LINCOLN — In its first two games, Nebraska's No. 1 offense scored a total of five touchdowns.
Saturday night, the eighth-and ninth-ranked Huskers' top unit rolled to five TDs in the first half to start a 44-13 victory over Utah State.
"Boy, we needed that," right tackle Dan Vili Waldrop said.
Indeed, the Huskers' offense needed to find its groove heading into this week's road game at Penn State.
An all-time record crowd of 78,176, the NCAA-record 250th consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium, watched as the 3-0 Huskers scored on their first three possessions to build a 17-0 lead in the first 101/2 minutes.
They scored 20 more points in an 11-minute span of the second quarter.
The good that came out of scoring on six of nine first-half possessions was tempered by an offensive slowdown that saw the Huskers score just once on six series in the second half.
"The second half was a little more frustrating for us than the first," Coach Frank Solich said. "It was partly bad field position at the beginning of the second half, but we didn't help ourselves trying to get the ball out of there."
After seeing his team pile up a season-high 418 yards-104 more than its average-Solich found much more positive than negative in this game.
Unlike the first two games, the Huskers were given some room to work. Arizona State and Troy State crowded the line of scrimmage with eight or nine defenders, and sometimes all 11.
The 0-2 Aggies mostly played the Huskers straight-up in the first half. In turn, quarterback Jammal Lord was given time to operate the passing game. He completed four of his first five attempts and finished 6 of 12 for 105 yards.
Mike Stuntz played most of the second half and completed 2 of 3 passes for 25 yards.
"There were some things we were able to do in the throwing game," Solich said. "The percentage was pretty good and what we got out of it was pretty good. But we can get better and finer in that area."
Lord, who ran for two touchdowns and passed for two others, opened Nebraska's first offensive series with a 9-yard swing pass to split end Wilson Thomas in the right flat that went into the statistics as a run. He later connected with Dahrran Diedrick on a short pass before Josh Brown kicked a 44-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
Two possessions later, Lord completed a 23-yard pass for a touchdown.
Lord would have completed four in a row to start the game if Thomas, who had two steps on the USU defensive back, hadn't dropped a sure touchdown pass near midfield.
Lord's fourth pass of the game, on the first play of the second quarter, came on play-action and went for a 33-yard touchdown to true freshman tight end Matt Herian, who was five yards ahead of USU safety Derrek Shank.
"We showed that if you want to come up and press us on the run, we can go over the top," Lord said.
Utah State recorded two sacks, one against the No. 1 offensive line.
"I think the young line is coming," Solich said. "That showed well today at times in pass protection, as well as coming off the ball."
As usual, the Huskers' running game set up the pass. NU ran for a season-high 288 yards.
"This game was really crucial for the offense to get underneath its belt for confidence," center John Garrison said. "We've been kind of dabbling and almost breaking it out in each game. We just haven't gotten there yet. This was a game that enabled us to do that."
Lord, who completed just 2 of 6 passes after halftime, said the offense was better than it appeared in the first two games.
"We didn't struggle," Lord said. "The first two games, it's hard when all you see is eight, nine men in the box."
Lord & Co. can expect to see Penn State test them this week.
This was, after all, Utah State they were playing Saturday.
Are the Huskers ready?
"We don't have a choice," Lord said. "Come on Saturday and see. If not, it'll show."
|Yards per carry||2.3||5.3|
Nebraska is 8-0 all-time against Utah State.
|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|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 19|
|Texas A&M||Oct. 26|
|Kansas State||Nov. 16|
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