LINCOLN — Louisiana Tech’s record-setting passing show Saturday failed to spoil the coming-out party Nebraska threw for Frank Solich.
The Huskers relied on offensive efficiency to make up for some defensive deficiencies in registering a 56-27 victory over the Bulldogs in the Eddie Robinson Football Classic at Memorial Stadium. The win, before the 221st consecutive sellout crowd of 76,021, provided Solich with a successful debut as Nebraska’s 26th head football coach.
“There were a lot of things going on with this first game, and I thought we dealt with them fairly well,” rush end Chad Kelsay said.
“There was a lot of tension with this being Coach Solich’s first game.
“We wanted to get this victory for him. Now, we’re going to have to go out each week and get better.”
The biggest improvements, based on Saturday’s game, will need to come defensively. The Huskers recorded their 43rd straight home victory in spite of surrendering 590 yards passing, 405 of which were produced by the 21 times Louisiana Tech quarterback Tim Rattay hooked up with wide receiver Troy Edwards.
Edwards set an NCAA record for receiving yards in a game. After talking a big game before the contest, he backed his words with a performance that included touchdown catches of 48, 94 and 80 yards.
“He kept telling us that we couldn’t cover him and that he was the best,” free safety Mike Brown said. “And he is the best.”
But Edwards’ heroics couldn’t help the Bulldogs — five-touchdown underdogs coming into the game — pull off the upset of the third- and fourth-ranked Huskers. And while the Huskers defenders were tossing around words such as “embarrassed” after the game, they did so as winners for a 15th straight game and the 61st time in the past 64 games.
“Rattay and Edwards are truly great players,” Solich said.
“People have had trouble slowing them down, and we did also. But all in all, it was a win. We’re delighted about that, and now we’re ready to move on."
The Huskers countered Louisiana Tech’s air game with an offense that scored on six of its first seven possessions. The Huskers also got a 99-yard kickoff return from Joe Walker, one of five first-half scores that helped them build a 35-6 advantage after 30 minutes.
Bobby Newcombe, in his debut as Nebraska’s starting quarterback, completed 9 of 10 passes for 168 yards and one touchdown. Fellow sophomore Correll Buckhalter, also making his first start, ran for 143 yards on 19 carries, two of which ended with touchdowns.
Nebraska finished with 462 yards and averaged 6.7 yards per snap.
“The offense has been scrutinized a lot coming into this game,” said tight end Sheldon Jackson, who caught two passes for 94 yards.
“To score as many points as we did shows a lot for the guys.”
Nebraska paved its way to the win by building a 29-point halftime lead through a combination of offensive efficiency and Walker’s dazzling kickoff return. The Huskers scored on all four of their first-half possessions, driving 70, 60, 63 and 64 yards for scores.
Walker pitched in his touchdown following Louisiana Tech’s lone score of the half. He took the kickoff at the 1, zipped up the near sideline and followed a devastating midfield block by fullback Willie Miller into open territory. The 99-yard return by Walker’s was Nebraska’s first kickoff return for a touchdown since Kenny Cheatham ran 85 yards for a score against Oklahoma in 1996.
The Huskers wasted little time in scoring their first touchdown, taking the opening kickoff and driving 70 yards in three plays.
Joel Makovicka and Shevin Wiggins each ran for 12-yard gains before Newcombe found tight end Sheldon Jackson running free behind the Louisiana Tech secondary. The pair hooked up on a 46-yard scoring play that put Nebraska on the board 48 seconds into the game.
Nebraska followed with a time-consuming, 16-play drive on its second possession. Buckhalter accounted for 35 of the 60 yards on four carries, one a 17-yard gain that gave Nebraska a first down at the Bulldogs’ 2-yard line.
Newcombe scored four plays later, and the second of Kris Brown’s five first-half point-after kicks gave the Huskers a 14-0 lead with 5:58 left in the first quarter.
Nebraska made it 21-0 two minutes into the second quarter when Willie Miller capped a 63-yard drive with an 8-yard run. Miller ran three times for 24 yards on the drive, and backup I-back Dan Alexander carried five times for 17 yards. Newcombe chipped in a 6-yard run and completed a 16-yard pass to tight end T.J. DeBates on the second play of the drive.
Louisiana Tech, limited to nine plays and 17 yards on its first two offensive possessions, came back with a 16-play drive that produced its touchdown. Rattay accounted for all but 7 yards of the drive, completing nine passes to a variety of receivers.
He hooked up with Sean Cangelosi, barely beating the Nebraska blitz, on a fourth-down pass from the Nebraska 1 for the touchdown.
Kevin Pond’s point-after attempt hit the right upright, giving the Huskers a 21-6 lead with 7:14 to play.
Walker’s kickoff return, the Huskers’ longest since Tyrone Hughes’ 99-yarder against Kansas State in 1990, hiked Nebraska’s lead to 28-6 just 17 seconds later. The Huskers made it 35-6 when Newcombe scored on a 1-yard sneak with 2:41 left in the half.
Newcombe and Jackson again teamed up for the big play of the drive, a 48-yard completion that gave Nebraska a first down at the Louisiana Tech 1-yard line.
The Bulldogs closed first-half action by driving from their 13-yard line to the Nebraska 20. But Chad Kelsay’s 10-yard sack on the final play of the half ended Louisiana Tech’s threat and sent the Huskers to the locker room with a 35-6 lead.
Nebraska held a 256-149 advantage in total yards at halftime in spite of running seven fewer plays than the Bulldogs.
Louisiana Tech scored on its opening possession of the second half, with Rattay and Edwards combining for 67 of the 80 yards on the march. Edwards’ catches of 12 and 7 yards produced first downs early in the drive, and he took a short pass from Rattay and turned it into a 48-yard touchdown on a third-and-seven play from the Nebraska 48.
Rattay’s two-point conversion pass to Cangelosi made it 35-14 with 12:58 to play in the third quarter.
Edwards and Rattay stunned the crowd six minutes later, teaming up for the longest pass completion against the Huskers in 22 seasons. Two plays after Lance Brown had downed a Nebraska punt on the Louisiana Tech 6-yard line, Rattay found Edwards streaking down the sideline. The receiver took the pass at about the 40 and outraced two Husker defenders to the end zone.
Ponds’ conversion kick pulled the Bulldogs within 35-21 with 7:06 remaining. Newcombe helped the Huskers counter by marching Nebraska 77 yards in nine plays, with Alexander getting the touchdown on a 4-yard run. Buckhalter gained 28 yards on the drive, including 19 on three rushes that preceded Alexander’s score.
Rattay and Edwards closed out Louisiana Tech’s scoring with an 80-yard pass play with 12:45 to play. Buckhalter’s 43-yard touchdown run, with 1:24 left, gave Nebraska its final score.
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Video: Nebraska-Louisiana Tech game footage (via YouTube)
|Yards per carry||-1.5||5.2|
Nebraska is 2-0 all-time against Louisiana Tech.
|Louisiana Tech||Aug. 29|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 3|
|Texas A&M||Oct. 10|
|Iowa State||Nov. 7|
|Kansas State||Nov. 14|
Nebraska has played 2 games on Aug. 29. See them all »
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