LINCOLN — A Nebraska football team that coaches and players say is improving by leaps and bounds has vaulted past another Big 12 opponent.
The fourth- and fifth-ranked Huskers got their first shutout of the season Saturday and posted season highs in rushing, passing and total yards while clobbering Baylor 49-0 before 75,478 fans at Memorial Stadium.
“I think we’ve got a good football team,” NU Coach Tom Osborne said. “We’re playing well right now.”
That wasn’t the feeling in the Husker football complex just three weeks ago after a 19-0 loss at Arizona State.
“I was really shaken by the Arizona State game,” Osborne said. “I didn’t really know if we were just not a very good team or whether that was an anomaly.
“I’m hopeful, and I think that game was not real characteristic of this team. We hope we can keep building momentum.”
After outscoring the past three opponents 153-12, some Huskers think things have turned far enough around to focus on winning a third straight national championship.
“I hate to say we’re watching other teams,” NU fullback Brian Schuster said. “But if Ohio State loses, the road to No. 1 comes back through Lincoln. Somebody would have to beat us to get the title away from us.”
Nebraska (4-1 overall, 2-0 in the Big 12) showed championship form most of the day against Baylor (3-2, 0-2).
The Blackshirt defense, which hasn’t allowed a touchdown in 10 quarters, didn’t give up a first down Saturday until there was 3:44 left in the second quarter. The Bears, outyarded 405-28 in the first half, finished with 117 total yards.
And still Nebraska weakside linebacker Terrell Farley was mad.
“If they had only 28 yards at half,” he said,” they shouldn’t have ended up with more than 100. I’m upset.”
NU’s offense rolled smoothly even with No. 1 I-back Ahman Green sidelined by a turf toe injury.
Senior Damon Benning ran 22 times for 135 yards and touchdowns of 1, 18 and 5 yards. Freshman DeAngelo Evans carried 12 times for 105 yards and touchdowns of 6 and 11 yards.
Junior quarterback Scott Frost nearly joined the 100-yard rushing club by gaining 90 yards on 12 carries and scoring on a 13-yard run. Frost also had his best passing yardage day, completing 8 of 15 for 178 yards. His 268 total yards- 51 short of the school record - came in just three quarters of play.
Frost said the offense, which totaled 669 yards (491 rushing, 178 passing), is starting to show the results necessary to play championship football.
“I wouldn’t say we’re at the level we were at the end of the year last year,” he said. “But we’re getting closer. Things are coming together. The option game is working. We’re running the ball really well. And we’re throwing it a lot better as each game goes by.
“We still have some improvements to make before we’re at the level of the Fiesta Bowl. But that’s the kind of level we’re looking for so we can be in contention for the championship.”
By winning, Nebraska tied the school record for consecutive home victories at 33. The mark was established in the 1906 through 1911 seasons.
The winning streak never appeared in doubt because Baylor went three downs and out on its first four possessions, while Nebraska started the game by bouncing back from a missed field goal with four straight touchdown drives.
“Our defense played great football,” Osborne said. “Probably the strength of Baylor’s team was their offense. So to hold them to a little more than 100 yards was very significant.
“Offensively, we’ve built momentum. We’re in a little better rhythm. That doesn’t mean every game is going to be an automatic 500 yards. But we’re cer- tainly playing a lot better.”
Frost had runs of 12 and 22 yards in an 11-play, 81-yard drive that Benning capped with a 1-yard touchdown plunge. That gave NU a 7-0 lead with 3:45 to go in the first quarter.
Mike Fullman’s 18-yard punt return got NU the ball at its 36 to start the next drive. Frost hit wingback Jon Vedral with a 41-yard bomb. Vedral, after making a diving catch, flipped the ball in the air and was penalized 15 yards under the excessive celebration rule.
The penalty didn’t slow the Huskers, though. Five plays later, Evans scored on a fourth-and-two run from the 6 to put Nebraska up 14-0 with 12:34 to go in the half.
Another long pass play was the key to NU’s third touchdown drive. Frost found Schuster with a screen pass that the senior fullback turned into a 48-yard gain to the Baylor 15. Two plays later, Evans barreled in from the 11 to make the score 21-0 with 9:05 to go in the half.
Schuster, playing most of the game because his top two backup were injured, said the screen pass broke open enough that he had hopes of scoring.
“But I ran out of gas,” he said. “That guy ran me down from behind and made me look slower than I really am.”
On the next possession, Nebraska overcame four incomplete passes - two were dropped - to drive 73 yards in 13 plays for a touchdown. Benning, who sat out last week with a groin injury, accounted for 60 of those yards in six carries. His 18-yard burst produced the touchdown and gave him 115 yards in 18 carries with nearly four minutes to go in the half.
“Nebraska football is straight at you,” Benning said. “We beat on them a little, and they gave in.”
On the first play after the ensuing kickoff, Baylor got its only two first downs of the first half. Tailback Dexter Ford shot around right end for 13 yards, and Nebraska was penalized 15 yards to the BU 48 for grabbing his face mask.
Runs of 1 and 2 yards got Baylor into NU territory by the length of a football for the first time. But Farley caught quarterback Jermaine Alfred for a 9- yard loss to push the Bears back to their side of the field on the next play and force a punt. Baylor didn’t get back across midfield until late in the third quarter.
Nebraska got one more scoring chance just before halftime, driving 54 yards in 64 seconds to the Baylor 16. But on the final play of the half, Kris Brown-who missed from 49 yards in the first quarter-was wide left from 34 yards out, keeping the score 28-0.
In the second half, Nebraska scored touchdowns on its first three possessions.
Alfred was playing in place of injured three-year starter Jeff Watson (back spasms). And BU’s top rusher Jerod Douglas (turf toe) didn’t play until the fourth quarter when his top two backups had left with injuries.
But Baylor Coach Chuck Reedy said it might not have made much difference Saturday who the Bears played offensively against Nebraska.
“Defensively, they are as good as anybody we have been on the field against,” Reedy said. “They have great players at every position, and they just don’t give you a chance to get a whole lot going.”
Nebraska didn’t slow down in the second half, scoring touchdowns on its first three possessions to stretch a 28-0 lead to 49-0.
Frost’s 31-yard pass to tight end Sheldon Jackson set up a 5-yard touchdown run for Benning. Evans’ 33-yard gallop set up a 13-yard TD run for Frost. And backup quarterback Matt Turman zipped 45 yards for a touchdown to put NU up 49-0 with 11:48 left in the game.
Baylor, against NU’s second defense, drove into range to try a 44-yard field goal with 6:03 left in the game. But the kick was wide right. Baylor blocked a punt on the next possession and recovered at the Husker 38. But back-to-back sacks forced the Bears to punt.
|Yards per carry||0.9||7.6|
Nebraska is 11-1 all-time against Baylor.
|Michigan State||Sept. 7|
|Arizona State||Sept. 21|
|Colorado State||Sept. 28|
|Kansas State||Oct. 5|
|Texas Tech||Oct. 19|
|Iowa State||Nov. 16|
|Virginia Tech||Dec. 31|
Nebraska has played 18 games on Oct. 12. See them all »
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