Matt Rhule on Huskers starting quarterback situation, turnover issues

It did not matter who was in at quarterback for the Huskers Saturday, the result was all the same: a complete mess for the offense.
Published: Nov. 11, 2023 at 10:24 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - It did not matter who was in at quarterback for the Huskers Saturday, the result was all the same: a complete mess for the offense.

Heinrich Haarberg, Jeff Sims and Chubba Purdy all contributed to the Huskers five turnovers, resulting in a 13-10 loss to Maryland, and another chance at bowl eligibility going up in smoke.

“Obviously it’s not good enough when you have that many turnovers,” Matt Rhule said postgame. “It has to stop at some point. It’s just the same thing over and over and over again.”

After underwhelming games from all three Nebraska quarterbacks, Rhule would not commit to naming any of them the starter next weekend at Wisconsin.

“We have to get back tomorrow and take it day by day,” he said. “We don’t want to do is be waffling back and forth. We want someone to get the main reps, someone get the second-best reps and go from there. I would be lying to you if I told you who that is going to be right now.”

Haarberg threw an interception to Maryland’s Dante Trader Jr. that was called back on a holding penalty. Six snaps later, the sophomore threw another pick to Trader that counted.

The Huskers came up empty on their second offensive drive. Haarberg came up limping.

“Heinrich came out with the ankle,” Rhule said. “They cleared him to go back in. He was trying to run out there but he was laboring, so we went with Jeff.”

Sims was under center for Nebraska’s two scoring drives, but also threw two interceptions—one in the endzone just before halftime—and lost a fumble. The Georgia Tech transfer’s outing was remarkably similar to the Huskers 13-10 loss at Minnesota in the season opener in which Sims threw three interceptions, including one in the endzone moments before halftime.

Tied at 10-10 in the fourth quarter and Maryland in the redzone, Ty Robinson recovered a fumble at the three-yard line. With Sims sinking and Haarberg hurt, the Huskers turned Purdy.

For a moment, Purdy gave the Huskers offense life, moving 90 yards downfield. But on third and goal at the Maryland seven, the redshirt freshman’s pass was intercepted. The fifth Huskers turnover resulted in Maryland’s walk-off field goal. Instead of the Huskers celebrating bowl eligibility at Memorial Stadium, the Terrapins got to.

Rhule took responsibility for the continued turnover issue plaguing his team.

“I think anytime it happens across multiple players as a coaching staff, you have to sit there and say we’re obviously not getting it done,” he said. “The last thing I want to do is stand up here and blame players. There are certain things that have to happen, but it falls on my head to get it done.”

“We say the same thing every week, ‘Got to protect the football,’” Emmett Johnson said after finishing the day with 84 yards on 17 carries. “We’ve just got to keep working at it. It’s too late in the season to turn back, blame and point fingers. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s us as a team, as an offense, we need to learn from this and attack next week.”

Nebraska has two chances left to clinch their first bowl game since 2016, beginning next Saturday at Wisconsin. Rhule remains confident his veterans can lead the way in correcting the continued turnover issues.

“I believe our seniors are winners,” he said. “I know they want to win and how badly they want to get to a bowl game. Sometimes you have to overcome these circumstances and show up when you’re kind of crushed to get there. I expect our guys will do that versus a really tough Wisconsin team.”

The Huskers head to Madison as the nation’s leader in turnovers with 27. They will take on a Badgers defense that came into Saturday with 10 interceptions—tied for fourth most in the Big Ten.