Lincoln — Against Pacific on Saturday, Nebraska used three I-backs in the first series, three quarterbacks by halftime and no defensive starters in the third or fourth quarters.
And it still got ugly.
The No. 1-and 2-ranked Huskers scored on their first seven possessions, punted once, then scored on three of the next four series in a 70-21 rout of the Tigers before 75,273 fans at Memorial Stadium.
NU Coach Tom Osborne said he was happy that 104 players got in the game.
"If there was anything we accomplished today," he said, "we got a lot of playing time to some guys who need to play."
Four threw passes, including scout-team quarterback Adam Kucera, who until a month ago was a student manager. Eleven others caught passes and 16 players ran the ball as the Huskers (4-0) posted the seventh-highest offensive yardage total-699-in history and tied the modern-day school record for most points in a half with 49.
"But I worry a little about not having the top units play more," Osborne said.
Almost without fail in his 22 years as head coach, Osborne has used his No. 1 units in the first two series of the third quarter, regardless of the score.
But Saturday, the Blackshirts rested while the No. 2 defense opened the second half. Offensively, fewer than half of the starters ever returned to the field.
"To be real selfish about developing a team for this year," Osborne said, "we maybe needed to play the top units longer today.
"On the other hand, you'd hate to have the score be 35-0 or 42-0 and get a Zach Wiegert (an all-conference tackle) or somebody like that hurt."
Injury awareness is what limited starting quarterback Tommie Frazier to nine snaps.
Osborne said the three-year starter wasn't assured of opening the game Saturday because of recurring tightness in his right calf. Only after moving well in pregame warmup was Frazier allowed to start.
He left after leading touchdown drives on NU's first two possessions.
Did Frazier learn anything from spending 54 of Saturday's 60 minutes on the bench?
"To tell you the truth, no," he said. "About all you can do is sit around, joke around and talk about what you're going to do tonight."
Did Frazier improve?
"I completed 50 percent of my passes," he deadpanned, drawing a burst of laughter from reporters.
But Frazier's statistics Saturday-1 of 2 passes for 26 yards and one rush for 5 yards-could damage his Heisman Trophy hopes. He also had a school-record string of 10 straight games with a touchdown pass snapped.
Frazier said the limited playing time didn't bother him.
"I'm not thinking about the Heisman Trophy," he said. "I'm only worried about our team getting better. And if me coming out of the game early got experience to our younger guys, then I'm happy and satisfied.
"Besides, there are still three or four big games out there that can help me. So I'm not worried."
I-back Lawrence Phillips also carried a light load with just nine attempts. But the sophomore kept his hopes of breaking records alive by rushing for 138 yards, including a 74-yard touchdown.
The 100-yard day was Phillips' fourth straight to start a season. Only three other Huskers have ever done that. Bobby Reynolds had eight straight in 1950, Derek Brown seven in 1991 and Jarvis Redwine four in 1980.
The limited play of the starters allowed backup quarterback Brook Berringer to post big numbers.
The junior accounted for a career-best four touchdowns in seven series of work. He threw for three touchdowns (15 yards to wingback Clester Johnson, 46 yards to tight end Eric Alford and 18 yards to wingback Abdul Muhammad) and ran 6 yards for another. Berringer finished with 32 yards rushing in six carries and completed 8 of 15 passes for 120 yards.
The 699 yards of total offense-510 rushing and 189 passing-was Nebraska's most since gaining 723 against Kansas State in 1989. The school record is 883 yards vs. New Mexico State in 1982.
Defensively, NU allowed 374 yards. But Defensive Coordinator Charlie McBride wasn't concerned with statistics because of the number of defenders used.
What worried him was a knee injury suffered in the first quarter by No. 1 left cornerback Barron Miles, who collided with free safety Eric Stokes while both were diving to deflect a pass. The seriousness of the injury wasn't immediately known.
"I'm really worried about our depth as far as going on and playing good teams later in the season," McBride told reporters. "We're either going to have to stick with our No. 1s or make it so simple that you guys can play for us."
Nebraska's defense was never under duress against Pacific (2-2) because the offense gained 262 yards and scored 28 points in the first quarter.
On the Huskers' first possession, Frazier's 26-yard swing pass to I-back Clinton Childs and I-back Damon Benning's 23-yard run helped set up Benning's 1-yard scoring run. For the game, Nebraska gained 10 yards or more on 21 of 81 plays.
Phillips made it 14-0 nothing by taking a pitch on a third-and-1, sweeping right and racing 74 yards, sidestepping the final tackler at the 10.
Several Huskers said Pacific appeared to let down after Nebraska scored twice in the first six minutes.
"It wasn't much of a challenge for our first teams," guard Brenden Stai said.
Was it like a scrimmage?
"Not really," Stai said. "In scrimmages, we go against our No. 1 defense. It felt more like-and I hate to say it-that we were playing a low-caliber team."
After Pacific gained its initial first down with an 11-yard middle screen on its next series, NU's Miles blocked a punt to set up fullback Cory Schlesinger's 8-yard touchdown run.
The Blackshirts helped produce the next score as cornerback Tyrone Williams intercepted quarterback Craig Whelihan's pass near midfield. A penalty on the return put the Huskers at their 47.
Five plays later, Schlesinger rumbled in from 39 yards out for a 28-0 lead with 3:58 to go in the quarter.
In the second quarter, Berringer ran for a touchdown and threw for two to put NU up 49-0 at halftime. That matched the most points in a half in the post-World War II era. It was last done against Oklahoma State in 1988.
In the second half, Nebraska scored on its first possession to go ahead 56-0 as Berringer hit wingback Abdul Muhammad with an 18-yard touchdown pass.
Pacific eventually scored three touchdowns against the backup defensive units, but never got closer than 49 points.
Tigers Coach Chuck Shelton said he has no quarrel with the final score or how Nebraska achieved it.
"This is the classiest program I have ever been involved with," said the 18-year head coach. "They played a lot of kids. Coach Osborne did what he had to do to make his team better without embarrassing the University of Pacific."
Osborne said he hopes his team got better.
"It was a difficult game in many ways," he said. "It was easy on the scoreboard.
"I thought the players handled the situation well, took the situation seriously and played pretty hard and executed."
Stai said that was goal.
"We did what we had to do," he said. "We have to be intense for every game, no matter who it is.
"So what we accomplished was we showed Pacific that you don't mess around with the Huskers."
|Yards per carry||3.4||8.6|
Nebraska is 2-0 all-time against Pacific.
|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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