Lincoln — Nebraska calmed Coach Tom Osborne's fears of a letdown Saturday by jumping on Kansas in the first two minutes and never letting up during a 45-17 romp.
The No. 1-and 2-ranked Huskers followed up their thrashing of Colorado with a performance that showed 75,543 fans at Memorial Stadium how willing they are to work to win a fourth straight Big Eight title and get to the Orange Bowl.
Among the highlights:
>> Quarterback Brook Berringer's 267 yards passing, the best by an individual in 21 years and the best team total in 16 years.
>> Interceptions on two of Kansas' first three plays from scrimmage by free safety Tony Veland and cornerback Tyrone Williams.
>> A first-half passing total of 249 yards and a second-half rushing total of 201 yards on the way to 603 total yards.
>> A 10th straight 100-yard rushing day for I-back Lawrence Phillips (21 carries, 153 yards).
>> Producing 31 points in the first 19 minutes.
"I don't think this is the type of team that will let down," Berringer said after completing 13 of 18 passes and falling just 30 yards short of Dave Humm's single-game passing yardage record. "We're on a mission, and we'll do whatever it takes to win.
"Every game is the national championship for us, and we're playing with that attitude."
Nebraska (10-0 overall, 5-0 in the Big Eight) had the same thoughts heading into last year's game against Kansas (5-4, 2-3) after a big victory over Colorado. The Jayhawks nearly pulled the upset, losing 21-20 when a 2-point conversion try in the final minute failed.
Osborne said that game and the circumstances it was played under were fresh in his mind in preparing for Saturday's game, even though the Jayhawks hadn't beaten Nebraska since 1968.
"I didn't have the feeling before the game that we were real focused," he said. "I thought we were OK. But I was a little worried. I felt Kansas would come up here smoked up and ready to play. I thought they had the horses to beat us.
"So the way it went early was very important for us-getting the turnovers and a couple of quick scores. Had we given them a lot of daylight and let them feel they could win, it might have been tough.
"I didn't think we were flat or had a bad week of practice. But it's a little hard to play a game like Colorado where everybody focuses on it nationally and with TV and the whole works, and then come out and play the next week."
Whatever worries Osborne had, his defense took care of. The Blackshirts started a first-half onslaught by intercepting passes on two of Kansas' first three plays from scrimmage.
On KU's first play, which followed NU punter Darin Erstad's career-long 68-yard boot, Husker outside linebacker Dwayne Harris forced Jayhawk quarterback Asheiki Preston into a bad throw that free safety Tony Veland picked off at the Kansas 17.
When three plays produced only 4 yards, Tom Sieler kicked a career-long 35-yard field goal to put Nebraska up 3-0 with 11:53 left in the first quarter.
Two plays later, the Huskers got the ball back when cornerback Williams intercepted a Preston bomb at the NU 30.
"Those interceptions helped big time," Husker Defensive Coordinator Charlie McBride said. "I was a little worried today because of the way Kansas had controlled the ball on us last year.
"The turnovers really changed the way the game was played."
Williams said he was surprised Kansas launched an early air attack. But it didn't bother him.
"My eyes lit up," Williams said. "Last year, they ran it down our throats. This time, they gave us a chance to take the ball away.
"The defensive line and linebackers told us they weren't going to let Kansas run like it did last year. So we were ready when they started throwing. "
After the second turnover, the Nebraska offense clicked quickly.
Phillips ran twice for 19 yards, then Berringer hit split end Reggie Baul with a 51-yard touchdown bomb for a 10-0 lead with 10:19 to go in the first quarter.
"They crowded the run," Osborne said. "Their secondary was really supporting quickly. So we thought we had to get them off of our backs.
"We threw the ball long a little more than usual, and generally threw it effectively. I thought going in that their defense was tenacious and scrappy and quick, so we tried some things to take advantage of that."
The NU defense held again in three plays. But as Kareem Moss was returning a punt 17 yards, Kansas outside linebacker Don Davis stole the ball from Moss and ran 26 yards to the Husker 24.
The Jayhawks gained only 1 yard from there and had to settle for Jeff McCord's 41-yard field goal that brought Kansas back to 10-3 with 8:11 left in the first quarter.
Nebraska again struck quickly, moving 80 yards in five plays. Berringer hit tight end Eric Alford for 28 yards and Baul for 49 before Phillips ran in from the 4 to put NU ahead 17-3 with six minutes left in the first quarter.
On the next possession, Kansas broke a fake punt for 25 yards to near midfield, but had the play nullified by an illegal formation penalty.
When KU did finally punt, Nebraska scored in just three plays. Fullback Cory Schlesinger, stalled momentarily at the line of scrimmage on a trap play, broke free up the middle for a 40-yard touchdown run to give NU a 24-3 lead with 2:24 to go in the first quarter.
Schlesinger said Kansas was blitzing or stunting on his touchdown run, but guard Brenden Stai picked it up well enough to free him.
"One guy had a hold of my arm for a second," Schlesinger said. "But after I got free I got great downfield blocking and all I had to do was run it in.
"When the defense has to watch for our quarterback, our I-back, our tight end and our wide receivers, things are going to be open for the fullback."
After forcing another punt, Nebraska scored a touchdown for the fourth straight possession. I-back Damon Benning caused four tacklers to miss him on a 37-yard shovel pass, which set up fullback Jeff Makovicka' 8-yard TD run. That gave the Huskers a 31-3 lead with 11:07 left in the half.
Kansas bounced back with the help of Ashaundai Smith's 37-yard kickoff return to the NU 45. The Jayhawks, using a 13-yard run on a fake field goal to keep the drive alive, drove 45 yards in 11 plays. Tailback June Henley scored from the 6, cutting NU's lead to 31-10 with 6:32 left in the half.
Nebraska came right back with another touchdown in six plays. On third-and-11 from the NU 36, Berringer read a Kansas blitz, flipped a 10-yard crossing pass to wingback Clester Johnson, who turned it into a 64-yard touchdown sprint and a 38-10 lead with 3:41 to go in the half.
"He was the 'hot' read when their linebackers blitzed," Berringer said. "There was a lot of room to run after he caught it."
Kansas missed a scoring chance with 1:18 left in the first half when Henley, on a halfback pass, overthrew an open receiver at the goal line.
In the third quarter, Phillips ran for 118 yard in 10 carries and scored on a 22-yard run with 6:32 left to put NU up 45-10.
Kansas added a 1-yard touchdown run by tailback L.T. Levine with 7:01 left in the game.
|Yards per carry||3.1||6.9|
Nebraska is 91-23 all-time against Kansas.
|West Virginia||Aug. 28|
|Texas Tech||Sept. 8|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 8|
|Kansas State||Oct. 15|
|Iowa State||Nov. 12|
|Miami (FL)||Jan. 1|
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