#14 Nebraska 59
Utah State 28

Sept. 7, 1991 • Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.

1 2 3 4 T
Utah State 7 7 6 8 28
Nebraska 17 7 16 19 59

Brown, McCant Put Charge Into NU

Keithen McCant, No. 10, seems oblivious to Jed DeVries' rush moments before throwing his first career touchdown pass, a 27-yarder to Johnny Mitchell with 7:15 left in the first half. The senior quarterback completed 6 of 10 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 87 yards and a touchdown. RUDY SMITH/THE WORLD-HERALD

LINCOLN -- Maybe it would be easier to list the things that didn't happen in Nebraska's 59-28 season-opening victory Saturday over Utah State.

Don't like that idea?

OK. Here we go with what did take place. You'll need a deep breath.

Lightning stopped play for 19 minutes in the third quarter, the first time press-box veterans could recall such an event at Memorial Stadium at least since World War II.

During the delay, hundreds of students out of the crowd of 76,115 stormed the field to frolic in the rain puddles.

This was all after rain fell in the first quarter while the sun was shining. Yes, shining.

Senior quarterback Keithen McCant, a career backup with previous varsity totals of eight rushes and three passes, was the offensive spark plug.

He replaced starter Mickey Joseph in the second quarter and ran nine times for 87 yards and a touchdown and hit 6 of 10 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown.

In seven possessions under McCant, Nebraska scored four touchdowns and a field goal to crack open what was a 10-point game in the second quarter and an 11-pointer in the third quarter.

Starting NU I-back Scott Baldwin rushed for 47 yards on three carries in the game's first 3 1/2 minutes. But while scoring the game's first touchdown on a 29-yard gallop, he suffered a severe inside ankle sprain that could sideline him longer than the usual one to two weeks.

Backup I-back Derek Brown, before leaving with an assortment of bumps and bruises, gained a career-high 175 yards in 23 carries.

Nebraska made 44 first downs, breaking its own NCAA record of 43 set in 1982 against New Mexico State.

NU gained 787 total yards, the most in 96 games dating back to a 790-yard night in 1983 during an 84-13 mashing of Minnesota.

The Huskers rushed for 617 yards, their most in 110 games going back to a 677-yard day against New Mexico State in 1982.

The teams' combined 1,208 yards of total offense (787 for NU and 421 by Utah State) were the most ever in a Nebraska game. The former mark was 1,170 in a 1983 game against Iowa State (677 for NU, 503 for ISU).

Nebraska gave up 373 yards passing, the third-highest figure ever. The only bigger totals were 422 yards and 375 yards, both by Florida State in Fiesta Bowls after the 1989 and 1987 seasons.

And one more.

NU Coach Tom Osborne, scanning a statistics sheet, asked for everyone's attention.

"Get this guys," he said, tongue partially in cheek. "We threw it 21 times today.

"So we're throwing the heck out of it."

Despite all the unusual occurrences, Osborne called it a typical opening game for his 14th-ranked team.

"We obviously have a lot of things to shake down and improve," he said. "The good thing is we didn't make so terrible-many mistakes that we lost the game."

Mistakes haunted Joseph at quarterback throughout the first quarter of his limited appearance Saturday.

Despite guiding the Huskers to a 17-0 lead, Joseph misfired on six of his first seven passes to usually wide-open receivers.

He also lost a fumble when hit from behind while looking for a receiver.

"Mickey had trouble throwing the first half, which really surprised me," Osborne said. "He had really been throwing the ball well in practice.

"I think he had read and heard so much about not being a passer that he tried too hard and was pushing it and wasn't throwing it."

So in the first full series of the second quarter, Osborne made what he called an unscheduled quarterback switch, inserting McCant.

"Keithen did a nice job considering the fact that he had never really played when it was still in doubt," Osborne said. "He's got all the physical skills we're looking for.

"And I thought he handled things well today. We audibled a fair amount."

So who will start next Saturday against Colorado State?

"We'll look at practice and think about it a little," Osborne said. "Keithen obviously played well enough that he deserves a chance to play.

"Whether he starts, I don't know."

Utah State, 0-2, has no quarterback problems.

Ron Lopez completed 23 of 41 passes for 373 yards and three touchdowns. Against a Nebraska defense missing six players from last year who were drafted into the National Football League, the 6-foot-5 senior completed 14 passes for gains of 10 yards or more.

"We're a little limited in some of the things we had in," Osborne said. "I think we'll get better.

"In our base defenses, we were strictly zone. We didn't have the capability — because of young kids and not having worked on it — to play man-to-man underneath. And this guy was good enough that he could pick a zone apart."

Lopez drew Utah State within 24-14 in the second quarter with a 44-yard touchdown pass to Rod Moore. A 12-yard TD toss between the same two players with 9:56 left in the third quarter got the Aggies back to 31-20.

But USU never got any closer.

Nebraska got a boost from its kicking game.

Wingback Tyrone Hughes' 43-yard punt return to the Utah State 44 in the first quarter helped set up NU's second touchdown — a 22-yard pass from Joseph to wingback Vincent Hawkins.

Split end Corey Dixon's 46-yard kickoff return to start the third quarter gave the Huskers a head start on a drive that McCant capped with a 12-yard touchdown run.

Place-kicker Byron Bennett also added field goals of 32 and 37 yards. The second, which put NU up 34-20, came four plays after rain began pouring midway through the third quarter.

After freshman I-back Calvin Jones scored on a 3-yard run with 2:10 to play in the third quarter, officials halted play for 19 minutes and sent both teams to their dressing rooms.

Four plays after the game resumed at 3:43 p.m., strong safety Steve Carmer intercepted a Lopez pass. Nebraska went on to score on its next two possessions to put away the game.

"I liked the rain," NU offensive tackle Erik Wiegert said. "The fans really got into it, and we got pumped up."


More coverage

World-Herald post-game coverage (PDF)

Game stats

Opp NU
Penalties-Yards 8-51
Rush yards 48 617
Rush attempts 23 77
Yards per carry 2.1 8.0
Pass yards 373 170
Comp.-Att.-Int. 23-41-2 11-21-1
Yards/Att. 9.1 8.1
Yards/Comp. 16.2 15.5
Fumbles 0 2

Series history

Nebraska is 8-0 all-time against Utah State.

See all games »

1991 season (9-2-1)

Utah State Sept. 7
Colorado State Sept. 14
Washington Sept. 21
Arizona State Sept. 28
Oklahoma State Oct. 12
Kansas State Oct. 19
Missouri Oct. 26
Colorado Nov. 2
Kansas Nov. 9
Iowa State Nov. 16
Oklahoma Nov. 29
Miami (FL) Jan. 1

This day in history

Nebraska has played 8 games on Sept. 7. See them all »

©2019 BH Media Group