LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Tanner Lee led Nebraska on a 97-yard scoring drive for the go-ahead touchdown after Rutgers returned an interception for a touchdown, and the Cornhuskers shook off the Scarlet Knights in the second half for a 27-17 win Saturday.
Devine Ozigbo ran for 101 yards as the Huskers (2-2, 1-0 Big Ten) picked up a much-needed victory for coach Mike Riley two days after athletic director Shawn Eichorst was fired following last week’s humiliating home loss to Northern Illinois. Rutgers (1-3, 0-1) lost its 15th straight Big Ten game.
Kiy Hester intercepted Lee and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown and a 17-14 Rutgers lead early in the third quarter.
Lee — who has thrown a nation-high nine interceptions, including two run back for TDs by Northern Illinois — got booed when he returned for the next series, and the Huskers went three-and-out.
“We could have gotten paralyzed after that interception like we did a week ago,” Riley said. “You heard (the boos). You heard everything. And it got quiet. So really proud for going out there and making some plays physically at that point.”
The Tulane transfer then directed a 17-play drive he finished with an 8-yard pass to De’Mornay Pierson-El for a 21-17 lead. Drew Brown kicked field goals of 32 and 27 yards in the fourth quarter to make it a 10-point game.
The Knights came to Lincoln having not led in a Big Ten game in 13 quarters since last November. They had leads of 7-0 and 10-7 in the first half before Pierson-El ran back a punt 63 yards to set up Mikale Wilson’s 4-yard touchdown run that put the Huskers up 14-10 at half.
Rutgers was without playmaker Janarion Grant, who missed the last eight games in 2016 because of a broken ankle and was hurt in the second quarter last week against Morgan State.
“We struggled to stop the run, especially in the second half,” Rutgers coach Chris Ash said. “And we gave up the long punt return. When you do those things you’re going to struggle to win games. The second half we wore out, just the lack of a deputy on the defensive line.”
Rutgers: The Knights turned in a game effort in a tough road environment a week after beating FCS Morgan State to end an 11-game losing streak. For a team lacking much offensive firepower, the absence of Grant was glaring.
Nebraska: The Huskers didn’t earn any style points, but any win is good right now for Riley. Nebraska put this one away by controlling the ball in the second half.
Rutgers hosts No. 4 Ohio State on Saturday.
Nebraska visits Illinois on Friday night.
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