LINCOLN — Second-ranked Nebraska’s final step before meeting No. 1 Oklahoma was more of a sideways shuffle than a giant leap forward.
Yes, the Huskers gained 666 total yards Saturday and I-back Keith Jones rushed for a career-high 240 yards in a 42-3 victory over Iowa State. But four turnovers and three wasted scoring opportunities bothered NU Coach Tom Osborne.
“I was really not too pleased with some of the execution,” he said. “At times, we played sloppy football. At times, we didn’t play very intelligent football.”
But at no time did Osborne say Saturday’s show in front of 76,001 fans the 154th straight sellout at Memorial Stadium would affect Nebraska’s readiness for the Sooners in two weeks.
“I think we’ll play well,” he said. “I think we can play with anybody in the country.
“We might win big. They might win big. I don’t know what’s going to happen.
“But I don’t feel like it’s a deal where we have to go out and play the best game we’ve ever played in our lives to win.”
The Nebraska players readily admitted Oklahoma was on their minds.
“It was tough to get our heads into this game,” said linebacker LeRoy Etienne, who sat out the first quarter for disiciplinary reasons. “Everybody was thinking about Oklahoma.”
The Huskers, 9-0 overall and 5-0 in the Big Eight, watched the scoreboard, too, keeping tabs on the 9-0 Sooners’ 29-10 victory over Oklahoma State.
“Sure, we kept looking for the score,” offensive tackle Keven Lightner said. “We substituted early today. Some of the second line was in the game in the first quarter.
“So that gave us time to watch the board. That game was in Norman and Oklahoma State played them tough. Missouri will play them tough next week, too.”
While the Huskers were watching the scoreboard, statisticans were checking the record books.
NU’s 666 yards was the best total since the Huskers gained 680 against Kansas in 1983.
The 604 yards rushing by 18 ball carriers was tops since running for a school-record 677 yards against New Mexico State in 1982. It also broke the record for most rushing yards ISU has allowed.
The former mark was Oklahoma’s 542 against the Cyclones in 1985.
Jones’ 240 yards was the fifth-best single-game performance in Nebraska history. The top four are Mike Rozier’s 285 vs. Kansas in 1983, Rick Berns’ 255 vs. Missouri in 1978, I.M. Hipp’s 254 vs.
Indiana in 1977 and Rozier’s 251 vs. Oklahoma State in 1982.
Jones averaged 16 yards on his 15 carries, scored touchdowns on runs of 27 and 69 yards and had another run of 64 yards. He left the game for good in the third quarter.
Backup I-back Tyreese Knox added 118 yards rushing and a 6-yard TD in 14 carries, marking the third time the Huskers have had two 100-yard rushers in a game this season. The others were by Jones and quarterback Steve Taylor against Utah State and Arizona State.
Taylor, who ran for NU’s first touchdown Saturday from 9 yards, gained 96 yards in nine carries before also leaving in the third quarter.
A preliminary records check indicated Nebraska has never had three 100-yard rushers in a game. The most recent close call was in 1985 vs.
Florida State when I-back Doug DuBose gained 129, fullback Tom Rathman 113 and quarterback McCathorn Clayton 97.
The yards and points, coming against a team ranked third-to-last nationally in total defense and scoring defense, were more than enough to suit Osborne.
“We probably could have had another 21 to 28 points,” Osborne said. “But I’m personally glad the score was 42-3 instead of 60-some to 3. I don’t want anybody to feel we were running it up on them, particularly Jim Walden.”
Nebraska, which led 28-0 at halftime, scored in each quarter to stretch that streak to 21 straight. The offense has scored at least 30 points in each game this season.
Nebraska’s defense also polished its recent sparkling figures. The Huskers have allowed just 15 points in the past five games and only one touchdown in the past 21 quarters.
Iowa State also got into the recordsetting on its lone score Jeff Shudak’s 44-yard field goal in the third quarter.
That kick tied Shudak with Tom Goedjen in 1973 and Alex Giffords in 1982 for most ISU field goals in a season with 15. The redshirt freshman from Council Bluffs St. Albert, who missed a 39-yarder in the second quarter, also kept alive his streak of kicking at least one field goal in each game this season.
Nebraska took the opening kickoff and blasted 80 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown. Taylor capped it with a 9-yard run.
But Iowa State bulled right back, moving 76 yards in 12 plays to the Nebraska 3. But on the drive’s 13th play, ISU’s luck ran out.
Quarterback Brett Sadek, scrambling up the middle, bumped into offensive guard Rick Wells and fumbled. NU linebacker Randall Jobman of Lisco, Neb., making his first career start in place of Etienne, pounced on it at the 1 to end Iowa State’s best touchdown threat of the day.
“It looked a little scary when we went ahead 7-0 and they knocked it right down the field on us for 50 or 60 yards,” Osborne said.
“But after the first drive, the defense settled down and played pretty good football.”
ISU Coach Jim Walden, who suited up 45 scholarship players, said a touchdown would have been nice.
“Our goal was to do something more against Nebraska than we were able to do against Oklahoma,” said Walden, whose team lost 56-3 to OU.
“But that wouldn’t have made any difference in the outcome. It would have just made the score 42-10.”
After the fumble, Nebraska moved 99 yards in nine plays for a touchdown, with fullback Micah Heibel scoring from the 3.
So with 2:04 left in the first quarter, Nebraska led 14-0 and appeared ready to play “Name That Score.”
When NU linebacker Doug Welniak jarred the ball loose on the ensuing kickoff and defensive end Jon Marco recovered at the ISU 19, it looked even more likely. But the Cyclones stopped the Huskers on four downs.
NU failed to convert another good chance midway through the second quarter after defensive tackle Ray Valladao recovered a Sadek fumble at the ISU 8.
On the first play, Taylor tried for split end Rod Smith in the end zone, but Cyclone cornerback Marcus Robertson intercepted and ran it back 23 yards.
Osborne said that down-and-out pattern is one Nebraska practices often but rarely gets to use.
“Frankly, I called a few plays after we got up 28-0 just to take a look at them,” he said.
Nebraska also lost fumbles on a Taylor keeper, on a center snap and a punt touched by freshman cornerback Tahaun Lewis.
“I wasn’t happy about that at all,” Osborne said. “Obviously, we can’t make those kind of mistakes against a real good football team.”
Nebraska played Saturday without No. 1 center Jake Young, No. 2 I-back Ken Clark, No. 2 wingback Hendley Hawkins and No. 4 I-back Jon Kelley because of injuries. No. 1 left defensive tackle Neil Smith played just half the first series before resting his bruised leg.
Osborne said all hands should be back for Oklahoma.
“But I’m not saying we won’t lose somebody because we’re going to do some hitting next week,” he said. “So we’re not home free yet.
“We’ll work pretty hard next week because were not just preparing for Oklahoma. We’re preparing for two games Oklahoma and Colorado.”
|Yards per carry||1.7||8.6|
Nebraska is 86-17 all-time against Iowa State.
|Utah State||Sept. 5|
|Arizona State||Sept. 26|
|South Carolina||Oct. 3|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 17|
|Kansas State||Oct. 24|
|Iowa State||Nov. 7|
|Florida State||Jan. 1|
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