Seventh-ranked Nebraska made No. 13 Kansas look more like a pretender than a contender Saturday night, hammering the Jayhawks 49-7 in front of 76,165 raucous fans at Memorial Stadium.
The victory powered NU — 7-1 overall and 4-0 in the Big Eight — into the league lead with three games to play, and jolted 7-2 and 4-1 KU into second place in the race for an Orange Bowl bid.
It was the defending Big Eight champion Huskers’ second straight dismantling of a league challenger. NU splattered 7-1-1 Colorado 52-7 a week ago.
Will those back-to-back romps on ESPN polish the Huskers’ image enough for them to climb higher in the national polls?
“I don’t know,” NU Coach Tom Osborne said. “We’ve had good momentum. We’ve gotten more confidence on defense. Offensively, it’s always been pretty good. And we have a great kicking game.
“So we think we can play with most people. But the thing I’ve found about this kind of thing is the less you say, the less you have to take back.”
Nebraska used three touchdown passes from quarterback Tommie Frazier, 100-yard rushing efforts from “We-Backs” Calvin Jones and Derek Brown and safety Tyrone Byrd’s 30-yard interception return for a touchdown to beat Kansas for the 24th straight year.
The average score in the past 11 games of the series has been 54-8.
The Huskers stretched their turnover-free string to a school-record 4-1/2 games, despite using six quarterbacks.
The last giveaway was Mike Grant’s interception on a Hail Mary pass in the second quarter against Arizona State. That was Sept. 26.
The size of the victory surprised Osborne.
“I’d have been pleased with any kind of a win,” he said. “The thing that was bothering me was whether we’d be able to play hard and with that much emotion two weeks in a row.
“Before the game, I was really worried. It seemed like maybe we were a little flat. Obviously, we weren’t.”
The Huskers pounded KU’s defense, ranked 14th nationally, for 533 yards (351 rushing and a season-high 182 passing). The Nebraska defense held the Jayhawks to 273 yards and seven points — 156 yards and 31 points under their season averages.
Nebraska had control from the opening kickoff, scoring just five plays into the game.
Brown’s 24-yard run plus a 5-yard face-mask penalty moved the Huskers into KU territory at the 49.
After Frazier ran for 11 yards, he found tight end Gerald Armstrong with a 36-yard touchdown pass. Byron Bennett’s extra point put NU ahead 7-0 only 1:30 into the game.
After five punts between the teams, Nebraska got a 15-yard head start on its second scoring drive as KU defensive back Keith Rodgers hit NU return man Tyrone Hughes after a fair-catch signal.
Nebraska scored in four plays, even with a penalty for an illegal block.
Brown ran for 16, 33 and 2 yards as part of his season-high 156 yards in 15 carries. Then on the first play of the second quarter, Frazier found Armstrong with an 11-yard touchdown pass for a 14-0 lead.
Nebraska used another KU kicking-game mistake to set up its next score.
Dan Eichloff shanked a 22-yard punt to the KU 46. On the next play, Frazier hit split end Corey Dixon with a touchdown bomb down the middle-beating cornerback Robert Vaughn-for a 21-0 lead with 12:46 left in the half.
After exchanging punts, Kansas finally got into Nebraska territory.
On its 28th snap of the half, tailback Maurice Douglas’ 5-yard run put KU into NU turf at the 47.
On a third-and-one at the 43, quarterback Chip Hilleary faked into the middle and hit tight end Pete Vang with a 35-yard pass to the 8.
After Nebraska was flagged for roughing the passer, Douglas scooted in from the 4. Eichloff’s extra point cut the Husker lead to 21-7 with 6:14 to go.
Nebraska countered in two minutes.
Dixon returned the kickoff 28 yards to the NU 39. Fullback Lance Lewis raced 34 yards to the KU 27. Three plays later, Jones scored from the 5, giving Nebraska a 28-7 lead with 4:13 to play. Jones finished with 107 yards in 13 carries.
Kansas went three downs and out, and Nebraska went three downs and in — to the end zone.
From midfield, Frazier’s screen pass to Jones turned into a 41-yard gain. Only safety Kwame Lassiter’s lunging tackle saved a touchdown.
Jones finished the drive with runs of 3 and 6 yards to put Nebraska ahead 35-7 with 2:47 left in the half.
NU cornerback Kenny Wilhite intercepted Hilleary’s bomb on the next possession to keep the halftime margin at 28 points.
Things got uglier for Kansas early in the third quarter.
Byrd swiped Hilleary’s sideline pass intended for Douglas and ran it back 30 yards for a touchdown.
The Nebraska offense followed with another touchdown on its first possession of the second half.
After 13 plays and 87 yards, Lewis capped it with a 5-yard run for a 49-7 lead.
Kansas made one third-quarter push inside the NU 20, but gave up the ball on downs and never threatened again.
“I don’t know how this plays out,” Osborne said. “My experience over the years is these kind of game get written off very quickly nationally and locally.
“Our team has played well. We beat a team that had momentum and was playing for the Big Eight championship.
“I hope that just because it was a sound victory on our part that it isn’t overlooked.”
|Yards per carry||3.2||5.7|
Nebraska is 91-23 all-time against Kansas.
|Middle Tennessee State||Sept. 12|
|Arizona State||Sept. 26|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 10|
|Iowa State||Nov. 14|
|Kansas State||Dec. 5|
|Florida State||Jan. 1|
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