SAN DIEGO — Nebraska quarterback Zac Lee is set to undergo surgery next week to repair an “extensive tear” to the flexor tendon in his lower right arm, he said Wednesday night after the Huskers' 33-0 Holiday Bowl win over Arizona.
Lee said he suffered a wrist injury Sept. 12 during the second game of the year against Arkansas State. The tendon tear, he said, developed as a result of the wrist problem.
“It would have been a wildfire if that came out during the season,” Lee said. “Now you know.”
The surgery requires 10 to 12 weeks of rehabilitation, he said, and will prevent him from throwing exercises for all of the winter-conditioning period. His availability for spring practice will be determined later.
“There's a lot of things that go into being a quarterback besides throwing the football,” Lee said. “I'll still do all the running, as much lifting as possible. There's so much other involvement. The throwing will be there.”
The junior from San Francisco played his most complete game since early in the season against Arizona. He hit 13 of 23 passes for 173 yards and one touchdown. Lee also rushed a team-high 18 times for 65 yards.
He said he refused to use the injury as an excuse as the offense struggled. Lee finished his first year as the starter by completing 177 of 302 passes (58.6 percent) for 2,143 yards and 14 touchdowns, with 10 interceptions.
“When I've got teammates like I do and coaches like I do who are so committed to what we're doing, you've got to do it,” Lee said, “no matter what it is or what it feels like.”
Of this season, the quarterback said he hoped the Huskers would learn.
“Hopefully, we grow from it as an offense,” Lee said. “I think we're mature enough to have this whole experience make us better. I think tonight really shows what we can do. I think we can do more than we showed tonight. That was a very good defense that we faced.”
Slips cost points for NU
Nebraska's offense impressed in the first quarter. But it could've been even better.
On NU's second drive, Lee rolled right and tried to hit Curenski Gilleylen along the sideline at the 10-yard line. But a wide-open Gilleylen slipped and Nebraska had to settle for a field goal.
Helu slipped on a cut on Nebraska's third possession. Next time Lee threw to Gilleylen, the wideout slipped again. Again in the second quarter, Gilleylen slipped when Lee threw to him.
Precipitation surely had something to do with Gilleylen's footing.
Before the game, drizzle fell for a few hours at Qualcomm. The turf is new; it was installed a few weeks ago.
O'Hanlon is praised
Defensive backs coach Marvin Sanders was asked after the game about Matt O'Hanlon.
The senior safety, a former walk-on from Bellevue, made the Huskers through a tryout and rallied from a late-game mistake at Virginia Tech to win defensive MVP honors at the Holiday Bowl.
Sanders had to compose himself. He almost teared up.
“For the young man to persevere through an early season, when people were criticizing him,” Sanders said, “but we always had confidence in him, he had confidence in himself and it proved today what type of player he is.”
O'Hanlon's interception in the first quarter “set the tone” for the defense, Sanders said. “That effort that he put out there all year for us is the definition of what a Blackshirt is all about.”
Henery breaks record
Despite the slick field, junior Alex Henery made all four of his field goals Wednesday night, setting another bowl game record.
Henery made four field goals last year, breaking a Gator Bowl record. He matched that in the Holiday Bowl, the best single-game performance for a kicker in that game, too.
No big deal to the even-keel kicker from Omaha.
“I guess it was on the (big screen),” Henery said. “I missed it. I wasn't paying attention.”
Henery made four field goals against Texas in his last outing, though that game was played indoors. He dealt with a slippery surface in San Diego. Henery said his plant foot slid more than he would have liked.
No worries. He made them all. And now he has 50 in his career, seven shy of Kris Brown's school record of 57. Henery has seven games in his career with at least four field goals, including three this season.
Injury limits Helu
The long break was supposed to benefit the ailing Roy Helu, but the junior I-back suffered another knee injury during the game.
He carried the ball just three times for 8 yards. All of that production came in the first half.
The injury isn't serious, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said.
Freshman I-back Rex Burkhead ran for 89 yards in his place, though many of those yards came out of the Wildcat formation. Burkhead's the primary back in that formation, but Helu would have played more Wednesday if he were healthy, running backs coach Tim Beck said.
“He's still beat up,” he said.
Helu sat out the majority of the Gator Bowl last season with a leg infection.
ESPN misses first TD
No, Arizona didn't spot Nebraska seven points. It just seemed that way to television viewers.
Because of the extended Humanitarian Bowl shown before the Holiday Bowl on ESPN, the network missed Arizona's first series —- which ended on its third play from scrimmage with O'Hanlon's interception.
O'Hanlon returned the interception 37 yards to the 5-yard line, and two plays later — and still with no television audience watching — Lee scored from 4 yards out on a keeper.
The first glimpse television viewers got came with the Huskers ahead 7-0 and the offense jogging off the field.
In a bit of foreshadowing of what was to come, Arizona's first two plays weren't ready for prime time anyway. On the first play from scrimmage, Arizona quarterback Nick Foles came under heavy pressure from Jared Crick and threw incomplete. On the second, NU's Barry Turner tipped a screen pass that fell incomplete.
Things went downhill from there for the Wildcat offense, which finished with 109 total yards.
— Mitch Sherman, Jon Nyatawa, Dirk Chatelain and Kirk Kenney
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