LINCOLN — Order was restored Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium.
Nebraska bounced back from its first loss in three seasons and first shutout in five with a 65-9 spanking of Colorado State before a sellout crowd of 75,575.
The seventh- and eighth-ranked Huskers (2-1) gained more yards Saturday (628) than in their first two games combined (524), committed no turnovers, allowed no sacks, blocked two kicks, intercepted two passes, recovered a fumble and held the 10th highest-scoring team in the country to a touchdown and a field goal.
All much to the relief of Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne.
“Before the game, I didn’t know what was going to happen,” the 24-year veteran said. “I thought Colorado State might come in here and beat us. That may sound like a strange thing to say. But they were playing good football, they had played two good teams close in Oregon and Colorado and they had played more football than we had.
“So I was pleased with the way we responded.”
Few Huskers had more to respond to following the 19-0 loss at Arizona State than quarterback Scott Frost.
The junior transfer from Stanford bore the brunt of the criticism last week after completing just 6 of 20 passes against the Sun Devils and being involved in three safeties.
But Frost, in just 2 1/2 quarters Saturday, completed 13 of 18 passes for 143 yards and touchdowns of 3 yards to tight end Vershan Jackson and 1 yard to tight end Sheldon Jackson.
Frost also ran 10 times for 56 yards and a 4-yard touchdown, and sparked a 30-point outburst in a 10-minute span of the second and third quarters that turned a 14-6 Nebraska lead into a 44-6 spread.
“I thought Scott Frost did a good job today,” Osborne said. “It’s unbelievable the expectations put on guys who are 18, 19 and 20 years old. I thought he really responded well to the situation this week.
“It would have been very easy for him to go out and be rattled and not play well.”
Frost said his introduction last week to the hot seat that comes with playing quarterback at Nebraska wasn’t easy.
“It was tough for me personally and tough for the team,” he said. “We take a lot of pride in our program, and there were some pretty bad things said about us.
“But the whole team bounced back. I’m as proud of this team for bouncing back as I was of winning the national championship last year. It took a lot of character and a lot of fight for a team not to lay down after losing its first game in 20-some games.”
But the question remains as to how much value Nebraska will get from stomping Colorado State (2-3), which was second-to-last nationally in total defense and which showed little of the offensive package that it had used previously to climb to sixth in the country in total offense.
Husker senior free safety Eric Stokes offered one strong opinion.
“This game was huge,” he said. “It’s as big as any we’ll have the rest of the year.
“It was a big confidence-builder. There’s no false sense of security from this.”
Nebraska showed flashes of dominant play early in the game. Among the highlights:
After freshman I-back DeAngelo Evans returned the opening kickoff 37 yards, the Huskers drove 62 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown.
I-back Ahman Green, who finished with 163 yards on 22 carries, hit the 100-yard mark before halftime.
Rush end Grant Wistrom blocked a 29-yard field-goal try on Colorado State’s first possession. Then he and fellow rush end Jared Tomich finished CSU’s next two drives with sacks.
But with 3:27 left in the second quarter, Colorado State caused some nervousness.
Quarterback Moses Moreno hit split end Geoff Turner, a transfer from Iowa State, with a 32-yard touchdown pass. Though the extra point was blocked, the Rams were within a touchdown at 14-6.
“But the last three minutes of the half,” Osborne said, “really changed the complexion of the game.”
After CSU’s touchdown, I-back Damon Benning returned the kickoff 26 yards to the Nebraska 33. Green carried five straight times for 27 yards. Then Frost completed back-to-back passes of 18 yards to split end Brendan Holbein and 14 yards to Green to move NU to the CSU 8.
Two option plays later, Frost scored from the 4 for a 21-6 lead with 56 seconds to go.
But the Huskers weren’t done. Colorado State ran the ball at its own 15-yard line, then inexplicably called a timeout. Nebraska called time after the next play and eventually got the ball back on a punt with 24 seconds to go.
From the Colorado State 40, Frost hit Green with an 11-yard pass and then ran a quarterback draw for 20 yards to set up Kris Brown’s 27-yard field goal on the last play of the half, giving Nebraska a 24-6 lead.
“The last two possessions of the half,” Frost said,”I did my job on every play. I got to throw a couple of balls and I got to run one. I was just trying to do my assignment. Sometimes, I get more of a chance to do things.
“I definitely gained confidence more and more as the game went on.”
Stokes said he noticed.
“The offense looked like the weight of the world had been lifted off their shoulders,” he said. “There had been a lot of pressure on us being No. 1. I think they were a little tight at Arizona State.”
Guard Chris Dishman confirmed that.
“There was a lot of pressure on our backs last week,” he said. “Today, we went out and had fun and were laughing in the huddle.”
Nebraska wiped any smiles off of Colorado State faces on the fourth play of the third quarter.
Strongside linebacker Jamel Williams intercepted a bobbled pass and returned it 29 yards to the CSU 13. Four plays later, Frost hit Sheldon Jackson for a 1-yard touchdown.
Williams said his interception might have sealed NU’s victory.
“The defense knew we had to stop them right away,” he said. “We wanted to keep the momentum in our favor.”
The offense kept the momentum going by scoring on its next two possessions. Senior fullback Brian Schuster ran for the first touchdown of his career, from 15 yards, to cap a three-play, 59-yard drive. Then Green, who bolted for 38 yards to start the next possession, ended it with a 1-yard run that put Nebraska ahead 44-6 with 5:50 to go in the third quarter.
Colorado State drove for a 27-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. But Nebraska got a 2-yard touchdown run from No. 3 I-back Jay Sims, a 30-yard touchdown run from the No. 4 I-back Evans and a 43-yard punt return for a touchdown from No. 4 wingback Shevin Wiggins to make the final score 65-9.
Colorado State gained just 195 of its 329 yards on Nebraska’s first defense. Stokes said the Rams, who were averaging 499.3 yards a game, appeared to have a cautious game plan.
“They kept it pretty vanilla,” he said. “The main reason I think was to protect their quarterback.
Osborne said he was happiest to see his team respond to adversity with a strong week of practice and a return to solid execution on game day.
“This will help our confidence,” he said. “Certainly, a week ago shook us a little. But maybe that needed to happen because when you go so long without losing, you assume things are going to fall in place no matter what you do or how you practice.
“I told them before the last game that I didn’t like what I was seeing in practice. I don’t think it made a lot of sense to them then. But I think it makes some now.”
|Yards per carry||2.0||6.8|
Nebraska is 6-0 all-time against Colorado State.
|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 13 games on Sept. 28. See them all »
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