Trevor Roach shares thoughts about the play that changed the momentum.
By Randy York
If you’re looking for a personal growth story on Nebraska’s Top 20 football team, look no further than Josh Mitchell, a senior cornerback from Corona, Calif. He went from his head coach’s doghouse to become one of Nebraska’s five senior captains this fall. Mitchell places that honor right next to his heart. The effect has been transformational, and Monday’s press conference in Memorial Stadium showcases the evidence.
Mitchell answered questions about his 57-yard fumble return for a touchdown that switched momentum and put Nebraska on the fast track of a 41-31 win over Miami Saturday night. But the truth is the Husker captain’s description started to wear on him so much, he couldn’t resist giving credit where credit was due.
“A lot of attention on the play has been set on me because I was the one in the end zone,” Mitchell said, “but Trevor Roach is the one who made the play. I just happened to be around the ball at the right time. I’m really happy for him. After the play, I told him: ‘This is your play, not mine. I just happened to be there at the right time. You made this play!’”
Mitchell: Everyone Knew Roach Had Talent
Mitchell, the captain, got the glory. But Roach, the persevering fellow senior, gets the credit. “Since Roach has been here, he’s always worked hard,” Mitchell said. “He’s one of those guys from our freshman year. Everyone knew he had talent, but he had a couple injuries here and there that set him back. I think it (the pivotal play) was huge for him. He’s a great guy.”
Roach forced the fumble by stripping the ball out of Miami running back Duke Johnson’s hands. “We were running a blitz to the right,” Roach said Monday at Nebraska’s weekly press conference. “Basically, I read it, even though it wasn’t even my gap. I tried to make the tackle. They had him (Johnson) wrapped up, so I just tried to reach for the ball. I actually didn’t think I had it until I saw the ball pop out.”
At the point, Roach had a decision to make. “I thought about diving for it,” he said. “It’s a good thing I didn’t because J. Mitch (Mitchell) picked it up and scored.”
Mitchell Lit the Match to Change Momentum
We all know football’s fast lane. Fans only seem to care about and/or zero in on the man with his feet in the end zone while the ball is in his hands. Mitchell was the benefactor. His name is the one in the scoring summary. But give Mitchell bonus points for identifying the hero who lit the match for changing the game’s momentum.
“Turnovers are huge,” Roach said. “Throughout fall camp, we’ve always emphasized if someone’s wrapped up, try to get the ball. Initially, I was just worried about getting him down. Other people were around him, so I tried grabbing for it.”
It worked, and Roach finally caught a break that he’s been waiting for. Asked how surprised he was to get so much playing time, Roach admitted he wasn’t expecting to play as much as he did. “But I remember going back to my freshman year … I wasn’t expecting to play when Will Compton got hurt. You just have to be ready.”
Roach made sure he settled his nerves and found another source of inspiration while he earned unexpected playing time. “That was a great atmosphere. The fans were going crazy,” he said. “It was a great time, and I would say that was the loudest game since I’ve been here.”
Increased playing time has been a meaningful payoff for Roach’s hard work and loyalty to the program. It doesn’t necessarily guarantee more opportunities on the field, but making arguably the biggest play of the game certainly enhanced that option.
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