LAWRENCE, Kan. — Like art, the beauty in Nebraska's 35-0 win over Kansas on Saturday night was in the eye of the beholder.
The Husker defense turned in a masterpiece-quality performance, holding the Jayhawks to 48 total yards in notching back-to-back shutouts for the first time since the 1979 season.
Offensively, Nebraska's final product had more of a paint-by-numbers look. The Huskers scored on three of their first four possessions, gained just 28 yards on their next six, then finished with a flourish with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns.
"We didn't execute great on offense tonight," Nebraska quarterback Scott Frost said. "We got it done, but we could have done it better. It was kind of ugly, like painting your house pink. You get it painted, but it's kind of ugly when you get it done."
In defense of Frost and company, Saturday was not an easy night to play offense. Temperatures in the 40s and rain, sometimes heavy, made it difficult to hang on to the football. A Kansas defense that refused to give in also deserved credit for keeping Nebraska 101 yards under its nation-leading 516-yard offensive average.
"They had a lot of schemes and gave us a lot of pictures," Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne said. "They stunted their linebackers, and once in a while we'd catch them out of position. We'd get a big play, but the next time they'd throw us for a loss.
"It was difficult to throw the ball, just because of the climatic conditions. That limited us a little bit, although we don't throw it a lot anyway. But overall, it was a satisfying win, one that we're glad to be over with."
In winning before a Memorial Stadium crowd estimated at 42,000 - at least half in red - Nebraska improved to 7-0, 4-0 in the Big 12 Conference. The victory, which assured the Huskers of their 36th straight winning season, came in Nebraska's first game since taking over the No. 1 spot in the polls.
"We were under a lot of pressure, this being the first week that we were defending that ranking," defensive tackle Jason Peter said. "I can only speak for the defensive side, but I'm happy with the way we played."
There was little to be unhappy about if you were a Husker defender. Kansas didn't get a first down in the opening half, never made it into Nebraska territory and finished with what is believed to be lowest total offense total in school history.
According to Kansas sports information department personnel, Saturday's 48-yard output - 21 on the ground, 27 through the air - surpasses the previous low mark of 53 yards, which came earlier this season against Cincinnati.
The 48 yards was Nebraska's fifth-best defensive effort in school history and its best since the Huskers held Kansas State to 36 yards on Oct. 17, 1964. It came on the heels of a 127-yard performance in last week's 29-0 win over Texas Tech.
The back-to-back shutouts were Nebraska's first since the 1979 team blanked New Mexico State, Kansas and Oklahoma State on consecutive Saturdays.
"I know we hadn't had back-to-back shutouts since I've been here," said rush end Grant Wistrom, whose four tackles included three for losses and two sacks. "Kansas might not have the most highly touted offense in the world, but shutouts are tough to come by."
Kansas, which dropped to 4-4 and 2-3 in the league, came into the game with an offense that ranked 111th out of 112 Division I-A teams in total yards.
"The thing we were afraid of going in was what Nebraska has done the last few weeks defensively," Kansas Coach Terry Allen said.
"They really showed their superiority on the defensive end of the ball."
Kansas went three-and-out on each of its first six first-half possessions. At halftime, the Jayhawks had a minus-19 yards.
"Their players were getting down on themselves," Peter said. "They weren't really sure of what was going on. Every time they tried to run something, we'd shut them down. You could see it in their faces - they were a little confused."
Nebraska's first-team defense played the first three quarters and held Kansas to 13 yards on 37 plays. Only one of the Jayhawks' 11 possessions against the Blackshirts lasted longer than three plays.
That was Kansas' first possession of the second half. Eric Vann opened it with a 15-yard run, producing the Jayhawks' first of four first downs. Quarterback Zac Wegner, sacked four times for 35 yards in losses, completed a third-down pass to give Kansas another.
Vann's 5-yard pickup on first down got Kansas within 2 yards of midfield. The Jayhawks never got farther, as rush end Chad Kelsay dropped Vann for a 3-yard loss and Wegner threw incomplete on third down. That brought out punter Dean Royal, who was called on for a dozen kicks.
"We came out slowly for that first drive of the second half," Peter said. "But we regrounded ourselves and came back and finished strong."
The same could be said for the Husker offense, which struggled after a strong start. Nebraska was ahead 21-0 after its first four possession, having piled up 247 yards on its first 31 snaps.
Three plays after Joel Makovicka raced 18 yards for Nebraska's third touchdown, two of the four light banks failed, delaying the game for seven minutes. The Husker offense then short-circuited, producing 28 yards on its next 20 plays.
"We were lucky tonight that we have this great defense that played so well," said Makovicka, who finished with 82 yards on 10 carries. "That made it easier on us. "Tonight, we took the opening kickoff right down the field and scored. I think we felt that they would lay down and not give us a game. Instead, they played hard. You have to take your hat off to Kansas' defense and give them some credit."
Kansas, ranked 21st nationally in total defense, finally broke down in the fourth quarter. Frost directed a 48-yard drive that included his 20-yard scramble and 14-yard scoring run to put Nebraska ahead 28-0 with 13:42 to play.
After Kansas lost a fumble - suprisingly the only turnover on a wet, slippery night - Nebraska covered 40 yards in seven plays to punctuate the win. Ahman Green got his 13th touchdown of the season on a 2-yard run, finishing off a 123-yard night that underscores Nebraska's offensive production.
Green's first 15 carries, on Nebraska's opening four possessions, produced 103 yards, pushing over the 100-yard mark for the sixth straight game and the 14th time in his career. The junior I-back netted 20 yards on his final 10 attempts, including three of which that lost yardage.
"We knew they had a tough defense, and we knew that we'd get their best shot since we're No. 1 now," Green said. "Plus, being cold and rainy didn't help us out much."
Frost, who rushed for 121 yards on 21 carries and passed for 33 more, called the conditions "nasty."
"It was wet and, with that wind blowing on you, it made it chilly," Frost said. "I think both teams might have tried to throw more, but the conditions were so bad. The balls were wet and when your hands get wet, it gets tough to hang on to the ball."
The weather didn't seem to bother Nebraska on its first four possessions. The Huskers drove 71 yards on 12 plays on their opening series, with Makovicka bulling the final 5 yards up the middle for the score.
Frost directed back-to-back, six-play scoring drives on the Huskers' third and fourth possessions. The first covered 56 yards and ended with Frost's 27-yard run.
"It was the same play that I scored my first touchdown on out at Washington," Frost said. "We call it a quarterback keep, and the line did a great job. Kansas took the fake and bit on Makovicka. I had some good blocks downfield, and I had just one guy to beat to the end zone.
"People try to stop our fullback, and when we fake to the fullback on that play, the defense has to honor it. Ahman then leads me up the hole, and we just have a lot of blockers on that play."
Makovicka's 18-yard scoring run, which capped a 64-yard drive on the Huskers' next possession, pushed Nebraska's advantage to 21-0 with 10:53 left in the second quarter.
The fact that it took the Huskers 28 more minutes before they scored again left a sour taste in the offense's mouth.
"I think those two scores in the fourth quarter showed a little bit of character," Makovicka said. "We had a rough two quarters and didn't play that well. We picked it up there in the fourth quarter, but it's still a little disappointing. There's no reason for that."
Nebraska did finish with 382 rushing yards, just 19 off its nation-leading average.
"We thought at times that we might struggle offensively because their defense is pretty good," said Osborne, who will go for his 250th win next Saturday against Oklahoma. "That's about what happened."
|Yards per carry||0.7||5.9|
Nebraska is 91-23 all-time against Kansas.
|Central Florida||Sept. 13|
|Kansas State||Oct. 4|
|Texas Tech||Oct. 18|
|Iowa State||Nov. 15|
|Texas A&M||Dec. 6|
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