WACO, Texas — Traditionalists, you've had your day.
Count Greg Austin in that camp. The junior guard with the strong will and bad knees came to Nebraska in 2003 when a satisfying offensive day meant 400 rushing yards and a heap of bruised defensive egos.
Saturday was Austin's shining moment.
"I came here to run the football," Austin said. "Running the ball is like a boxing match. You're going round for round — pound, pound, pound. You're slowly wearing people down. That's exactly what we did to them."
The Huskers ran the ball 36 of their 44 second-half snaps and battered the Baylor Bears in a 23-14 win.
Nobody in Big 12 country will look twice. Nobody will demand the Huskers crack the Top 25. But NU took a baby step back to its old form, notching its first conference road win since Frank Solich's last hurrah at Colorado in 2003.
Nebraska has struggled for a year and a half to bury trailing opponents — remember Southern Miss and Pitt in 2004? This time Bill Callahan took NU back to its roots.
Afterwards, Huskers were talking about the Bears' fatigue, an element in which players of old took pride.
"I think it's important to run on the road," said Callahan, whose team matched its 2004 win total. "You've got to be able to show a physicality."
The green and gold perennial Big 12 doormat came in two wins shy of bowl eligibility, fresh off a win at Iowa State. But Baylor showed it's still Baylor, committing 11 penalties.
Nebraska, meanwhile, showed a different side.
NU threw it 55 times against Iowa State two weeks ago. The Huskers ate up 37:12 of clock Saturday, running the ball for 182 yards on 51 attempts, the most in the Callahan era. Cory Ross got 26 of those carries for 93 yards against a defense that stacked the tackle box with eight defenders.
"We're going to try to get multiple formations and run and throw the football," offensive line coach Dennis Wagner said. "I think that's what we've done the last three weeks: mix things up and keep the defense off balance. They don't know what's coming or where."
Initially, Nebraska didn't, either. Before a crowd of 40,857, Baylor took the opening kickoff and stormed 81 yards for a score.
Quarterback Shawn Bell twice converted third-and-long in his own territory. The Bears moved into the red zone before Cortney Grixby picked off a pass at the 2-yard line, seemingly halting the drive.
But Jay Moore roughed the passer and the Bears got a reprieve. Moments later, Blake Tiedtke was charged with pass interference on third-and-goal from the 11.
Bell wrapped up a 14-play, seven-minute drive on the next play when he scrambled into the end zone.
"We didn't get off to the fast start we wanted to on the road," Callahan said. "But I really thought we responded well. We thought there'd be a little bit of an assault we'd have to absorb."
Nebraska's first possession netted 18 plays and seven minutes before stalling. Jordan Congdon drilled a 41-yard field goal to make it 7-3.
Callahan anticipated a tight game the past week and stressed special teams. They became relevant early in the second quarter when Husker punt returner Cortney Grixby found a seam at midfield and raced through Baylor coverage untouched for 48 yards to the Bears 9-yard line.
Zac Taylor hit Terrence Nunn on third-and-goal for a 4-yard score.
Nebraska, which led 13-7 at halftime, tweaked its strategy at the break. After throwing on 60 percent of first-half snaps, NU pounded the Baylor defense with Ross, Cody Glenn and Marlon Lucky.
On the opening second-half drive, Taylor scrambled and found open receiver Todd Peterson in the back corner of the end zone for a 20-7 lead.
"When you've got a quarterback of that ability that has a feel for seeing the field, you've got something special," Callahan said.
That 21-yard completion was the only pass on a drive that was reminiscent of the last time Nebraska visited Waco; four Huskers surpassed 100 rushing yards that day.
These Huskers didn't come close to those statistics, but their ground attack kept the clock rolling and the Blackshirts off the field.
Their 14-play, 56-yard drive early in the fourth quarter — it ended in Congdon's third field goal — included 13 rushes.
That was all the Blackshirts would need. Kevin Cosgrove's defense rebounded from the shaky start and consistently hounded Bell, sacking him four times.
The result: A questionable NU secondary held up despite a few hiccups. A ball-control offense helped Corey McKeon and the Blackshirts. They get tired, too, you know.
"We had a lot of times early in the year where we were back on the field five or six times in a quarter," McKeon said. "You can't have that to have a championship team."
|Yards per carry||2.2||3.6|
Nebraska is 11-1 all-time against Baylor.
|Wake Forest||Sept. 10|
|Iowa State||Oct. 1|
|Texas Tech||Oct. 8|
|Kansas State||Nov. 12|
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