LINCOLN — As expected, Oregon was duck soup for Nebraska.
The Huskers, ranked No. 14 in last week’s national coaches’ poll, crushed Oregon 63-0 before 75,947 Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
Nebraska, a three-touchdown favorite, muscled to a 42-0 halftime lead and it never got any better for the outgunned Ducks.
The 139th straight sellout crowd at Nebraska a continuing NCAA record saw the Huskers dominate Oregon from the outset. Nebraska’s offense amassed 589 total yards, including 444 on the ground.
Nebraska’s run-happy offense even hit 9 of 14 passes for 145 yards and the Huskers didn’t have a turnover. The NU defense smothered the Ducks’ attack, allowing just 106 total yards.
Nebraska now is 2-1 for the season. Oregon fell to 2-2.
It came as little surprise that Nebraska logged 63 points and such impressive offensive statistics. After all, Oregon’s defense had allowed an average of 493 total yards per game this season. But Nebraska’s Smack Pack defense grounded the Ducks’ high-flying offense that had averaged 34.3 points and 433 yards in its first three games.
“It all started up front,” said Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne.
“Our defensive front dominated theirs. I think our defense played a great football game.”
Nebraska’s defense plucked the Ducks for six turnovers four pass interceptions and two fumble recoveries and seldom left Oregon room to maneuver. In the first half, 88 of the combined 100 plays by both teams began on Oregon’s half of the field.
The weather was fit for ducks, with a steady drizzle, brisk north breeze and temperatures that hovered near 40 degrees. For Oregon, though, it was the right day, wrong pond. The Ducks ran a-fowl of their own mistakes and Nebraska’s relentless defense. By the middle of the third quarter, many fans already had left the stadium.
Oregon quarterback Chris Miller spent most of his time eluding Nebraska’s pass rush. Miller hit just 6 of 20 passes for 24 yards and threw two interceptions. In his first three games, Miller averaged 249 passing yards.
The Huskers’ interior defensive line of Noonan and tackles Jim Skow and Chris Spachman constantly harassed Miller. Nebraska’s defense proved to be the pits for tailback Tony Cherry, too, holding the 5-foot-8, 185-pound scatback to 55 yards on 12 carries. He had averaged 143 yards per game this season.
“They are the best defense we’ve seen so far and they’ve got great depth,” Miller said. “They just keep bringing people in.”
Nebraska used 101 players in the game.
Nebraska’s easy win didn’t come without a price tag. Junior I-back Doug DuBose, the country’s fifth-leading rusher, left the game with a strained knee at the 6:25 mark of the first quarter and never returned.
Osborne said DuBose is doubtful for this week’s game against New Mexico. The Husker coach said he hoped DuBose would be ready for the Big Eight opener Oct. 12 at Oklahoma State.
“It’s so hard to keep all your I-backs healthy,” Osborne said.
Paul Miles replaced DuBose, and Oregon probably couldn’t tell the difference. Miles rushed for a career-high 156 yards on 17 carries and scored two touchdowns. One of those was a 46-yarder in the second quarter.
Fullback Tom Rathman got Nebraska’s first touchdown one play after Du-Bose left the game, crashing over from the 1. Then it was wingback Von Sheppard’s turn to dazzle the Ducks.
Sheppard made an acrobatic catch of a McCathorn Clayton bomb to complete a 45-yard play to the Oregon 4-yard line. Fullback Ken Kaelin of Westerville, Neb., then scored his first Nebraska career touchdown and it was 14-0 with 1:04 left in the first quarter.
Three plays later, Husker monsterback Brian Washington skywalked above Cherry for an interception at the Ducks’ 17. That Nebraska drive stalled, though, when Dale Klein’s 30-yard field goal attempt duck-hooked to the left.
Travis Turner replaced Clayton and took the Huskers on an 11-play, 60-yard touchdown drive. Turner got the touchdown on a 1-yard sneak and it was 21-0 with 7:32 left in the first half.
Safety Chris Carr picked off another Oregon pass, this one by wide receiver Scott Holman on a flea flicker, and Miles scored his 46-yard touchdown on the next play to make it 28-0.
Four minutes later, Keith Jones Nebraska’s third-team I-back — whizzed in for a 25-yard score for a 35-0 lead. Three plays later, middle guard Danny Noonan pounced on an Oregon fumble at the Ducks’ 39 and Miles’ second touchdown, a 1-yard run with 41 seconds left in the half, gave Nebraska a 42-0 halftime lead.
Sheppard scored two of Nebraska’s second-half touchdowns. The first came on an 8-yard option pitchout from Clayton and the second was a 27-yard reverse.
It was a good day for Sheppard, who finished with 59 yards on three rushing attempts and two pass receptions for 65 yards. He also returned a punt 44 yards, but a penalty wiped out that play.
“Von made some big plays,” Osborne said. “He’s a good, quick player.”
Reserve fullback Dan Casterline got Nebraska’s final score on a 4-yard run that capped a 17-play, 99-yard drive. It came with 9:54 left in the game.
The last time Oregon visited Memorial Stadium, in 1974, Nebraska steamrolled to a 61-7 win. This one was worse.
“Nebraska is a fine football team,” said Oregon head coach Rich Brooks. “I just didn’t do a good job of getting our team ready to play. You can’t give a team like Nebraska that many opportunities.
“Our offense just never established any kind of attack at all. We couldn’t block Nebraska’s front line. They did an outstanding job of putting pressure on Miller. We didn’t block anybody and when you can’t block somebody, it’s hard to get anything going.”
Oregon’s only scoring threat came in the final minute of the game when the Ducks drove to Nebraska’s 19-yard line, but Brian Pokorny’s pass interception snuffed that drive with 40 seconds left.
The Husker offense controlled the ball for 41:09 and Nebraska’s potent ground attack got a lift from its much improved passing game.
Clayton hit 5 of 8 passes for 108 yards.
“We didn’t throw the ball as often as most people would like,” Osborne said, “but we were efficient and that’s what I look at.”
For the first time this season, Nebraska was free of turnovers and that compounded Oregon’s problems. The Ducks came into the game with one of the best turnover ratios in the country. In its first three games, Oregon’s defense had forced 13 turnovers.
Osborne, though, said one of the game’s biggest plays was the coin flip. Nebraska won the toss and elected to exercise its option in the second half. That forced Oregon to make a difficult decision before the game even started, Osborne said.
“That really puts the other team in a bind,” Osborne said, “because then they have to choose whether to take the wind or the ball. If you take the wind, it mans you’re probably going to give the other team two possessions because we’re going to take the ball in the second half.
“It was a little bit like the last time we played Oregon here.
That day there was even a stronger wind and I think the score was 28-0 after the first quarter, mainly because we kept them bottled up and every time they punted we got the ball near midfield. Today, I think a combination of the wind and their turnovers gave us early opportunities.”
|Yards per carry||2.7||5.8|
Nebraska is 6-1 all-time against Oregon.
|Florida State||Sept. 7|
|New Mexico||Oct. 5|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 12|
|Kansas State||Nov. 2|
|Iowa State||Nov. 9|
Nebraska has played 13 games on Sept. 28. See them all »