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Former Nebraska linebacker Luke Gifford, who's made a big impression on his Dallas Cowboys coaches during the preseason, encountered a setback Saturday night.

The Lincoln Southeast graduate suffered what team officials classified as a high-ankle sprain during the second quarter of the Cowboys' 17-9 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the preseason contest in Santa Clara, California.

An undrafted rookie, the 6-foot-4, 245-pound Gifford earlier in the quarter made a solid open-field tackle and then snagged his first interception as a Cowboy a few plays later. He picked off a Nick Mullens pass as the 49ers were marching toward the red zone and returned the ball 13 yards.

During his postgame news conference, Dallas head coach Jason Garrett had positive things to say about Gifford.

“Luke did some good things in the game," Garrett said. "Obviously made a big play in the interception, and then he hurt his ankle, and we’ll see the severity of that ankle injury here over the next few days. But he’s done a good job in training camp, and you know, you deal with the situations as they come. He’s done a good job with the opportunities, and whatever the situation is with his ankle, he’ll get back to work and try to get that thing healthy.”

Gifford is battling to make the Cowboys' 53-man regular-season roster as a backup outside linebacker and special-teams stalwart. His injury was sort of heartbreaking to see Saturday because Gifford had to fight through a litany of injuries during his Nebraska career. In fact, he really enjoyed only two full seasons of playing without significant injury at NU.

However, he had a strong senior year, finishing with 62 tackles last season. He recorded team-high totals of 13 TFLs and 5.5 sacks.

"I always thought, selfishly, I kind of wish we could have found a way to get him a medical redshirt or did something, put him in a different number," Nebraska defensive coordinator Erik Chinander said last week. "I would have loved to have him for another year, because his best football’s ahead of him."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.

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