Lincoln — Game day continues to be little more than extra practice time for second-ranked Nebraska.
The Huskers racked up the fifth-highest yardage total in history (731) and the sixth-highest rushing figure (569) in Saturday's 49-7 romp over Pacific before 75,630 fans at Memorial Stadium.
NU (4-0) scored on seven of its first 10 possessions and didn't allow the Tigers (1-3) to cross midfield until there was 6:59 left in the third quarter. Pacific, a replacement on the schedule when Utah State backed out of a two-year contract, was such a big underdog that oddsmakers declined to set a betting line for the game.
"I'm glad we got that behind us," Husker Coach Tom Osborne said. "The players responded about as well as they could have under the circumstances.
"I don't think we were flat. On the other hand, I didn't think we were quite as excited as we have been or will be."
To keep improving, does Nebraska—which hasn't trailed this season—need some excitement after winning games by 43, 40, 49 and 42 points?
"It's great blowing these teams out," defensive tackle Christian Peter said. "But eventually we'll run into a real good team where we'll have to play four quarters.
"We're all looking forward to a game like that."
That includes Osborne, who said it might come this Saturday when Washington State comes to Memorial Stadium.
"I think it will be a horse race," he said. "And that will be good. I'm looking forward to a tough game.
"Washington State has got a good team. I know they have played well the past few years."
The Cougars (2-1) played well Saturday. They built a 24-0 halftime lead against UCLA, then hung on to win 24-15.
Scoreboard watching was popular Saturday as the crowd cheered Miami's 13-7 loss to Virginia Tech and hummed as updates of Colorado's 29-21 victory over Texas A&M were announced.
But those paying attention to the game in front of them witnessed newsworthy events in three categories:
Passing. Nebraska's 36 passes were the most since throwing the same number against Wisconsin in 1973—Osborne's first year as head coach. The only other Osborne-coached teams to throw more than 30 passes were in 1982 against Penn State (34) and in 1978 against Oklahoma (31).
"It's just something I wanted to work on a little bit, " he said. "I didn't think our throwing game was really that good—16 out of 36.
"But it was tough with the wind (20 mph, gusting to 31). We had several balls thrown pretty well that got blown around."
Rushing. Husker I-back Damon Benning, making his first start in two years, ran for a career-high 173 yards and touchdowns of 26, 17 and 43 yards in 10 carries. But the junior out of Omaha Northwest left early in the third quarter with an ankle sprain.
I-back James Sims (sore back) and emergency I-back Joel Makovicka (turf toe) also were hobbled Saturday. Add in the indefinite suspension of Lawrence Phillips (disciplinary reasons) and the two-to four-week injury of Clinton Childs (knee strain), and the I-back spot becomes a concern. Only freshman Ahman Green, who had his second straight 100-yard day Saturday, remains healthy.
Said Osborne: "We're very, very thin at a position that looked pretty deep at one time."
Receiving. Riley Washington, awaiting trial on attempted murder charges from an Aug. 2 shooting, made his first appearance of the season. The junior wingback, with one career reception entering the game, had seven passes thrown his way, including two deep balls. Overall, Washington caught two passes for 13 yards.
Osborne, who reinstated Washington because he said he believes the player is innocent, said he wasn't trying to get Washington a touchdown.
"Their secondary was tight, " Osborne said. "We tried to loosen them up. He had some opportunities."
Nebraska didn't pursue all of its opportunities against Pacific. The Huskers used 102 players and didn't score in the final 22 minutes.
"I didn't want to embarrass them, " Osborne said. "I think we gave everybody a chance to play."
NU center Aaron Graham said Osborne used little of the play book, perhaps in response to criticism last week after the Huskers routed Arizona State 77-28.
"It's sad to say, " Graham said, "but I think Coach Osborne maybe limited himself on play-calling because of the all the talk about running up the score.
"This week we were a little more conservative. It could have been a lot worse."
Pacific Coach Chuck Shelton had no complaints.
"We got beat by an awfully good football team, and I might add, by a class program, " Shelton said. "This is a class program run by class people.
Nebraska showed its physical dominance on the game's first play.
Fullback Jeff Makovicka broke three tackles while bulling up the middle for 24 yards. Pacific cornerback Ed Atlas injured his neck trying to make the tackle, leading to a seven-minute delay as doctors strapped him to a stretcher board. X-rays were negative, and Atlas returned to the stadium to watch the second half.
Six plays later, Benning grabbed a quick option pitch from quarterback Tommie Frazier and scored on a 26-yard run for a 7-0 lead.
After three plays, Nebraska forced a punt that split end Kenny Cheatham returned 33 yards to the Pacific 17. On the first play, Benning scored on an option left to put NU ahead 14-0.
Nebraska stumbled on its third possession as Kris Brown missed a 30-yard field-goal try. But the Huskers used the option play to produce another touchdown on their next drive.
On third-and-1 from the Pacific 43, Frazier appeared boxed in by two defenders. But his option pitch was perfect to Benning, who turned it into a touchdown and a 21-0 NU lead with 1:31 to go in the first quarter.
"I had no question on whether to pitch the ball or not," said Frazier, who rushed for 62 yards and completed 6 of 14 passes for 90 yards. "I cut up, and Damon was right there waiting for it."
The Huskers opened the second quarter with two more touchdowns. Split end Reggie Baul's 17-yard punt return set up a 52-yard drive that Green capped with a 4-yard run. He finished with 112 yards on 15 carries.
On the next possession, Frazier's 19-yard pass to wingback Jon Vedral was the big play in a drive ended by Sims' 9-yard touchdown run. That put Nebraska up 35-0 with 7:46 to go in the half.
Touchdown runs of 5 yards by Frazier and 17 yards by Green put Nebraska ahead 49-0 with 7:12 left in the third quarter. Pacific's lone score came on a 12-yard pass against NU's third defense with 5:24 left in the third quarter.
When asked if the game resembled a glorified practice session, Nebraska middle linebacker Phil Ellis agreed.
"That's not to put Pacific down," he said. "It's just a game that we had to play, and we did what we were supposed to.
"We played hard all day. The younger guys got a lot of snaps and played well. And we didn't beat ourselves. Now it's time to go on and keep getting better."
|Yards per carry||3.5||8.1|
Nebraska is 2-0 all-time against Pacific.
|Oklahoma State||Aug. 31|
|Michigan State||Sept. 9|
|Arizona State||Sept. 16|
|Washington State||Sept. 30|
|Kansas State||Oct. 21|
|Iowa State||Nov. 4|
Nebraska has played 9 games on Sept. 23. See them all »
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