LINCOLN — Arizona State should be careful about what it asks for.
The Sun Devils raced into Memorial Stadium before Saturday's game against second-ranked Nebraska carrying a flag with the words "Bring the Pain."
That is exactly what ASU got for the next 3 1/2 hours as the Huskers broke the school record for points in a half and gained 686 total yards during a 77-28 rout before 75,418 fans.
It took Nebraska all of 11 seconds to show that a week of national publicity about the suspension of star I-back Lawrence Phillips was no distraction to the players.
Clinton Childs, Phillips' replacement, took a handoff on the game's first play and sprinted around left end for a 65-yard touchdown. Childs, a senior out of Omaha North, finished his first career start with a career-high 143 yards and two touchdowns in 12 carries before leaving with a knee strain.
"I think we made a statement right away," NU quarterback Tommie Frazier said. "Even though we lost a great player, we're going to move on."
The Huskers went on to score eight touchdown in nine more first-half possessions to explode to leads of 28-0, 49-14 and-with 39 seconds left in the second quarter—63-21.
The previous NU record for points in a half was 55 in the second half of a 69-19 win over Colorado in 1983. The NCAA record is 76 by Houston in a 100-6 victory over Tulsa in 1968.
Nebraska's outburst, Frazier said, was in response to Coach Tom Osborne's pregame message. It included talk of Phillips' suspension for his alleged assault of an ex-girlfriend and the attendant national attention.
"Coach Osborne said adversity is going to come to every team," said Frazier, who passed for 191 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 35 yards and two touchdowns. "Last year, it happened when some guys got hurt and we pulled together.
"Only great teams overcome things like that. So he gave us a challenge. He said, 'Can you be that great team?'"
After a 63-point, 508-yard first half, the answer appears to be yes. But Frazier said showing greatness wasn't the only goal Saturday.
"We really wanted to win this for Coach Osborne," he said. "We all saw he was real hurt at everybody putting him down. People were talking about all you do is recruit violent players.
"This showed that despite everything that happened, this team isn't worried about it. We're focusing on one thing—playing football."
Osborne said he left the game with mixed feelings. The offense ran for 394 yards and passed for 292, which matched the sixth-best throwing day in NU history. But Arizona State (1-2) gouged the Husker defense for 461 yards, the most since Kansas State gained 565 in 1993.
Overall, he said, there was more good than bad as the Huskers (3-0) stretched their home winning string to 24 games.
"I don't think any letdown in the second half was due to anything that happened during the week," Osborne said. "It was more due to the circumstances of the game and how we got up so fast.
"It's a little hard to maintain your intensity throughout 60 minutes when you're ahead that much."
Osborne said he apologized after the game to Arizona State Coach Bruce Snyder for quarterback Matt Turman's 39-yard touchdown pass to wingback Lance Brown in the final minute. Osborne said he had called a 12-yard hook route, but the way the defensive back was playing led the receiver to go deep.
"I feel bad about it," Osborne said. "It was a bush-league thing to do. I've very seldom had a situation like that late in the game with that kind of a lead where we've thrown a deep touchdown pass.
"I apologized because I didn't think in my wildest dreams that they would press us and play tight man-to-man and we would convert it into a deep pattern. I should have just run a draw play and run out the clock."
But Osborne said he wasn't sorry about calling time and throwing deep to score in the final two minutes of the first half with a 35- point lead.
The Huskers forced a punt with 1:47 to play, then Frazier threw a 36-yard bomb to split end Reggie Baul to set up a TD with 39 seconds left in the half.
"In the first half," Osborne said, "if we had been shutting them down I maybe wouldn't have tried to score. But they scored so quickly on three occasions that I felt if we had a chance, we had better score."
Osborne said his play-calling had nothing to do with achieving a certain margin of victory, even as scores such as Florida State 77, North Carolina State 17 and Penn State 66, Temple 14 were announced Saturday.
Basing poll votes on victory margins is "a lot of baloney," said Osborne, a voter in the USA Today-CNN coaches poll.
"We weren't trying to keep people in there to run up the score," he said. "What some other coach does doesn't bother me."
The big play was Nebraska's big weapon in the first half as each of the nine touchdown drives included at least one gain of 15 yards or more.
After Childs made it 7-0 with his opening TD burst, the Huskers used nine plays—their longest possession of the half—to score again. Frazier's 22-yard pass to tight end Mark Gilman was the key play in a drive capped by freshman I-back Ahman Green's 3-yard run.
Nebraska's heretofore inconsistent punt return game contributed to the next score. Baul's 28-yard return to the ASU 28 set up a three-play drive that Frazier ended with a 15-yard touchdown run.
The lead grew to 28-0 with 5:38 left in the first quarter. Childs' 34-yard halfback option pass to wingback Clester Johnson preceded Frazier's 27-yard touchdown pass to wingback Jon Vedral.
Scoring so much so fast caused some Huskers to shake their heads in amazement.
Said Frazier: "This was the first game I've played in where I felt no matter what Coach Osborne called, it was going to go the distance."
Arizona State broke through on its fourth possession. A 66-yard pass from quarterback Jake Plummer to wide receiver Keith Poole set up a 2-yard TD pass from Plummer to Poole that cut the NU lead to 28-7 with 3:35 left in the first quarter.
Nebraska responded in eight plays. Frazier's 18-yard run was the big play before fullback Jeff Makovicka scored from the 13 as time ran out in the quarter. The 35 points tied the NU record for first-quarter points, set in 1988 against Oklahoma State.
Three plays later, Plummer and Poole hooked up on an 80-yard touchdown pass over cornerback Tyrone Williams to let ASU close to 35-14.
Childs helped Nebraska push the lead back to five touchdowns quickly. Five plays after his 37-yard kickoff return to the Husker 45, Childs bolted 38 yards for a touchdown and a 42-14 Nebraska lead with 12:35 left in the half.
The Blackshirts set up NU's next score. Junior cornerback Michael Booker, making his first career start, intercepted Plummer at the ASU 36. Two plays later, Frazier's 28-yard touchdown pass to Johnson put NU up 49-14 with 10:48 left in the second quarter. Johnson finished with a career-high 129 yards receiving in four catches.
ASU kept fighting back. The Sun Devils marched 80 yards in six plays, with Plummer hitting Poole with a 38-yard touchdown pass over cornerback Leslie Dennis to cut the gap to 49-21.
Arizona State finally forced Nebraska to punt on its eighth possession. But that turned into another Husker weapon as Jesse Kosch bombed a 74-yarder that rush end Jared Tomich downed at the ASU 2.
That field position helped Nebraska score twice more before halftime.
Frazier's 61-yard pass to Johnson was the big play in a drive capped by Green's 26-yard touchdown run on a direct snap out of the shotgun formation.
Nebraska then stopped ASU after one first down and called time with 1:47 left in the half. After a 23-yard punt, the Huskers took over at the Sun Devil 41. On the first play, Baul grabbed a 36-yard bomb from Frazier, which left Snyder staring across the field in disgust. Three plays later, Frazier scored from the 3 to put NU up 63-21 with 39 seconds left in the half.
In the second half, weakside linebacker Terrell Farley's 21-yard interception return—his second of the season—and Turman's touchdown pass allowed Nebraska to match its second-highest point total in the post-World War II era. The Huskers defeated Minnesota 84-13 in 1983 and Army 77 - 7 in 1972.
Osborne said he was happy to finally focus on a game after a week of doing interviews about the Phillips case and that of backup I-back Damon Benning, who remains on the team after being ticketed for an alleged assault of an ex-girlfriend. Benning didn't play Saturday because of a sore hamstring.
But with many national reporters still in Lincoln, Osborne said he expects the talk to again shift to off-the-field activities.
"I imagine this week will be another rough week," he said in a packed postgame press conference. "I know a lot of folks in here are here to do a job.
"So it'll be interesting to see what that is. I don't expect it will be very nice. But that's OK. We take it as it comes."
|Yards per carry||3.8||7.2|
Nebraska is 6-2 all-time against Arizona State.
|Oklahoma State||Aug. 31|
|Michigan State||Sept. 9|
|Arizona State||Sept. 16|
|Washington State||Sept. 30|
|Kansas State||Oct. 21|
|Iowa State||Nov. 4|
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