Nebraska 56
Western Illinois 17

Sept. 4, 2004 • Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.

1 2 3 4 T
Western Illinois 0 3 14 0 17
Nebraska 14 28 7 7 56

A work in progress: Huskers sizzle, then stumble

Nebraska’s offensive line gives quarterback Joe Dailey time to throw as he launches a pass toward I-back Cory Ross, No. 4. Dailey passed for four touchdowns. REBECCA S. GRATZ/THE WORLD-HERALD

LINCOLN — Before Joe Dailey threw his four interceptions Saturday night, he fired four touchdown passes.

Before Nebraska's sophomore quarterback was held to 5 yards passing in the second half, he piled up 213 in the first.

The discrepancy during the Huskers' 56-17 win over Western Illinois might have shown both the fragility and potential that Dailey and the West Coast offense have to offer in Coach Bill Callahan's first season. How good Dailey and the system can be, yet how many kinks remain.

"I know he's a little down for how he finished the game,'' Callahan said. "But I'm very upbeat and very positive about where he can take us during this season.''

Nebraska finally took its new offense for a spin Saturday night, and the 60-minute test drive was a combination of smooth maneuvering, wild swerves and even a wreck or two.

Dailey at times looked like he had the hang of it, having a hand in six touchdowns (four passing, two rushing). At times he showed his inexperience behind the wheel.

"I don't think I got greedy. I think I was just very excited,'' Dailey said. "I had a first-half high, and I wanted to just continue rolling. That's what happens when you try to play outside the system.

"Very uncharacteristic of me. I'll do everything in my ability to make sure it doesn't happen again.''

Nebraska fans would surely take a repeat of what happened for much of the first half before a Memorial Stadium crowd of 77,471.

Western Illinois, an NCAA Division I-AA team, fell behind 14-0 as Nebraska scored on its first two possessions. The Leathernecks trailed 35-0 with 10 minutes left in the second quarter and had to be wondering if the trip was worth the $350,000 check.

But the Huskers let up with a barrage of turnovers (six) and special teams blunders (at least six). That offset some of the enthusiasm coming from Dailey's success and the running of Ibacks Cory Ross (13 carries, 125 yards) and Tierre Green (seven for 112, two TDs).

"It was good, all in all,'' Callahan said. "It was a good way to start. I'm very realistic of where we're at in this victory. I know that next week we've got a greater challenge ahead of us (Southern Mississippi), but it was good to get off on a positive note.''

Nebraska started out with a six-play, 79-yard scoring drive that Dailey capped with a 6-yard touchdown run. The Huskers followed with a 13-play, 85-yard march that Dailey finished with a 5-yard pass to tight Matt Herian.

Both Herian and receiver Willie Amos caught two first-half touchdown passes. With the four TD passes and two scoring runs, Dailey tied Calvin Jones and Gerry Gdowski for the singlegame school record of six.

But Dailey undid some of his work with the four interceptions. The first was thrown into double coverage, and the last as he was going out of bounds and should have taken the lost yardage.

"He made a couple mistakes there, but every quarterback does that,'' Herian said. "I don't know if you want to call it inexperience, but he hasn't played a lot, and all that matters is that he learns from that and gets better every week.''

Dailey finished 15 of 30 passing for 218 yards. That eclipsed the NU record for passing yards in a season opener -- 168, shared by Jerry Tagge (1970) and Bobby Newcombe (1998).

NU's 363 rushing yards was its best total since the 2002 season. But Callahan acknowledged that the Huskers' offensive line had several mismatches with the Western Illinois defense.

"I'm telling you, that's what the West Coast offense is,'' Ross said. "We're going to hit you big for passing, we're going to hit you big for running.''

The Nebraska defense limited Western Illinois to 220 total yards. The Huskers sacked WIU quarterbacks seven times.

NU won its 19th straight season opener, the longest active streak in Division I-A. The Huskers did it with eight new starters, including four on the offensive side.

"We wished we could have finished a little better,'' sophomore center Kurt Mann said. "But it's the first game of the year, and we've got a long way to go.''


More coverage

World-Herald post-game coverage (PDF)

Game stats

Opp NU
Penalties-Yards 6-55
Rush yards -3 363
Rush attempts 35 39
Yards per carry -0.1 9.3
Pass yards 223 218
Comp.-Att.-Int. 20-42-4 16-31-4
Yards/Att. 5.3 7.0
Yards/Comp. 11.2 13.6
Fumbles 1 2

Series history

Nebraska is 1-0 all-time against Western Illinois.

See all games »

2004 season (5-6)

Western Illinois Sept. 4
Southern Miss Sept. 11
Pittsburgh Sept. 18
Kansas Oct. 2
Texas Tech Oct. 9
Baylor Oct. 16
Kansas State Oct. 23
Missouri Oct. 30
Iowa State Nov. 6
Oklahoma Nov. 13
Colorado Nov. 26

This day in history

Nebraska has played 5 games on Sept. 4. See them all »

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