LINCOLN — Baylor proved to be little more than a speed bump Saturday on Nebraska's road to Oklahoma.
The top - ranked Huskers tuned up for this Saturday's showdown with the Sooners by dominating hapless Baylor 59-0. In winning before a crowd of 77,959, the 237th straight sellout crowd at Memorial Stadium, Nebraska set a school record by blitzing the Bears for 38 points in the first quarter.
"We wanted to come in with a knockout blow right from the get-go, " Husker Defensive Coordinator Craig Bohl said. "We wanted to make a statement and knock them out of the boat. Our guys had that mentality, they bought into it and we accomplished that."
With apologies to Yogi Berra, Saturday's game was over long before it was over. In fact, the Huskers found themselves ahead 21-0 after running just six offensive plays.
Keyuo Craver blocked the first of Baylor's 11 punts and recovered the football in the end zone to give Nebraska a 7-0 lead 2 minutes and 48 seconds into the game. After Baylor got its second punt off, Nebraska needed Dan Alexander runs of 30 and 15 yards to make it 14 - 0 with 11:24 to play.
After the Bears' next possession ended with a fumble at their 15-yard line, Nebraska needed just four plays to hike its lead to 21-0 on Alexander's 2-yard scoring run. And it didn't get any better the rest of the way for the 2-5 Bears, who finished with just 84 total yards while running their string of shutout minutes to 192.
Baylor's total yardage was the lowest since Nebraska held Kansas to 48 yards in a 35-0 win in 1997. The Bears finished with a net total of 5 yards rushing on 27 attempts. They never got closer than 44 yards from Nebraska's goal line as the Huskers recorded their first shutout of the season and fourth since Frank Solich took over as head coach in 1998.
"It was vintage Nebraska defense," said Baylor Coach Kevin Steele, who spent six seasons as the Huskers' linebackers coach. "There are no points on the board. There are very little rushing yards and very little passing yards. That is pretty typical for them."
Nebraska combined its suffocating defense with an offense that produced 508 yards, 459 of which came on runs from 15 different ballcarriers. Nebraska unofficially used 115 of the 132 players who suited up for the game, with most of the starters seeing action in just the first half.
The notable exception was starting quarterback Eric Crouch, who played just the first quarter. The junior from Millard North had accumulated his share of bumps and bruises in Nebraska's first six games, and he said he actually welcomed the opportunity to watch backup Jammal Lord take most of the snaps in the game's final 45 minutes.
"I played only one quarter, and I know it kind of sounds like not a lot," Crouch said. "But it was enough for me. I have been here for awhile and I have experience. I don't think this is going to hurt me. As a matter of fact, I know it's not going to hurt me.
"It's important that I stay healthy and that's one of the reasons I came out."
Before leaving, Crouch directed Nebraska on scoring drives on its first five possessions of the game. Combined with Craver's punt block, that left the Huskers with a 38-0 lead that broke the school record of 35 points in a quarter that was set against Oklahoma State in 1988 and equaled against Arizona State in 1995 and Iowa State in 1997.
Lord helped unbeaten Nebraska finish off its fourth Big 12 Conference win of the season, its seventh overall and its nation's-leading 13th in a row over the past two seasons. The win also assured Nebraska of its 39th straight winning season, which is second all-time behind Alabama's 42 in a row (1889-1932).
The Huskers will find their bid for their eighth win of 2000 more of a challenge against an Oklahoma team that is 6-0 and ranked third and fourth in the national ratings. The Sooners, who were off Saturday, will be trying to close an October run that includes impressive victories over nationally ranked Texas and Kansas State.
"It will be no small feat to go down there and try to get it done on their home field," Solich said.
But rush end Kyle Vanden Bosch said back-to-back victories over Texas Tech and Baylor, by a combined score of 115-3, leaves Nebraska much better prepared than it was two or three weeks ago. The Huskers have held their past three opponents to 61 rushing yards on 64 carries.
"Starting the season at No. 1, we took a lot of things for granted," said Vanden Bosch, whose team-leading six tackles against Baylor included three for losses. "We kind of had a gut-check these last couple of games. We really wanted to come out and prove something. Our offense, our defense, our special teams — everybody's hungry right now."
The Huskers tore into Baylor with ferocity, holding the Bears to 1 total yard in the first 15 minutes. Nebraska, which ran the same number of offensive plays in the period (20), had 189 yards. Crouch rushed for 46 yards on five carries, and completed 2 of his 6 passes for 23 yards.
Alexander finished with a game-high 104 yards on 14 carries, while Correll Buckhalter had 76 yards, Dahrran Diedrick 69 and Judd Davies 61 (on two carries). Overall, Nebraska averaged 6.9 yards on its 67 rushing, pushing its nation's-leading rushing average to 379.7 yards per game.
Nebraska's total yardage output marked the fourth time this season that the Huskers have had 500 or more total yards. Three of those performance have come in succession — Iowa State (500), Texas Tech (540) and Baylor (508).
"We had that feeling today that we probably could have run anything we wanted to," Crouch said. "That's the way that we like it. Our offensive line has shown throughout the whole year that it can dominate a game.
"This game is won in the trenches, and I can't praise our line enough."
Nebraska followed its quick opening burst with a 33-yard field goal by Josh Brown, a 14-yard touchdown run by Crouch and Buckhalter's nifty 36-yard scoring run with 40 seconds in the quarter to take its 38-0 lead.
When Nebraska took possession for the first time in the second period, Crouch was on the bench and Lord was at the controls of the offense.
"It wasn't easy on our guys today to play just a quarter or to get as few snaps as they got," Solich said. "This is a very energized group, and they want to show what they can do on every snap.
"But if you look at the rest of our schedule, it will be a very demanding stretch. I think it probably a good game for us in terms of trying to get some guys healed up."
Lord directed the Huskers on an 80-yard drive, scoring on a 2-yard run on the 12th play to make it 45-0. Nebraska hiked its lead to 52-0 when Buckhalter scored his second touchdown on a 7-yard run 2:04 before halftime.
Diedrick scored the only touchdown of a second half that left parents of countless Nebraska reserves overjoyed.
"We have not been in one of these type of ballgames this season," said Solich, who substituted in waves in the final two quarters. "There's a lot that goes into this kind of game. You always want to try to make sure that you have momentum throughout the game and you're doing the right thing for your players in terms of trying to get everybody some playing time."
The parade of reserves saw seven I - backs, seven fullbacks and seven tight ends see action for the Huskers. The Huskers used 22 different players in the secondary.
"It was good to see some of those young guys get a chance to get in there and play," Husker linebacker Carlos Polk said. "I think today shows just how much depth this team has."
The Huskers now will turn their attention to getting ready for Oklahoma. The players maintained after Saturday's game, as they did in the days leading up to it, that Baylor had their undivided attention.
"This whole week, we focused on Baylor," Polk said. "We knew that if we overlooked Baylor that Oklahoma week wouldn't be as special as it's going to be now."
Taking care of business assured that this indeed will be a special week for the Huskers and the Sooners. After not playing each other for the past two seasons because of the Big 12 scheduling format, Nebraska and Oklahoma renew a rivalry that once was as intense as any in college football.
"The coaches made sure we did a good job of not overlooking anybody," Vanden Bosch said. "But Oklahoma is a game that was looming over us. There has been a lot of talk in the media, a lot of talk by the fans.
"We did a good job of focusing in on this game, and I think it showed on the field today."
|Yards per carry||0.2||6.9|
Nebraska is 11-1 all-time against Baylor.
|San Jose State||Sept. 2|
|Notre Dame||Sept. 9|
|Iowa State||Oct. 7|
|Texas Tech||Oct. 14|
|Kansas State||Nov. 11|
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