and forth with Tri-Cities taking a 24-23 lead at the half on a 36-yard field goal by Steven Wakefield with 2.7 seconds left. Sewell broke loose on the second play of the third quarter for a 41-yard TD run to give the Danger a 30-24 lead.
After Tri-Cities responded with a field goal, the Danger needed just four plays to go with Sewell scoring from a yard out to stretch the lead to 36-27 with 8:19 left in the third.
Tri-Cities responded early in the fourth on a 5-yard run by backup quarterback Patrick McCain, who replaced starter Hunter Wanket after he was shaken up late in the third quarter. Thornton hit a 21-yard field goal to up the Danger lead to 39-34 but Tri-Cities answered with a 5-yard pass from McCain to DaSean Martin to take a 40-39 lead with 4:54 remaining on the clock. Sewell's 2-yard run with 2:26 and pass to McCombs for a two-point conversion gave the lead back to the Danger at 47-40.
"We got some fighters," Davis said. "They kept battling, and that's a good sign for a young team. We have a lot of things to fix and correct and we'll get ready for a short week to go to Cedar Rapids."
The Danger suffered a significant injury when starting linebacker Michael Taylor apparently tore his Achilles. Davis said Taylor already has surgery scheduled for Monday. Former Husker Corey Cooper moved from defensive back to linebacker to take Taylor's spot and was second on the team in tackles with eight. Taylor had nine before the injury.
The Danger has a short week before playing Friday night at Cedar Rapids. But the win could give the team confidence heading into the first regular season road game of the season. "To get a win in this type of game, having to get a couple of first downs to seal it was big for us," Davis said.