October 10, 2009

Gomes impresses in first big chance vs Tigers

On Nebraska's second defensive series Thursday night against Missouri, defensive backs coach Marvin Sanders realized he had broken his promise.


Earlier in the week, Sanders told junior cornerback Dejon Gomes that he was going to reward him for his exceptional performance in practice by putting him in during the Huskers' second defensive series against the Tigers.


When the defense took the field for the series and senior Lance Thorell went running out instead of Gomes, Sanders realized he had forgotten about his promise.


Fortunately, Gomes wasn't too upset. Or at least he didn't play like it.


After finally getting in the game on the ensuing possession, Gomes ended up putting together on of the better performances by an NU cornerback this season. Along with five tackles, the 6-foot, 190-pound native of Hayward, Calif., added a tackle for loss and a pass break-up.


His highlight of the night was when he made one of the biggest plays of the entire game, as he stepped in front of a Blaine Gabbert pass and took it back 40 yards to the Missouri 10-yard line and set up NU's third touchdown.


For Sanders, Gomes' performance was just a continuation of the progression he'd seen with each practice from the junior college transfer from City College of San Francisco.


"It was practice," Sanders said. "It was straight out practice. I pulled him aside on Thursday, and I said, 'You will play very early.' We base everything on how guys practice, and we were really pleased with his effort."


Nebraska had just taken its first lead of the game at 13-12 with 13 minutes left in the game, and the momentum had nearly shifted completely in favor of the Huskers.


On Missouri's previous offensive possession, senior defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh had reached up and plucked a Gabbert pass out of the air at the line of scrimmage, marking Gabbert's first interception of the season.


When Gabbert dropped back for his very next pass, Gomes bumped the interception total up to two. On a quick out route, Gomes jumped in front of his receiver and made an impressive grab in stride.


"I was just watching my receiver," Gomes said. "He broke out, and I broke out with him, and I was just in perfect position to look back at the quarterback and the ball was just right there."


The only downside to the play for Gomes was that he was tackled just before reaching the end zone - by an offensive lineman.


"I thought I was (going to score)," he said, "but they caught me somehow."


Gomes' performance on Thursday should only continue to make him more of a factor in Nebraska's secondary. If he keeps on making big plays in games as well as practice, that's pretty much a guarantee.


"I was real pleased with the way he stepped up," Sanders said. "You saw his interception. He had some real good tackles. Did he have some missed assignments? Absolutely. But the fact is that he had a great week of practice and he's been improving every week in this system. That's what I'm proud of."


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