LAWRENCE, Kan. — Nebraska made itself feel right at home Saturday night at Memorial Stadium South.
Playing in front of a red - clad horde of Husker fans that made up more than half of the sellout crowd of 50,750 at Kansas' Memorial Stadium, second-ranked Nebraska methodically ground down the Jayhawks and extracted a 51-7 Big 12 Conference victory. By the time the game ended, NU fans outnumbered the locals by at least a 3-to-1 count.
"Before the game, we were joking around whether this was a home game or not," Nebraska I-back Dahrran Diedrick said. "We had more people than they did. When we're on offense, we can hear everything.
"That twists the whole home-field advantage to us. Our crowd was cheering so loud it disrupted their offense."
Not that Nebraska's defense needed much help in coming just six minutes shy of posting its first shutout of the season. Kansas gained just 203 yards, averaged 3.4 yards per snap and had three turnovers. Thirteen of the Jayhawks' 59 plays produced negative yardage, and they had only one of 15 possession last more than seven plays.
Kansas went into halftime with a grand total of 6 yards on 24 plays and had not snapped the ball once in Nebraska territory.
"To be honest with you, it was somewhat difficult to go into halftime and talk about making a lot of different adjustments," said Craig Bohl, Nebraska's defensive coordinator. "We just tried to encourage our players to keep on playing well. We need to strive to get better and better."
For Kansas, the biggest adjustment might be what the Jayhawks could be facing in the next day or two. Speculation about Coach Terry Allen's job security, already a hot topic in these parts, reached torrid levels Saturday when the Lawrence Journal - World reported that the Nebraska game might be Allen's last.
KU officials made no official announcements before or after Saturday's game, although it is believed that a move could be made soon, perhaps as early as today. Asked if he will be the Jayhawks' coach next week when they play at fifth-ranked Texas, Allen replied, "As far as I concerned I will be, until I hear something different."
Saturday's loss dropped Kansas to 2-6 and 1-5 in Big 12 Conference play. It also left Allen with a 20-33 record eight games into his fifth season at Kansas. Under his direction, Kansas has endured five straight losing seasons.
Meanwhile, Nebraska, the No. 1 team in the Bowl Championship Series standings, improved to 10-0 for the fifth time since 1990 and for the 11th time overall. The Huskers, winners of 12 straight since last season's loss at Kansas State, will close out their home schedule Saturday with a game against the rejuvenated Wildcats.
Kansas State had opened its Big 12 season with four straight losses but has posted back-to-back wins over Kansas and Iowa State to improve to 4-4 overall.
"Nebraska-Kansas State is always a big game, and this one is going to be a big battle for us," Husker defensive tackle Jeremy Slechta said. "They're really starting to play well now. It's going to be the same thing as tonight. We're going to have to try to come out and get on them early."
While Nebraska's defense was sharp from the start, the Huskers struggled a bit to get moving offensively against a Kansas defense that ranked 91st nationally in total defense. Nebraska's first two possessions ended in a punt and a missed field goal by Josh Brown — he would make his final three attempts — and the first quarter ended scoreless.
That led Allen to congratulate each one of his defensive players, either with a handshake or a pat on the pads, as the teams switched ends of the fields. Two plays into the second quarter, the Jayhawks surrendered the first of Nebraska's six touchdowns, this one coming on a 10-yard run by Diedrick.
The Huskers led by 20 at halftime, added an Eric Crouch touchdown in the third period and then buried the Jayhawks with a 24-point final quarter that saw Nebraska score touchdowns on a 71-yard punt return by Ben Cornelsen, a 38-yard run by Diedrick and a 33-yard run by backup quarterback Jammal Lord.
When it was over, Nebraska had 448 yards, 284 coming on the ground against a KU defense that had been surrendering an average of 229.4. Nine of the Huskers' 15 possessions ended in scores, they had to punt just five times and they averaged almost 6 yards per play.
Yet, the Nebraska offensive players found themselves packing some "is-that-all-there-is?" feelings as they boarded the buses for home.
"I'm not frustrated," quarterback Eric Crouch said. "Teams are going to give us their best shot. Kansas did that today. We scored 51 points today. I'm happy. I'm not going to complain about that.
"There are some things that we know we can get better at. We played good football tonight, but we didn't play great football. That gives us something that we can improve on for next week."
Crouch, considered by some the frontrunner in the race for the Heisman Trophy, threw together what ranks as an average game this season. He passed for 164 yards, completing 14 of 24 throws with no interceptions, and he rushed for 49 yards on 13 carries. His score came on a 1-yard run that hiked Nebraska's 20-0 halftime lead to 27-0 with 9:29 left in the third period.
Crouch completed passes to six receivers. Eight Huskers carried the ball, with Diedrick leading the parade with 136 yards on 21 carries. The output pushed Diedrick's season total to 1,097 yards.
"Dahrran's had two excellent games in a row," said Nebraska Coach Frank Solich, referring to Saturday's effort and the 90-yard game Diedrick had Oct. 27 against Oklahoma. "If you look at the number of tackles he's run through and the yards after contact that he's gotten in the last two games, you'd have to be very impressed with his play.
"It's easy to recognize the guy who goes 60 or 70 yards when everything is blocked. We didn't get everything blocked well today. Dahrran had to run through some things, and he did it to make some plays work to keep drives alive. He's battled all season long, and we're proud of the way he's played."
Diedrick's first touchdown ignited a 20-point second quarter that also saw Nebraska score on a 21-yard run by Thunder Collins — one play after a 50-yard punt return by Keyuo Craver — and on field goals of 32 and 43 yards by Brown.
The latter capped a nine-play drive in the final one minute and 55 seconds of the first half. Crouch completed four passes, including a 17-yarder to Jon Bowling and an 18-yarder to John Gibson, in moving the Huskers from their 10-yard line to the Kansas 26.
"That drive was important for us," Crouch said. "It gave us some momentum in this game, and it showed that we're a team that can move down the field on every drive, even in a last-minute situation like that. Something like that is going to be beneficial down the road, as well as being beneficial today."
Crouch's third - quarter score made it 27-0, and Brown ignited Nebraska's strong finish with a 32-yard field goal with 14:08 to play. Cornelsen, from nearby Shawnee, Kan., made it 37-0 with his 71-yard punt return for his first touchdown as a Husker.
"This means a lot, coming close to home," Cornelsen said. "But it also means a lot because it's my first. This is something I'll always cherish and, hopefully, I'll get a chance to get some more."
Diedrick made it 44-0 when he scored his 12th touchdown of the season, running 38 yards for the score with 9:47 left. Kansas ruined Nebraska's hopes for a shutout when Zach Dyer's 4-yard pass to Adrian Jones produced the touchdown that capped a drive that produced 80 of the Jayhawks' 203 total yards.
"When you get down to where there's only four or five minutes left in the game, it's disappointing not to get the shutout," Slechta said. "It hurt to see them score like that."
Jones' touchdown came with 5:50 to play, but Nebraska countered one last time, with Lord finishing off a the Nebraska's offensive production with his 33-yard scoring run at the 3:39 mark.
For Solich, Nebraska's performance earned passing grades in all aspects of the game.
"We're delighted with the effort of our football team," Solich said. "We could have executed a little better in some areas tonight, but all in all, the effort's been great.
"We were able to move the ball on offense. We put points on the board. Sometimes the expectation is that we'll put points on the board on every drive. That's not the way the game works. Our defense has been outstanding, and our special teams have been playing excellent football. That all adds up to a pretty good team, but we have a lot of pretty good football teams to play starting with Kansas State."
|Yards per carry||3.0||5.6|
Nebraska is 91-23 all-time against Kansas.
|Troy (formerly Troy State)||Sept. 1|
|Notre Dame||Sept. 8|
|Iowa State||Oct. 6|
|Texas Tech||Oct. 20|
|Kansas State||Nov. 10|
|Miami (FL)||Jan. 3|
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