LINCOLN — Turns out Chase Daniel was right. Nebraska is just another notch on the belt of this Missouri football team.
The fourth-ranked Tigers scored on the third play from scrimmage Saturday night and never punted in a 52-17 rout to hand Nebraska its worst home loss since 1955. Missouri needed only 59 seconds to send a message that its 16th visit to Memorial Stadium since its landmark 1978 win would, indeed, be different.
"It's my fault," first-year NU coach Bo Pelini said after the Tigers recorded their secondhighest point total in the 102-game series. "I apologize to the team. I apologize to the state of Nebraska. I apologize to everybody associated with University of Nebraska football.
"It is my responsibility. I was hired to do a job, and I didn't do the job tonight."
Daniel, the senior Heisman Trophy candidate, boasted last week that a win over Nebraska would amount to nothing more than the latest of the Tigers' ground-breaking achievements.
He completed 18 of 23 passes for 253 yards and three touchdowns and moved to 48 the season-long stretch of possessions under his guidance without a three-and-out series.
After the victory, Daniel described Nebraska as "dirty." The Huskers were penalized 14 times for 101 yards.
Clearly, though, bigger challenges await Missouri and its high-powered offense. The Tigers host Oklahoma State this week before traveling to Texas. Nebraska (3-2, 0-1 Big 12), meanwhile, dropped a second straight decision and faces a daunting trip next weekend to No. 7-ranked Texas Tech.
"I'm sick to my stomach after this game," NU quarterback Joe Ganz said. "I don't want to feel like this again. We better get this ship righted. Otherwise it's going to be another long season."
Things on Saturday started according to form for Mizzou: It won the coin toss and opted to score right away.
Daniel, the Tigers' all-time passing leader, connected on an opening-drive, third-down slant route with All-America receiver Jeremy Maclin. Maclin slipped past lunging safety Matt O'Hanlon and split safety Rickey Thenarse and cornerback Anthony West to reach the east sideline en route to a 58-yard touchdown sprint.
Could it really be that easy? Over the next 29 minutes of first-half play, Missouri offered a definitive answer.
The Tigers (4-0 overall, 1-0) scored on every offensive possession until the final seconds of the half -- and added another score on defense -- to build a 31-10 lead.
Nebraska's problems again involved a lack of execution, Pelini said, after it also broke down in that area a week earlier against Virginia Tech.
"That's my responsibility," Pelini said. "It won't happen again.
"We made too many mistakes, and that's coaching. Once again, that's my fault. You want to point a finger at somebody? Point it at me, because I'm not getting the job done."
Nebraska tried three down linemen on defense and a roving end, usually Pierre Allen, who stood slightly behind the tackles. NU also showed an unbalanced line on offense. Pelini threw blitzes at Daniel, and NU attempted to cover the Mizzou arsenal of receivers with six defensive backs.
The defeat on Saturday night, before a national TV audience and a sellout crowd of 85,372, allowed Mizzou to end a streak of six straight wins by the home team in this series.
Missouri's margin of victory, shaved by a Menelik Holt touchdown catch on the final play, still matched the 41-6 win last year as its largest ever against Nebraska.
Ganz said Pelini should not shoulder the blame.
"I don't agree with him at all," the senior quarterback said. "It was all us. He's not out there playing."
NU receiver Nate Swift agreed. "I have all the faith in the world in our coaches, " he said.
The Huskers did show some fight early. After falling behind in the opening minute, Nebraska drove 60 yards in seven plays to tie it at 7-7 on Ganz's 20-yard strike to a sliding Swift in the end zone.
Ganz threw well on the run to complete 9 of his first 10 throws. Missouri went up for good on Derrick Washington's 3-yard TD run after a 15-yard pass-interference call on Anthony West put the Tigers in position to score.
MU defensive end Tommy Chavis and tackle Jaron Baston then sacked Ganz on consecutive plays, forcing a Nebraska punt on its second possession.
NU place-kicker Alex Henery added a 28-yard field goal late in the first half, but it came only after Missouri linebacker Brock Christopher returned an interception of Ganz 17 yards for a touchdown with 2:59 to play in the first half to complete a 28-0 burst.
"I just feel like I let the other guys down," Ganz said, "and it's hard."
Mizzou scored three times in the third quarter. When former Nebraska recruit Blaine Gabbert took over at quarterback for Missouri midway through the fourth quarter, most of the stadium was empty.
So what does Pelini plan next?
"Go back to work," he said. "I've never quit at anything in my life. I'm a fighter, and we're going to come out fighting now. We have character in our locker room, and we've got to get better as a football team. That's the only way I know how to go about it."
|Yards per carry||5.9||2.3|
Nebraska is 65-36 all-time against Missouri.
|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|
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