MANHATTAN, Kan. — Nebraska safety Andrew Shanle obviously hadn't seen the final box score when told how often the Husker defense had made Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman throw Saturday night.
"Forty-seven times?'' Shanle said, with a hint of amazement. "That's the route to go with a freshman quarterback.''
That's the route for the defense, anyway.
Nebraska jumped ahead, forced Kansas State to become one-dimensional and thrust Freeman into situations the Wildcats didn't want for him at Bill Snyder Stadium. That led to a predictable finish as the Huskers rode a 21-3 victory to the top of the Big 12 North football standings entering Saturday's showdown with Texas.
"All we really wanted to do was shut down the running game,'' Shanle said. "And when that happens, it forces them into passing situations. But anytime you have a freshman quarterback throwing it up that many times, that's good for us.''
Toss in another fast start by the offense and the Huskers had the necessary mix to stop their four-game losing skid in Manhattan and post the 800th win in school history. With Missouri's loss at Texas A&M, NU (6-1) is leading the North Division at 3-0.
"Like I mentioned this spring, in preseason training camp and also going to Iowa State (last week), these two road games in the Big 12 North were key, crucial,'' NU coach Bill Callahan said. "This was huge. This was absolutely huge for being at the midway point of the season.''
It had an especially sweet taste considering the whole Freeman saga.
The 18-year-old out of suburban Kansas City had committed to Nebraska last summer only to renege in December when new K-State coach Ron Prince came calling. By last weekend, Freeman already had joined the KSU starting lineup and was seen rallying the Wildcats to a 31-27 win over Oklahoma State.
There was no rally Saturday night before a crowd of 50,723.
Freeman threw for a career-high 272 yards, but was intercepted twice, sacked four times and pushed into a corner by the NU defense.
Against OSU, Freeman threw eight passes in the first three quarters. Against NU, that figure was 31.
"We just didn't give him enough support to really let him set his feet and make some terrific throws over and over again,'' Prince said. "We couldn't put enough of those together, in sequence, to put some drives together.''
Here's why: Nebraska scored on its first and third offensive possessions for a 14-0 lead, and by halftime had proven that Kansas State wasn't going to be able to run the football.
The Wildcats (4-3, 1-2) finished with just 22 rushing yards after deducting the 35 yards in sacks. Tailback Leon Patton accounted for just 13 yards on 12 carries.
"Take away the run and you can dictate what an offense is going to do,'' Shanle said. "And I think our defense did a great job of that tonight.''
K-State was able to put together two or three decent second-half drives, but Freeman and the Wildcats weren't able to finish. Back-to-back NU sacks limited KSU to a field goal on one, and the next two were stopped by Ndamukong Suh's interception and Barry Cryer's pressure forcing a Freeman fourth-down incompletion.
Of Kansas State's 42 second-half plays, 34 were passes, and four others were called pass plays on which Freeman wasn't able to get a throw off.
"In order to win that ballgame, time was running out so they knew they had to throw,'' NU defensive end Jay Moore said. "It was just an opportunity for us to get to him even more.''
Nebraska's offense got to K-State quickly Saturday night, scoring first for the seventh straight game and putting up a touchdown on its first offensive series for the fourth consecutive week.
Junior I-back Brandon Jackson had a 48-yard run to trigger NU's opening drive, although the KSU defense stiffened in the red zone. Instead of trying a field goal, the Huskers faked and holder Jake Wesch rolled right and threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to tight end Hunter Teafatiller.
Callahan credited his assistant coaches for designing a play they thought might work because the Wildcats showed a tendency to go after kicks. Wesch, a walk-on kicker and former high school quarterback, lobbed a ball that he was told later was a nice spiral.
"I don't even remember,'' he said.
Nebraska tacked on a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive starting the second quarter. After a 24-yard bootleg run by quarterback Zac Taylor on fourth-and-2, Taylor threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Josh Mueller.
Taylor for the second straight week was asked to throw a modest number of passes — 21, with 12 completions for 149 yards.
"That's the idea with the offense: We want to be able to run when we need to and be able to throw when we have to,'' NU offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. "Every game's different. You know, we can throw it. We came out the Kansas game and threw long. The last couple games we've run it and used timely throws.''
As it did last weekend at Iowa State, the offense slowed down after a nice start but protected the football. It did provide another score with I-back Marlon Lucky's 40-yard run midway through the third quarter for a 21-0 lead.
Then the Huskers hopped on the bus and left Manhattan with a victory for the first time since 1996.
"It's good to get that record out of the way so people will stop talking about how we haven't won down here,'' Taylor said. "Now we have, and hopefully we can start a new streak here.''
|Yards per carry||1.2||4.4|
Nebraska is 78-15 all-time against Kansas State.
|Louisiana Tech||Sept. 2|
|Nicholls State||Sept. 9|
|Troy (formerly Troy State)||Sept. 23|
|Iowa State||Oct. 7|
|Kansas State||Oct. 14|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 28|
|Texas A&M||Nov. 11|
Nebraska has played 18 games on Oct. 14. See them all »
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