#8 Nebraska 31
Troy (formerly Troy State) 16

Aug. 31, 2002 • Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.

1 2 3 4 T
Troy (formerly Troy State) 0 3 7 6 16
Nebraska 7 7 14 3 31

Trojans get big dose of Groce

Nebraska's DeJuan Groce outraces Troy State's Cedric Phillips on his second punt return for a 72-yard touchdown. His first was 83 yards. Groce also had two interceptions in the Huskers' 31-16 win. JEFFREY Z. CARNEY/THE WORLD-HERALD

LINCOLN — It was one of those nights that DeJuan Groce couldn't explain, wouldn't have guessed in a million years.

Two interceptions? Maybe. Two touchdowns on punt returns? Get out of here.

Funny, but that's what the Nebraska football team was saying to pesky Troy State in the waning stages of Saturday's 31-16 win on a night when things didn't seem quite right at Memorial Stadium, when defense and special teams had to carry Nebraska for the second straight week.

Groce didn't have a problem with that. The senior cornerback took a look at the sold-out crowd of 77,831 on Saturday night, and had one of those gosh-the-career-is-winding-down moments. Instead of getting mushy, Groce ran his way into the record books. He became the first Husker in school history to return two punts for touchdowns in a game, breaking returns of 83 and 72 yards.

Oh, and he also pulled down two interceptions, both in the first quarter. The second one, which he hauled in with his left hand, was highlight-reel material.

"I cannot recall a game where one player has had such a huge impact in a football game," Nebraska Defensive Coordinator Craig Bohl said. "He makes two interceptions and returns two punts for touchdowns? That doesn't happen very often.

"I'm glad he's on our side."

Nebraska's offense undoubtedly echoed that sentiment. One week after experiencing growing pains in a 316-yard effort against Arizona State, the Nos. 8 and 9 Huskers got outyarded 347-313 by Troy State.

No, it wasn't typical Nebraska, but Coach Frank Solich could take solace in the fact that when the offense needed to produce, it did.

The biggest possession of the game came early in the third quarter, when Troy State cut the Huskers' lead to 14-10 after a Jammal Lord fumble. Lord, the Huskers' new quarterback, calmly directed the troops on a 16-play, 91-yard touchdown drive that was capped by Dahrran Diedrick's 1-yard touchdown plunge.

Lord completed 8 of 15 passes for 114 yards and an interception. Diedrick, the lone No. 1 I-back because of Thunder Collins' suspension, had 63 yards on 15 carries.

"I'm not concerned," Diedrick said of the offense's production Saturday. "Obviously, winning is more important than anything. Even though we struggled a little bit, the wins have been convincing. We're not creeping to wins here. We're putting up big numbers and getting it done.

"It's not like we're fooling ourselves. We know that there's some things we need to work on."

Though Troy State got 73 of its yards in the final minutes against Nebraska's lower-unit defense, Bohl said the Blackshirts have some things to work on, too.

But the night was filled with some big moments for the defense. Like when sophomore linebacker Barrett Ruud broke a bone in his hand on the second play from scrimmage and came back to record a couple of tackles.

Or when Groce, who was assigned to Heyward Skipper, the Trojans' marquee player, came up with two big picks.

"I think I was kind of in a zone today," Groce said. "It's like basketball when you get a hot hand. I guess I just had the hot feet out there.

"It was kind of weird day for me. I mean, I never expected to do all of that. I just wanted to do good on defense and help the offense get the ball inside the 50. I never thought I was going to get two touchdowns."

Groce's two touchdowns tied an NCAA record, held by a number of players. His efforts didn't go unnoticed by the offense. In the locker room, NU receiver Wilson Thomas huddled the team together and gave Groce the game ball.

"Oh man, I'm going to take him out to Red Lobster or something like that," Lord said. "He saved the game."


More coverage

World-Herald post-game coverage (PDF)

Game stats

Opp NU
Penalties-Yards 3-
Rush yards 155 199
Rush attempts 41 54
Yards per carry 3.8 3.7
Pass yards 192 114
Comp.-Att.-Int. 11-29-2 8-16-1
Yards/Att. 6.6 7.1
Yards/Comp. 17.5 14.3
Fumbles 1 1

Series history

Nebraska is 4-1 all-time against Troy (formerly Troy State).

See all games »

2002 season (7-7)

Arizona State Aug. 24
Troy (formerly Troy State) Aug. 31
Utah State Sept. 7
Penn State Sept. 14
Iowa State Sept. 28
McNeese State Oct. 5
Missouri Oct. 12
Oklahoma State Oct. 19
Texas A&M Oct. 26
Texas Nov. 2
Kansas Nov. 9
Kansas State Nov. 16
Colorado Nov. 29
Mississippi Dec. 27

This day in history

Nebraska has played 6 games on Aug. 31. See them all »

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