Nebraska 38
New Mexico State 7

Sept. 13, 2008 • Memorial Stadium, Lincoln

1 2 3 4 T
New Mexico State 0 0 0 7 7
Nebraska 7 14 14 3 38

Degree of difficulty: Huskers play best game, gird for tougher tests

Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz catches a touchdown pass from I-back Marlon Lucky in the second quarter to give the Huskers a 13-0 lead. JEFF BEIERMANN/THE WORLD-HERALD

LINCOLN — The running game is OK. The defense is fine. Even the option is back.

Well, not so fast.

Nebraska pummeled New Mexico State 38-7 Saturday night at Memorial Stadium, answering questions — for two weeks, at least — that troubled Husker Nation after two weeks of unsteady play to open the season.

Remember this, though, in digesting a victory that moved Nebraska to 3-0 for the second time in the past five seasons: The Aggies (0-1) were the final major-college team in the nation to debut this season and probably not the best opponent by which to gauge Nebraska's progress.

Still, the Huskers piled up 330 rushing yards to more than double their previous season total. NU held pass-happy NMSU scoreless for 47 of 60 minutes and played inspired football defensively, even when ahead late by 35 points.

"The guys are starting to understand we're going to play on Saturday the way we practice," quarterback Joe Ganz said. "We're starting to get it."

Of most importance, Nebraska finished the first quarter of its schedule unscathed. The second quarter, so to speak, begins Sept. 27 right here against Virginia Tech, followed by games against Big 12 foes Missouri and Texas Tech.

"I loved the way our kids approached the game," coach Bo Pelini said. "Their attitude going into the game, their focus going into the game. We're coming. It's coming.

"I know as good as it looked, there are things we need to do better. There's a lot of room for improvement."

Ganz on Saturday joined Heisman Trophy winners Eric Crouch and Johnny Rodgers as the only Huskers to score touchdowns in the same game by catch, rush and pass.

"It would have been a lot better if I was the first," Ganz said, trying to hide a smile. "But I'll take third. Those guys are pretty good company."

The senior QB scored on a glitzy 20-yard throwback pass from I-back Marlon Lucky in the second quarter. Ganz then took an option keeper 33 yards for a touchdown.

He finished the trifecta with a 35-yard, third-quarter scoring strike to Mike McNeill on which the tight end tumbled upside down into the end zone over cornerback Davon House.

Yes, it that was that kind of a night for Nebraska before a crowd of 84,821. Signs of a blowout, in fact, were in place from the start.

With former Blackshirt superstar Grant Wistrom in the house, defensive end Zach Potter blocked a 20-yard field-goal attempt by Kyle Hughes at the end of the Aggies' game-opening march of 77 yards.

NU answered with a 12-play drive that resulted in the first errant field-goal try of Alex Henery's career. The sophomore misfired from 36 yards after 12 straight conversions over two years.

Nebraska did little else wrong.

Lucky capped the Huskers' next possession, a six-play, 58-yard drive, with an 8-yard plunge. The senior finished with 103 yards on 15 carries, by far his best showing of the season.

Running room was plentiful all night for Nebraska. NU, after posting a 3.9-yard average in its first two games, averaged 7.5 yards per carry against the Aggies' gimmicky 3-3-5 defense.

"It's what we wanted to do," said senior right tackle Lydon Murtha, back from injury after missing the first two games. "Coach (Barney) Cotton and Coach (Shawn) Watson told us that we're going to run the ball, period. And if we're not getting yards, we're still going to run it, period.

"We took that mentality tonight. We put a helmet on someone. To go out there and run the ball and keep running it, it was a lot of fun."

The Huskers led by a touchdown early in the second quarter when cornerback Armando Murillo returned an interception of New Mexico State quarterback Chase Holbrook 57 yards. Lucky's third career TD pass followed on the next play.

Ganz's 33-yard sprint on the option made it 21-0 with seven minutes left in the first half.

The Huskers stalled near the goal line just before halftime, but they delivered the knockout blow right after the break.

This time, Lucky sliced through the porous and undersized New Mexico State defense. His 58-yard run on the second play of the second half marked a career long. Four plays later, Lucky bounced into the end zone from 1 yard out to make it 28-0.

McNeill's catch and spectacular run advanced the lead to 35 points.

New Mexico State scored its lone points only after Patrick Witt, the Huskers' backup QB, fumbled a fourth-quarter snap and watched Marvin Betts return it 48 yards to the NU 3-yard line.

Marquell Colston found the end zone on the next play.

Potter said he thought the NU defenders could consider it a shutout. Carl Pelini believes otherwise.

"It's not good enough unless you get the zero," the first-year defensive coordinator said. "I told our guys not to complain about the turnover. You had a chance to stop them on the 3. If you wanted the shutout, you should've done that."


More coverage

World-Herald post-game coverage (PDF)

Box score (PDF)

Game stats

Opp NU
Penalties-Yards 7-41
Rush yards 114 330
Rush attempts 32 44
Yards per carry 3.6 7.5
Pass yards 225 223
Comp.-Att.-Int. 19-39-2 18-24-0
Yards/Att. 5.8 9.3
Yards/Comp. 11.8 12.4
Fumbles 0 1

Series history

Nebraska is 3-0 all-time against New Mexico State.

See all games »

2008 season (9-4)

Western Michigan Aug. 30
San Jose State Sept. 6
New Mexico State Sept. 13
Virginia Tech Sept. 27
Missouri Oct. 4
Texas Tech Oct. 11
Iowa State Oct. 18
Baylor Oct. 25
Oklahoma Nov. 1
Kansas Nov. 8
Kansas State Nov. 15
Colorado Nov. 28
Clemson Jan. 1

This day in history

Nebraska has played 8 games on Sept. 13. See them all »

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