HATTIESBURG, Miss. — Bo Pelini wrote it down and Nebraska's defensive players carried it out.
Before Thursday night's matchup with Southern Mississippi, the Huskers' defensive coordinator put a pretty demanding figure on the chalkboard with goals for the football game.
Nebraska not only forced those five but made them count in a 38-14 victory over the Golden Eagles. Three led directly to Husker scoring, producing 21 points before a record 36,152 at M.M. Roberts Stadium.
"We feel that whatever he asks for, if he thinks we can do it we know we can do it, too," NU cornerback Lornell McPherson said. "We believe in ourselves just as much as we believe in him."
Pelini's magic number and Jammal Lord's magic arm — at least for a few plays Thursday night — carried Nebraska to 4-0. After going 1-5 on the road a year ago, the 11th- and 15th-ranked Huskers won their first game away from Memorial Stadium in 2003.
Such defense is becoming commonplace. Such offense is too often missing.
But in a third-quarter span of 112 seconds Thursday night, at least it made an appearance.
Lord threw touchdown passes of 44 yards to Ross Pilkington and 43 yards to Isaiah Fluellen on back-to-back series. That turned a 17-7 lead into a 31-7 advantage.
Knowing Southern Miss would be playing aggressive defensively, NU Coach Frank Solich thought Lord and the Husker offense would get its chances to throw downfield.
"They were pretty well set up for a couple of those," Solich said. "They were committing to the run. That was obvious."
In between those TDs was Southern Mississippi's third of five turnovers. Quarterback Dustin Almond fumbled a snap and linebacker Barrett Ruud recovered.
Nebraska has forced 15 turnovers in four games. At this rate, Pelini's going to keep putting those big numbers on the board.
"We're so motivated by Coach Pelini because he means what he says and he says what he means," said free safety Jerrell Pippens, who had a fourth-quarter interception. "We're kind of wired like he's wired. He's intense and he's a highly motivated guy, and I think we feed off his energy."
Like the previous three games, the Huskers lived off defense and unbelievable field position throughout the first half. Lord was having a hard time, completing just four passes and getting sacked twice, and was even spelled by freshman Joe Dailey for a second-quarter series.
Then the quarterback who hadn't thrown a TD pass in Nebraska's first three games got hot. On the first one, Southern Miss defenders bit on Lord's pretty play fake and Pilkington sprinted clearly behind them.
"They didn't really have any safeties back there, and we've got some speed at receiver," Lord said. "We just haven't used them yet. This game was a breakout game for the receivers."
But before and after those plays, Nebraska again seemed to lack quick-strike ability. In the Huskers' last game, they threw just six passes in an 18-10 win over Penn State.
Pilkington said that might have helped matters Thursday night.
"They saw that game last week and I think the last thing they wanted to do was let us run all over them," he said. "They did great with it, put up a valiant effort. But we made our plays."
Southern Miss (2-2) didn't make many against NU's defense.
The Eagles went 111/2 minutes before getting a first down. Almond didn't complete a pass until midway through the second quarter.
But it was the turnovers that deflated a rowdy USM crowd, draped in black and gold and wielding thunder sticks. The fireworks before the game were more impressive than those in it for the Eagles.
Ryon Bingham recovered an Almond fumble on Southern Miss' opening series. Josh Bullocks' fourth interception of the season came on the Eagles' third possession.
"We knew coming in that they would have a lot of energy, " Pelini said. "We wanted to match it. That's how you get turnovers - a lot of guys flying around, a lot of hats around the ball."
Solich said the 17-0 lead NU already had less than eight minutes into the game was "critical."
Nebraska's defense, allowing a nation-leading 208.0 total yards a game, gave up 319. Weakside linebacker Demorrio Williams led the way with 10 tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery.
"It was a great win, but the main thing is you've got to be ready to go back to work Monday," Williams said. "We've still got a lot more football to play, and we haven't accomplished the goals we want to accomplish right now."
|Yards per carry||3.0||3.1|
Nebraska is 5-1 all-time against Southern Miss.
|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 11 games on Sept. 25. See them all »
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