LINCOLN — When the Nebraska offense needed a helping hand again Saturday, Demorrio Williams wrapped two around Utah State and squeezed.
Out came the football.
Out came the remedy for some larger problems.
And out went the life from Utah State.
Nebraska bagged the Aggies 31-7 at Memorial Stadium, jumping on the back of its defense for the second straight week. Just like Williams jumping on the back of Utah State quarterback Travis Cox.
"He's been in position to make plays, and he's made them," NU Defensive Coordinator Bo Pelini said. "Now it'll be interesting to see how teams adjust to him. Teams are going to have to account for that guy."
Utah State didn't, or couldn't, Saturday before a crowd of 77,284 — the 257th consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium. Once the Aggies lost containment on the senior linebacker, they coughed up their surprising 7-6 second-quarter lead.
In a span of two Utah State snaps, Williams blazed around left tackle Donald Penn, blindsided Cox and forced fumbles. Williams recovered the first and left the other for teammate Titus Adams.
The NU offense turned one into a touchdown and the other into a field goal, nine points that relieved some tension and gave the Nos. 23 and 24 Huskers a 15-7 lead before halftime.
"Whatever I can do to contribute, I want to do," said Williams, who added another second - quarter sack and finished with eight tackles. "I'm not a guy who wants to leave it on somebody else's shoulders.
"I don't feel like I'm a game-changer. I just want to be able to step up."
The rest of the afternoon turned a little boring until freshman quarterback Joe Dailey debuted in the fourth quarter. Coming out of halftime, Nebraska (2-0) had a 10-play, 74-yard touchdown drive, but then only jabbed Utah State (0-2) with field goals instead of the knockout punch.
It was somewhat similar to last week's 17-7 win over Oklahoma State, when the NU defense scored one TD and set up another, while the offense moved the football but wasn't very efficient when it came time to score.
It might look like the offense owes the defense some favors, but offensive tackle Dan Vili Waldrop hopes it all balances out as the season goes on.
"We're all doing this for one purpose, to get a win," Vili Waldrop said. "If the offense does good and the defense does bad, there's no favor owed, as long as we won.
"But I will have to go see Demorrio after this game and see how many sacks he had. He was killing them out there."
NU again put Williams in a rush end spot on some passing downs. It was from that three-point stance that the 6-foot-1, 215-pounder pounced on Cox and covered the fumble on the USU 1-yard line midway through the second quarter.
Fullback Judd Davies scored on the Huskers' next offensive play to take the lead away from Utah State, ranked last among 117 NCAA Division I-A teams in Sports Illustrated's preseason magazine.
"We don't have an athlete like him," Utah State Coach Mick Dennehy said of Williams. "He's a difference - maker, and those two turnovers he caused were a major, major difference in this game."
With its unconventional offense, Utah State moved the ball for much of the first quarter (145 total yards). But on seven of the Aggies' last 10 possessions, they didn't even make a first down.
Before Williams' sack attack, free safety Josh Bullocks' interception on a Utah State trick play spoiled an Aggie chance to get inside the NU 10.
In two weeks, the Husker defense is allowing 210.5 total yards a game and has forced eight turnovers.
"That means they're in the right spots, they're breaking on balls, they're very confident," NU Coach Frank Solich said. "They know what they're doing. That's a great sign."
Utah State's passing game riddled Nebraska for a while Saturday. When Cox connected with Chris Cooley on a 41-yard TD pass, the junior was 10 for 11.
The adjustments from there, Pelini said, were all within an already simple game plan. A little less zone, a little more pressure, a lot more Demorrio Williams.
"I think that wore on them a little bit, the pressure that we started to get as the game went on," Solich said. "Demorrio had a great game for us, really for the second week in a row."
Offensively, Nebraska picked up 405 total yards, and Jammal Lord and Dailey combined to complete 12 of 17 passes. Tight end Matt Herian and receiver Ross Pilkington were favorite targets.
"It might not be a giant step, but I know we at least took a baby step with throwing the ball today," Offensive Coordinator Barney Cotton said.
Settling for the four field goals clearly bothered Solich. As did NU's two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
Now Penn State is set to visit on Saturday night after the Nittany Lions drilled the Huskers 40-7 last year.
"This wasn't the kind of game, as it went on, that you felt real comfortable with," Solich said. "There were just enough things that weren't crisp, real sharp, to the point where it was a little bit frustrating."
|Yards per carry||2.6||4.3|
Nebraska is 8-0 all-time against Utah 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 4 games on Sept. 6. See them all »
©2019 BH Media Group