STILLWATER, Okla. — You name it, and Nebraska probably did it right Saturday in thumping Oklahoma State 49-15 in front of 30,150 fans and 20,300 empty seats at Lewis Field.
In the Big Eight opener for both schools, the 13th- and 14th-ranked Huskers got all-conference style performances from quarterback Keithen McCant, I-back Derek Brown and a turnover-sniffing defense to come away from an OSU game without a loss for the 30th straight year.
“Overall, it was a very satisfying win,” NU Coach Tom Osborne said. “We’re pleased to play as well as we did.”
McCant was high on the list of those playing well.
The fifth-year senior completed 17 of 19 passes for 231 yards and three touchdowns. In the NU record book, his 89.5 percent completion rate stands between Turner Gill’s 91.7 percent (11 of 12) against Kansas State in 1982 and David Humm’s 85.2 percent (23 of 27) against Kansas in 1974.
And it came in McCant’s first Big Eight start against a blitz-happy OSU defense.
“I wouldn’t say he was flawless,” Osborne said. “But, boy, he audibled a lot and was right 95 percent of the time. Keithen played very well.”
So did Brown.
The sophomore zipped to his fifth straight 100-yard game, the first Husker to start a season that way since college football Hall of Famer Bobby Reynolds in 1950.
Brown gained 143 yards on 18 carries and scored touchdowns on runs of 61, 1 and 40 yards to boost his season totals to 674 yards and seven TDs.
“He knocked the breath completely out of me today,” OSU Coach Pat Jones said. “He might be the best back in this league.”
The Husker defense also earned praise, despite allowing 354 total yards.
“When we put our top 11 out there,” Osborne said, “we’re pretty good.”
The NU defense, ranked 81st nationally in total defense, forced four turnovers that led to three touchdowns.
The first unit allowed no penetration inside the 15-yard line. OSU’s lone touchdown came with 4:19 left in the game against the Husker reserves, who gave up 127 yards in the fourth quarter.
“I think this was our best performance,” inside linebacker Darren Williams said. “We were flying around like madmen.
“We wanted a good showing to let people know that we are serious about winning the conference.”
Nebraska led 21-3 at halftime and boosted that to 28-3 on its first drive of the second half as McCant hit tight end Johnny Mitchell with an 8-yard touchdown pass.
Oklahoma State, 0-5, closed the gap to 28-8 with 4:42 left in the third quarter on a safety — a sack of McCant in the end zone — and a 37-yard Rick Myers field goal.
But the 4-1 Huskers retaliated with 21 points in the first 1:59 of the fourth quarter. Brown’s 40-yard touchdown run started the outburst that produced a 49-8 NU lead.
“We had some big plays,” Osborne said. “We thought they would blitz, and they did.
“What you have to do against that is make some big plays.”
To neutralize OSU’s blitz, Osborne said, Nebraska used its one-back formation extensively.
“You can’t send the strong safety and linebacker consistently against the one-back,” he said. “You’ve got to pull the strong safety out because of four quick receivers.
“We were able to throw well out of it.”
Five NU receivers had between two and five catches. Four had receptions of more than 15 yards — Mitchell a 17-yarder, split end Jon Bostick a 23-yarder, wingback Abdul Muhammad a 31-yarder for a touchdown and split end Tyrone Hughes a 34-yarder for a touchdown.
“We spread it out to keep everybody happy,” Mitchell said. “And Keithen was great.
“He threw the ball right on the nose. We couldn’t help but catch it.”
McCant’s 231 passing yards were the most by the Huskers in 26 games, dating back to a 235-yard performance in 1989 against Minnesota. It was the fifth-highest total back through 1980. The school record is Humm’s 297 yards vs. Wisconsin in 1973.
Early last week, for the first time this season, Osborne declared McCant “a solid No. 1” at quarterback.
NU guard Will Shields said that showed in the huddle Saturday.
“He was a little more peppy than before,” Shields said. “You can tell from a person’s eyes.
“I’m glad he’s gaining more confidence. I’ve got confidence in him.”
McCant showed his poise early as Nebraska took the opening kickoff and drove 63 yards in nine plays for a touchdown.
It was the fourth time in five games that the Huskers have scored a touchdown on their first possession. Against Washington, NU drove for a touchdown on its second possession.
On its first eight plays, Nebraska’s biggest gain was 7 yards. Then McCant waited for Hughes to break clear on a deep crossing route and hit him with a 34-yard touchdown pass.
Not even a clipping penalty could stop Nebraska from stomping 95 yards for its second touchdown.
A 17-yard pass from McCant to Mitchell was the big play until on third-and-two from the NU 39, Brown burst up the middle.
He stumbled near the OSU 35, but righted himself after four steps and outran defensive back Cornell Cannon for a 61-yard touchdown. That put NU up 14-0 with 2:29 left in the first quarter.
One of Nebraska’s few mistakes in the first half came two series later.
On fourth-and-two at the OSU 31, McCant rolled away from the rush and threw incomplete toward wingback Vincent Hawkins. That was his first misfire after eight straight completions.
But OSU fumbled the ball back on the next play. Husker outside linebacker David White fell on fullback Rod Sanders’ bobble at the Cowboys’ 30.
Fullback Lance Lewis’ 14-yard run and McCant’s 13-yard pass to Mitchell helped set up Brown’s 1-yard TD dive for a 21-0 lead with 7:51 to go in the half.
Mickey Joseph entered at quarterback for Nebraska on the next series. The Huskers went three downs and out with Joseph overthrowing one open receiver on first down and underthrowing another on third down.
Joseph returned in the fourth quarter to score on an 11-yard option run.
|Yards per carry||2.7||6.8|
Nebraska is 37-5 all-time against Oklahoma State.
|Utah State||Sept. 7|
|Colorado State||Sept. 14|
|Arizona State||Sept. 28|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 12|
|Kansas State||Oct. 19|
|Iowa State||Nov. 16|
|Miami (FL)||Jan. 1|
Nebraska has played 18 games on Oct. 12. See them all »