AMES, Iowa — The reeling Huskers sure started Saturday's game like a team determined to end its elongated stretch of futility.
They didn't necessarily finish it that way but managed to do just enough in the second half to leave Ames with a convincing 35-7 win over Iowa State before 48,794 fans at Jack Trice Stadium.
It's the first road victory for Nebraska since Wake Forest last year and their first win anywhere in more than a month, ending a three-game losing streak and pumping some confidence through a team not ready to quit on 2008.
"I'm happy for these kids," coach Bo Pelini said. "You lose three in a row . . . there's some groups of kids that would have said, 'I'm done.' There was never any sense of that."
That was especially true early.
After one half, the Huskers, up 21-0, looked on their way to maybe their easiest win of the year. They had accumulated 349 yards and scored touchdowns on drives of 92, 85 and 71 yards.
The NU defense had barely allowed Iowa State to move, forcing five consecutive punts and giving up just 45 yards. The Cyclones' longest play from scrimmage was a 12-yard completion.
The Huskers could only blame themselves for not making the score as lopsided as the statistics might have indicated. By halftime, they had fumbled four times, losing two.
"We left some plays on the field," senior quarterback Joe Ganz said. "We left some yards on the field. We left some points on the field. We're still not there, but I thought we played a great game."
Ganz, finishing 27 for 37 for 328 yards, managed an offense that was about as precise and efficient as its performance in last week's near-upset of Texas Tech.
Ganz used senior Nate Swift to help take advantage Iowa State's not-so-subtle plan to slow the ground game. The Cyclones brought extra defenders up, so Ganz and Swift got going.
The two connected on a 19-yard touchdown pass with 5:27 left in the first quarter, giving Nebraska a 7-0 lead.
"Whenever you get in a rhythm like that, things just kind of start happening for you, especially when the ball keeps moving and first downs keep coming," said Swift, who caught three passes on the touchdown drive and finished the day with eight receptions.
Nebraska countered Iowa State's aggressive defense with screen passes, option plays and a even little trickery. Senior Marlon Lucky took two direct snaps while Ganz lined up as a receiver. Lucky scored the Huskers' third touchdown on one of those.
And when Nebraska wanted to go conventional, its trio of Ibacks — Lucky, Quentin Castille and Roy Helu — found enough openings to combine for 210 rushing yards.
"I think we came out of this football game better than we were going in, and that's progress," Pelini said. "But like I just told the team, we still have a long way to go."
The third quarter couldn't have been any better proof of that as NU gave Iowa State a chance to crawl back into the game.
The Huskers had two consecutive three-and-outs after halftime. They punted again on their next possession and turned the ball over on the first play of their fourth second-half drive.
But Iowa State couldn't take advantage of the sputtering Husker offense. Its lone scoring highlight came on the second play of the third quarter, when running back Alexander Robinson ran 67 yards for a TD.
After that, senior defensive end Zach Potter said, the NU defense right settled back in.
"They had a long run on us," Potter said. "But we forgot about it right away and we came out and we played good ball the rest of the game."
Potter, leading an active defensive front, recorded Nebraska's first sack since the Virginia Tech game when he dropped Iowa State quarterback Austen Arnaud in the first quarter.
The defense also ended its lengthy stretch without turnovers, recovering two fumbles.
Senior Armando Murillo picked up the football after Pierre Allen poked it away from an Iowa State receiver right next to the sideline late in the third quarter, Nebraska's first forced turnover since Sept. 13.
But it was junior Rickey Thenarse's hit that ended up jumpstarting the Husker offense.
On a fourth quarter punt return, Thenarse jarred the ball loose from punt returner Devin McDowell with about 10 minutes left, setting up Ganz and his teammates on the Cyclone 38.
Nine plays later, Ganz scored a touchdown on a 1-yard run, in effect the score that sealed the win.
|Yards per carry||4.2||5.4|
Nebraska is 86-17 all-time against Iowa State.
|Western Michigan||Aug. 30|
|San Jose State||Sept. 6|
|New Mexico State||Sept. 13|
|Virginia Tech||Sept. 27|
|Texas Tech||Oct. 11|
|Iowa State||Oct. 18|
|Kansas State||Nov. 15|
Nebraska has played 19 games on Oct. 18. See them all »
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