LINCOLN — Seven straight touchdown drives Saturday night in which the longest play was a pass — yes, a pass — helped fifth-ranked Nebraska pound Kansas 63-7.
The Huskers, who entered the game rated third nationally in rushing and 104th out of 111 teams in passing with a 114-yard average, threw for 220 yards in the first half and 273 for the game. The total was NU’s third highest in the past 23 years.
“The perception out there is that we can’t throw it or catch it,” Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne said. “But I’ve been seeing things in practice that lead me to believe we can.”
Among them is NU quarterback Scott Frost, who had been the lowest-rated passer among starting quarterbacks in the Big 12.
But the junior completed 12 of 16 passes against the Jayhawks for 254 yards — 43 yards short of Dave Humm’s school record set in 1973 against Wisconsin. Frost threw for three touchdowns, just one short of his total in the Huskers’ first six games. Two of his incompletions were intentional spikes to stop the clock.
In six first-half scoring drives, the longest plays were Frost passes of 41, 34, 20, 31, 24 and 18 yards. Those plays helped put Nebraska ahead 42-7.
On the first Husker possession of the third quarter, Frost’s 34-yard strike to split end Brendan Holbein-who caught two touchdown passes-set up the second of Frost’s rushing touchdowns, a 9-yarder.
Frost’s 289 yards of total offense (254 passing and 35 rushing on six carries) was 20 yards short of Jerry Tagge’s school record of 319 set in 1971 against Missouri.
“Scott Frost played very, very well tonight,” Osborne said. “He threw the ball well, ran the ball well and ran the team well.
“There is no question that he’s got the skills to be an outstanding quarterback. We’re really pleased with him tonight and have been generally satisfied all year. I thought he played his best game.”
Defensively, the Huskers saw their string of consecutive quarters without allowing a touchdown stopped at 15 when KU quarterback Matt Johner hit split end Isaac Byrd with a 77-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. The only longer string in Osborne’s 24 years was 20 straight quarters in 1979.
But the Jayhawks had minus-5 yards rushing through three quarters, and finished the game with only 209 total yards (21 rushing, 188 passing).
The total picture for Nebraska was good enough Saturday night that Osborne said the Huskers are back in the hunt for the national championship.
“We’ve been struggling a little trying to figure out whether we were solid on both sides of the ball or not,” he said. “Tonight, at least, we were.
“I feel good about our team. I feel like we’ve got a chance to make a run at it. A week ago, I wasn’t sure.”
The victory, before a crowd of 75,158 at Memorial Stadium, was NU’s 34th straight at home, a string that began in 1991. That broke the school record of 33, set from 1901 through 1906.
Nebraska now is 6-1 overall and tied for first in the Big 12 North Division with Colorado at 4-0. Kansas fell to 3-4 and 1-3 in the Big 12 North.
Osborne said the breakthrough in the passing game will serve Nebraska well the rest of the season.
“It might back people off a little bit,” he said. “They may not crowd the line of scrimmage as much as recently.”
Ironically, Nebraska’s top-flight passing performance came on a night when the wind was gusting from 30 mph to 45 mph out of the southwest.
“Maybe we should root for tornado-like conditions when Colorado comes in,” joked NU free safety Eric Stokes. “Our guys were great. Frost was really in a zone, and the receivers were running down everything.”
Nebraska’s decision to open the game by kicking off with the wind nearly backfired.
The NU defense forced a punt after three plays, but Octavious McFarlin dropped the kick and the Jayhawks recovered at their 33.
Seeing a turnover on Nebraska’s first touch of the ball following five miscues last week at Texas Tech made Osborne nervous.
“I never like to see the ball on the ground,” he said,”particularly with our decision to kick off. We hoped to get them three and out and get the ball in great field position.”
The Huskers forced another punt in three plays. But the Nebraska offense went three downs and out on its first possession.
Kansas held the ball for six plays before punting again. Nebraska was penalized for an illegal block in the back on the return, pushing the Huskers back to their 19.
But NU raced 81 yards in nine plays to score. Frost’s 41-yard bomb to tight end Vershan Jackson got the ball to the KU 25. Six plays later, on third-and-four from the 8, Frost found tight end Sheldon Jackson in the back of the end zone. Kris Brown’s extra-point kick gave NU a 7-0 lead with 2:56 to go in the first quarter.
Nebraska stuffed Kansas in three plays again, putting the Jayhawks’ first-quarter yardage total at 20 in 15 plays.
“Those first few series really set the tone,” Stokes said. “It took their heart away. It was all downhill after that.”
Nebraska used the pass again to set up its next touchdown.
Frost drilled a 34-yard pass to split end Kenny Cheatham to the KU 28. Four plays later, I-back Ahman Green took an option pitch and scored untouched from 11 yards to put NU up 14-0 with 14:29 to go in the half.
After the kickoff, it took Kansas one play to give the ball up and Nebraska one play to score.
NU rush end Jared Tomich caused and recovered Jayhawk tailback Eric Vann’s fumble at the KU 20. Then Frost hit Holbein on a wide receiver screen, which Holbein broke up the middle for a touchdown and a 21-0 Husker lead with 14:08 to go in the half.
Kansas bounced back in 10 seconds. Johner hit Byrd with a 77-yard touchdown bomb over cornerback Ralph Brown to close to 21-7 with 13:58 to go in the half.
That was the first offensive touchdown against Nebraska since the second quarter of the Colorado State game-four weeks and 15 quarters ago.
“I didn’t even know we had a streak going,” Stokes said. “We’ve just been playing hard every week. We’ll keep playing hard and leave the stat-keeping to you guys.”
Nebraska came right back to score in seven plays. Again, the big play ofthe drive was a pass- this time a 31-yarder from Frost to split end Jeff Lake to the KU 38. After fullback Joel Makovicka raced 23 yards, Frost ran 10 yards on an option right to score and put NU up 28-7 with 10:47 to go in the half.
Wingback Shevin Wiggins got Nebraska started on a fifth straight touchdown by returning a punt 29 yards to the Kansas 49.
After Frost hit Vershan Jackson with a 24-yard pass to the 14, the Huskers scored in five plays. I-back DeAngelo Evans ran in from the 1 to make it 35-7 Nebraska with 4:48 to go in the half.
Then in the final 1:20 of the first half, Frost completed five passes on a 62-yard drive. The last one was a 15-yard touchdown to Holbein for 42-7 lead.
In the third quarter, touchdown runs of 9 yards by Frost and 10 by I-back Damon Benning put NU up 56-7.
Fourth-string fullback Josh Cobb scored on a 5-yard run with 8:37 left in the game to give Nebraska a 63-7 lead.
Osborne said the sharpness of Nebraska’s play reflected the preparation for the game.
“I thought all week that they practiced well,” he said. “I thought the focus and concentration the past 24 hours was much better than at Tech.
“We seemed to be more sure of what we wanted to do-be a great football team.”
|Yards per carry||0.7||5.1|
Nebraska is 91-23 all-time against Kansas.
|Michigan State||Sept. 7|
|Arizona State||Sept. 21|
|Colorado State||Sept. 28|
|Kansas State||Oct. 5|
|Texas Tech||Oct. 19|
|Iowa State||Nov. 16|
|Virginia Tech||Dec. 31|
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