AMES, Iowa — It takes toughness to win on the road, Nebraska coach Bill Callahan always says, and the Huskers' show of toughness Saturday night came in the form of running the football and playing defense.
NU never allowed Iowa State to find an offensive rhythm, made yardage, burned clock with its running game and escaped Jack Trice Stadium with a 28-14 victory before 55,338.
Callahan didn't mind calling it a good job carrying out the blueprint.
"Road wins are tough to come by,'' Callahan said, "and we certainly are proud of the effort our players gave today against an all-out effort by Iowa State.''
Nebraska bounced back defensively from a weekend ago, when it allowed Kansas 574 total yards in a 39-32 overtime win. Iowa State had 194 through three quarters before finishing with 315.
The Huskers played aggressively, regularly blitzing ISU quarterback Bret Meyer. And they played differently, mixing in some dime pass coverages in which defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove put some unproven defenders in the secondary.
"I'm especially proud of our defense and how they rose to the occasion all day long,'' Callahan said. "I thought they played excellent vs. an offense that's outstanding, potent and has a lot of quality players in it.''
The Huskers countered with 251 of their 382 total yards coming via the running game. Cody Glenn ran for 148 and Brandon Jackson for 116 as NU committed to the run on a windy night in Ames, logging 36:55 in time of possession.
"I thought we did a good job,'' fullback Dane Todd said. "We started to struggle a little bit in the second half, until that final drive, so then we were thankful for our defense.''
The combination brought Nebraska its eighth win in nine games going back to last November. The Huskers improved to 5-1 and 2-0 in the Big 12, sharing the lead in the North Division it so badly wants to win.
Nebraska took the opening kickoff and turned in a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive. Leaving no doubt that the running game would be important all night, the Huskers gained 66 of those yards on the ground — including the final 3 by Glenn for a 7-0 lead.
Glenn and Jackson fueled the go-ahead scoring drive in the second quarter after ISU (3-3, 0-2) had pulled even at 7-7. Callahan said those two backs were called upon because Nebraska wanted to work between the tackles.
That kind of game plan also went over well with the Husker offensive line.
"We love hearing that,'' right guard Mike Huff said. "We get a play call, know it's a run and we talk to the back and say, 'Just follow us.'"
Good idea, said Jackson. Behind that philosophy, Glenn averaged 7.8 yards per carry and Jackson 5.3. "They really just couldn't stop us,'' Jackson said. "Our offensive line just kept pounding.''
The line took a break from pounding and turned to protecting Zac Taylor for possibly the biggest play of the game. With NU at the ISU 27-yard line and only 10 seconds left before halftime, the Huskers picked up a blitz and beat man-to-man coverage with Taylor's touchdown pass to Maurice Purify.
"I think it set the momentum, set the table, going into the second half,'' Callahan said. "Just an excellent play. We exploited the corner and let Mo go up and get the ball, which he does so well.''
Iowa State then started the second half with six consecutive scoreless offensive series.
One was stopped by an offensive pass interference penalty on Todd Blythe, which negated a 29-yard touchdown catch. Another ended with a failed fake field goal and another with an interception by Cortney Grixby.
By the time ISU scored with six seconds left, on a 13-yard pass from Meyer to Blythe, it was more than too late.
"Something we really worked on was we have to learn to finish a game,'' NU safety Andrew Shanle said. "We can start fast, but we have to finish strong. We kept that in the back of our minds.''
Nebraska had struggled offensively through the third quarter and into the fourth. But it reignited its running game just in time to strike before ISU's final possession. It was Glenn and Jackson doing the damage again, and the 28-7 lead came on Glenn's 5-yard run with 1:33 to go.
Taylor attempted just five passes in the second half, completing all five but for just 30 yards.
"We wanted to stay committed to running the football,'' Callahan said. "We weren't being stubborn, but we just felt that we had a good lead and we had run the ball effectively in the first half."
Callahan all along has been calling October the key to the Huskers' season. Three of NU's four games are on the road, and the other is at home against defending national champion Texas.
Todd said it was good to put the first win in the books.
"There are a lot of good things to take away from this game,'' Todd said. "Most important, we won. And we can start looking toward Kansas State next week.''
|Yards per carry||2.2||5.6|
Nebraska is 86-17 all-time against Iowa 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 17 games on Oct. 7. See them all »
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