LINCOLN — Nebraska's football team relished the thought Saturday that it might have proved as many points as it scored against Kansas.
One week after its loss at Oklahoma, Nebraska got the kind of feel-good performance it so sorely needed in a 56-17 homecoming humbling of a Kansas team that won't be the worst the Huskers face this season. Nebraska just made the Jayhawks look that way, piling up 493 yards rushing and setting the tone with six scores on its first seven possessions.
"We really needed this," Nebraska rush end Kyle Vanden Bosch said. "All week long, we couldn't wait for Saturday to come around because we wanted to get back out on the field and prove to everybody, and to ourselves, that we could still be a dominant team.
"We let one get away from us last week, so we felt that we needed to really convince ourselves, convince our fans and everyone around the country that we were still capable of coming out and dominating a game for four quarters."
The fifth-and sixth-ranked Huskers did exactly that in winning before a record crowd of 78,096, the 238th consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium. Nebraska, which improved to 8-1 and 5-1 in the Big 12 Conference North Division, rolled up 562 yards of total offense and held Kansas (4-5, 2-4) to 266-144 of which came in the final quarter.
The Nebraska starters spent most of the second half cooling their heels on the sidelines, although the No. 1 defense made a cameo appearance after Kansas scored a couple of late touchdowns against the reserves. Nebraska punter Dan Hadenfeldt didn't even see the field Saturday, except to hold for Josh Brown's eight point-after kicks.
The black-and-white of the statistics sheet clearly underscored the Huskers' dominance, but what it couldn't show was the significance of the performance. Granted, Nebraska overwhelmed the Jayhawks, but that's happened with regularity over the past 32 years — which is how long it's been since KU last beat NU on a football field.
With a trip to suddenly resurgent Kansas State looming next Saturday, offensive tackle Jason Schwab was asked, is there any danger that the victory over Kansas served only to cover some of the blemishes that were exposed by the 31-14 loss to Oklahoma?
No, Schwab replied confidently.
"We tripped, we had a bad game and we didn't come through in the Oklahoma game," Schwab said. "But you can't count us out. We're a very dangerous team when we're hitting on all cylinders, and that's what we intend to do from here on out."
I-back Dan Alexander seconded Schwab's postgame analysis. As good as it felt to win again, Alexander said, the memory of what happened at Oklahoma will prod the Huskers.
"We're not going to take this game and say, 'Hey, we're great now and we can relax,'" Alexander said. "We definitely know that we have things to work on. This game was a great game for getting things done and establishing the run again.
"But we still know that we have a ways to go. We want to make sure that when we play a great team, like Oklahoma, that we want to make sure we're ready. We don't want a repeat of last week. This win is fresh in our minds, but that loss a week ago is even fresher in my mind. We need to build off this. This game was like, 'Hey, we won, but that's to be expected.' We have to keep on doing this."
Specifically, Alexander wants Nebraska to continue showcasing the power running game that pulverized the Jayhawks. A good portion of Nebraska's 493 rushing yards — its second-highest total this season — came on runs between the tackles against a Kansas defense that was allowing just 97.6 yards on the ground in conference play and 119.2 yards per game overall.
Nebraska's rushing total was the most gained against Kansas in Terry Allen's four seasons as coach.
"That was the most dominating Nebraska football team that I have seen," said Allen, who previously absorbed losses of 35-0, 41-0 and 24-17 to the Huskers. "They just totally took it to us offensively."
Said defensive tackle Nate Dwyer: "They just seemed to be one or two steps ahead of us the whole game."
Leading the charge with 100-yard rushing games were quarterback Eric Crouch, Alexander and Correll Buckhalter. Crouch carried 13 times for 127 yards, scoring four touchdowns in the process. Alexander rammed through the Kansas defense for 119 yards on 15 carries, and Buckhalter added 100 yards on 16 carries, one a 4 - yard touchdown run.
It marked only the second time in school history that Nebraska has had three players rush for 100 yards in the same game. Steve Taylor, Ken Clark and Terry Rodgers achieved that feat in 1988 against Arizona State.
The 229-yard total for Alexander and Buckhalter were 187 more than the two senior I-backs produced on 14 carries against Oklahoma. The Sooners held Nebraska, which leads the nation in rushing offense, to 195 yards on the ground.
"The plan was to make them stop our power game, make them stop our option game," Nebraska Coach Frank Solich said. "Our intent was to use our big running backs, who I thought ran very, very strong. I thought our line blocked well, our receivers blocked well and, in general, just came off the ball well."
Seven other Huskers had at least one carry, including crowd favorite Thunder Collins, who had a career-high 48 yards on six rushes. Overall, Nebraska averaged 6.8 yards per rush, which allowed it to use its passing game only when needed — if then.
Crouch completed all three of his passes for 15 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown toss to tight end Tracey Wistrom. Backup Jammal Lord was 4 of 5 for 54 yards, the longest being a nifty 27-yard completion to fullback Judd Davies.
Crouch's rushing production allowed him to break Taylor's school record for rushing yards by a quarterback. Crouch now has 2,152; Taylor finished with 2,125. Crouch's 142 total yards also raised his career total to 4,945, pushing him past Taylor for fourth on Nebraska's total-offense chart.
And Crouch's four touchdowns tied the school record for scores by a quarterback in one game.
"I feel very honored to be in a group of elite players who have been there and done that," Crouch said. "It's not easy being a running quarterback — you pick up a lot of bumps and bruises. To be able to do that is a big accomplishment on my part."
Saturday's best accomplishment, as far as Crouch was concerned, was the win, which kept the Huskers one game ahead of Kansas State in the Big 12 North race.
"We need to come out and prove ourselves game after game, and it started today with Kansas," Crouch said. "We had a good week of practice. The energy was high. The tempo was there. We did what we needed to do, coming off a big loss like we had, and I'm proud of everyone on this team."
Crouch's first three touchdowns, on a pair of 1-yard sneaks and a 3-yard run, put Nebraska ahead 21-0 with 1:42 left in the first quarter. Kansas managed to cut the deficit to 21-3 on Joe Garcia's 45-yard field goal, which came seven plays after the Jayhawks recovered a muffed punt near midfield.
Crouch countered by taking Nebraska on a seven-play, 80-yard drive that ended with his 3-yard pass to Wistrom. At that point, the Jayhawks should have known it was time to pack up and leave — Crouch's wobbly pass bounced off the fingers of Kansas defenders Carl Nesmith and Marcus Rogers into Wistrom's waiting arms.
Nebraska's next possession lasted 11 plays, covered 89 yards and ended with a 1-yard Crouch touchdown run. That put Nebraska ahead 35-3 with 1:41 left in the half, and the Huskers scored on their opening possession of the second half to make it 42-3 on Buckhalter's 4-yard touchdown run.
Lord directed a pair of scoring drives, getting a touchdown on a 5-yard run six seconds before the end of the third quarter. Davies' 3-yard run, with 9:14 to play, was Nebraska's last score of the day but his first as a Husker.
Davies sandwiched his touchdown in between Kansas scores by Dylen Smith, on a 6-yard run, and Reggie Duncan, on a 2-yard run. Too little, too late for a Kansas team that once again proved to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
For the 10th time since 1968, and the third consecutive season, Kansas ran into a Nebraska team that was smarting from a loss. Once again, the Huskers put the hurt on the Jayhawks.
"The main thing was just coming in here and getting the win," Husker defensive back Keyuo Craver said. "We just had to come in, take care of business and rise to the occasion. That's what we did, and now it's time to start preparing for Kansas State."
|Yards per carry||3.3||6.8|
Nebraska is 91-23 all-time against Kansas.
|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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