LINCOLN — Third quarter. Eight minutes left. And Nebraska’s starting offensive tackles were on the bench for the day.
Not with injuries or problems.
No, Erik Wiegert and Brian Boerboom were kicked back trying to figure out why the Huskers had such an easy time bombing Colorado State 71-14 Saturday in front of 76,379 fans at Memorial Stadium.
“I don’t know if I can explain it,” said Wiegert, who helped Nebraska roll up 696 yards, the seventh-highest total offense count in history. “I wasn’t expecting a blowout like this.”
Neither was NU Coach Tom Osborne, who saw his 2-0 and 13th-ranked Huskers lead 17-0 after the first quarter, 43-0 at half and 57-14 after three quarters.
“I’m a little sorry about the score,” he said. “We didn’t try to do anything outlandish. We played a lot of people.”
It was 98, to be exact.
But 1-2 Colorado State committed eight turnovers, didn’t make a first down until its fourth possession, gave up 30 single-play gains of 10 yards or more and saw seven of its players helped off the field with injuries.
All of which gave the Huskers resting on the bench plenty of time to think.
“I looked at Boerboom toward the end of the third quarter,” Wiegert said, ”and I told him, ‘We’re not going to be sitting here at this time next week.’
“He just kind of nodded and smiled. We can’t wait.”
Next Saturday, third- and fourth-ranked Washington comes to Lincoln for a prime-time television showdown. It’s a matchup the Huskers — 0-5 against rated opponents since late 1988 — have looked forward to for months.
But Osborne said he noticed no one looking past Colorado State, which returned 13 starters from last year’s 9-4 Freedom Bowl champion team. “We didn’t talk at all about looking ahead,” he said. “Our players were focused on playing well this week.”
It didn’t always show in practice.
“We had kind of a mediocre week,” Osborne said. “I was afraid maybe we would have a little letdown.
“Of course, after last season, there’s no great reason for any over-optimism.”
But what about now?
How big a step is it to gain 787 yards and drill Utah State by 31 points or to splatter Colorado State by 57 points while going a second straight game without punting?
“I’m still not really sure,” Osborne said. “We’ll see a little different thing next Saturday. It will be a real test.”
Keithen McCant passed his first test as a starting varsity quarterback.
The fifth-year senior completed 8 of 13 passes for 99 yards and a 25-yard touchdown to tight end Johnny Mitchell. He also ran eight times for 68 yards and a 5-yard touchdown.
In two games, McCant has led Nebraska to scores on 11 of 14 possessions (nine touchdowns, two field goals). Before this season, his varsity playing experience totaled three passes and eight rushes.
Colorado State tried to bother Nebraska with a defensive change. The Rams, giving up 58 pounds a man on the defensive line, switched from their usual 4-2-5 alignment into a 5-3 stack. Often, all eight crowded the line of scrimmage.
“We had to audible some,” Osborne said. “I thought Keithen checked off intelligently and did a good job.”
Osborne also praised the Husker defense, which caught flak last week after allowing 421 yards and 28 points to Utah State.
NU limited Colorado State to 296 total yards. Both CSU touchdowns came against a defense featuring several second-teamers.
“I’m really proud of the defense,” Osborne said. “The first time we really let up was the start of the second half when we started substituting.”
Nebraska forced just two turnovers against Utah State. But the Huskers rattled six fumbles loose against CSU — recovering five — and intercepted three passes. The eight takeaways tied the school record, last done in 1979 against Kansas State.
“We did a great job of flowing to the ball,” NU middle guard Pat Engelbert said. “We always had six or seven guys flying around it.”
When Colorado State broke the shutout with a 71-yard touchdown drive to start the second half, the NU defense retaliated.
After a Husker touchdown drive, strong safety Steve Carmer swiped CSU quarterback Kevin Verdugo’s next pass and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown and a 57-7 lead with 6:54 left in the third quarter.
In the first half, Nebraska scored on seven of its nine possessions. And the Huskers barely missed on the other two.
McCant threw an interception in the CSU end zone to stop one march and backup quarterback Mickey Joseph fell a yard short of a first down at the Ram 20.
Only one of NU’s six first-half touchdowns came on a drive longer than six plays, yet the Huskers still exploded for 429 total yards in the first 30 minutes.
Colorado State was on its back from the beginning.
The Rams lost a player to a knee injury on the opening kickoff. After he was helped off, Nebraska fullback Omar Soto blasted 36 yards up the middle on the first play. McCant capped that march with his 25-yard TD pass to Mitchell.
Two series later, Soto capped a four-play drive with a 34-yard touchdown run and a 17-0 lead with 6:36 left in the first quarter.
Nebraska looked ready to score again on its next possession as McCant completed passes of 11, 15 and 10 yards. But on first and goal from the 8, CSU cornerback Sylvester Mabry picked off McCant’s throw for tight end Chris Garrett.
“It was a jump ball,” Osborne said. “Both had it. It wasn’t too badly thrown.”
Colorado State fumbled the ball back seven plays later, helping Nebraska start a 26-point second quarter that included I-back Derek Brown’s 36-yard touchdown run.
Brown, who gained 175 yards in the opener, led all rushers with 121 yards on 15 carries.
Nebraska’s 71 points was its third-highest total since World War II, trailing only the 84 scored against Minnesota in 1983 and 72 against Iowa State the same year.
“All the credit goes to Nebraska,” Colorado State Coach Earle Bruce said. “We looked terrible. They looked great.”
|Yards per carry||3.0||9.6|
Nebraska is 6-0 all-time against Colorado 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 7 games on Sept. 14. See them all »
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