LINCOLN — The pattern had become somewhat predictable in Nebraska's first seven football games.
You had the defense that hardly budged. The offense that sometimes barely moved.
Their successes and failures had been the story for the 11th- and 14th-ranked Huskers.
How to shake it up? Maybe add a new twist to the script?
Two blocked punts led to 14 points as NU shut out Iowa State 28-0 to swipe the Big 12 North Division lead. Previously this season, that unit hadn't touched a kick, so Husker Coach Frank Solich emphasized it during the week.
Josh Bullocks and Demorrio Williams carried it out Saturday before a Memorial Stadium crowd of 77,483.
"We can pretty much win just about any way the coaches want us to," Bullocks said. "It all boils down to the players and how bad they want to get it done."
Nebraska's ongoing search for the perfect game brings them to a challenging November schedule.
Nobody's doubting that the defense will show up next Saturday at Texas. But can the Huskers count on the same special teams play and an offense that came into Saturday ranked 10th in the Big 12 and 69th nationally, then did nothing to move up the statistical ladders?
"It's got to be all three," NU center Josh Sewell said. "That's the way football is. It's not just offense or defense or special teams. It's all three of those together. When they come together, that's how you win."
The defense's second shutout and the blocked punts took all the pressure off the offense Saturday. Backup quarterback Joe Dailey played the last two series of the second quarter and all of the second half, giving rest to banged-up starter Jammal Lord.
But there was an anticlimactic feel to it all after what happened in the first quarter.
When Iowa State's second possession stalled, Bullocks barged in from the right side and drove blocker Nick Linder backward. Hardly leaving the ground, he reached out with his right hand to deflect Tony Yelk's kick.
Taking over at the ISU 19, Nebraska coughed and sputtered its way to the 1-yard line before Lord scored on a fourth-and-goal play for a 7-0 lead.
At 14-0, Williams came from the left side, pushed back Steve Paris Jr. and did the same thing as Bullocks did. This block bounced free, and Bullocks returned it 26 yards for the touchdown and a 21-0 advantage.
Jeff Jamrog, NU's special teams coordinator, said the Huskers called for the team block on the first punt. They turned loose Williams on a one-man mission on the second.
"Their get-off time was actually decent going into the game," Jamrog said of ISU. "But we wanted to be more aggressive, wanted to take some chances, and the guys came through with that."
In addition, Iowa State (2-6, 0-4 Big 12) failed on a fake punt in the second quarter on the way to a sixth straight defeat.
In between the blocked punts, Nebraska had its best flash of offense. The Huskers covered 79 yards in just three plays, capped by Isaiah Fluellen's 39-yard touchdown run on a reverse.
Not much else could have thrilled the 261st consecutive sellout crowd. Dailey never put NU (7-1, 3-1) in the end zone, but he was one of many backups who picked up playing time.
The Huskers finished with 317 total yards, their second-lowest total of the season. With Fluellen gaining 78 yards on five carries, he became the first receiver since Curtis Craig in 1977 to lead NU in rushing.
The defense threw in its usual effort, allowing just 230 total yards and forcing three more turnovers. Three of the Huskers' last four opponents have now failed to score a touchdown.
"When the defense is playing hot, that's good," said offensive tackle Dan Vili Waldrop. "But — and I know it's already midseason or whatever — I know we can play better offense than we have previously. We're just looking for that click. As soon as we get going, it'll be good."
Offensive Coordinator Barney Cotton said Lord is just dealing with the "normal nicks and bruises." Solich said Dailey was "not great, not poor" in his longest stint of the season.
As most wearing red pointed out, however, Kansas' loss at Kansas State leaves Nebraska in the North Division lead with a chance to control its own Big 12 destiny.
"It was a quick start by us, but not certainly the finish we were looking for," Solich said. "You try to gather momentum as you go through a game. That was not the case on this one, but I was pleased that we were able to get this one done."
|Yards per carry||2.3||5.2|
Nebraska is 86-17 all-time against Iowa State.
|Oklahoma State||Aug. 30|
|Utah State||Sept. 6|
|Penn State||Sept. 13|
|Southern Miss||Sept. 25|
|Troy (formerly Troy State)||Oct. 4|
|Texas A&M||Oct. 18|
|Iowa State||Oct. 25|
|Kansas State||Nov. 15|
|Michigan State||Dec. 29|
Nebraska has played 18 games on Oct. 25. See them all »
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