SEATTLE — Nebraska was starting to have the kind of game in which the offense can’t get out of the huddle and back to the line fast enough.
Already having gouged the Washington defense for significant yards both rushing and passing, NU started taking them almost strictly by land.
“You have success and you just want to keep going with it,” I-back Rex Burkhead said. “You kind of run the same plays over and over, and if you’re having success then you keep doing it.”
So simple and yet so savage, it worked well Saturday. Nebraska slammed through the Huskies for 383 rushing yards on the way to a 56-21 victory that should further warn future defenses of the Huskers’ intentions.
Nebraska at one point ran the football on 32 of 33 snaps, straying from a game plan that initially called for balance. The Huskers punished Washington time and again at the point of attack, then broke one every so often on the perimeter.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez ran for 137 yards and three touchdowns in his first road start. I-backs Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead added 110 and 104, respectively, marking only the fifth time in school history that three Huskers went over 100 rushing in the same game.
“It got to the point where they just kept running the same mid-line play where they kept just gashing us in the middle,” Washington safety Nate Fellner said. “Gashing us, gashing us ... and then we come inside and they get us with something on the outside. Their game plan was pretty impressive.”
Nebraska pounded Washington for 533 total yards in scoring its most points in a nonconference road game since winning 59-14 at Illinois in 1986. With the help of close to 20,000 NU fans in attendance, it neutralized the impact of a Husky Stadium crowd of 72,876.
In building a 21-7 lead, NU (3-0) actually had nearly twice as many passing yards (125) as running yards (69). It included Martinez throwing a 24-yard score to Mike McNeill — his first career TD pass — and a 55-yard completion to Brandon Kinnie.
After a Cody Green fumble led to a Washington touchdown, however, the Huskers pretty much took the guesswork out of its attack.
It started with Nebraska calling eight straight running plays on the drive that put it back ahead 28-14.
“When we kind of established the line of scrimmage and the ability to run the football, we stayed with it,” NU coach Bo Pelini said. “You've got to just stay with what’s working for you. There’s no sense in forcing something when you can run the ball and control the clock.”
After Martinez started the second half with an 80-yard touchdown run, Nebraska started pounding the middle again. As it was just getting going, however, Helu broke free on a 65-yard run that bumped the lead to 42-21 with 12:06 still left in the third quarter.
Up front, the Husker starting line of Jeremiah Sirles, Keith Williams, Mike Caputo, Ricky Henry and D.J. Jones was taking over. Washington was blitzing about 75 percent of the time, NU assistant coach Barney Cotton said, and the Huskers countered with simplicity.
“We've been trying to establish that up front for the last three years, and little by little I think we maybe chip away at it,” Cotton said. “That’s been our goal this year. We want to be a more physical line up front.”
Across the way Saturday, Helu said, it was starting to show.
“Running the ball is really physical,” Helu said. “So to have that presence — and to look over at the other side of the ball and just see a bunch of guys who don’t want to play no more — I think that’s probably the biggest thing.”
Martinez threw eight of his 11 passes in NU’s first five series. The last two throws — on a fourth-quarter drive that made it 56-21 — were third-down completions of 11 yards to Helu and 14 yards to Kinnie.
The offensive success might have overshadowed the defensive job done against Washington and quarterback Jake Locker. The senior completed just 4 of 20 passes for 71 yards, with 45 of those coming on a third-quarter touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse.
Eric Hagg intercepted Locker’s first throw to set up Martinez’s scoring pass to McNeill. Alfonzo Dennard then picked off another in the third quarter that the cornerback returned 31 yards for a touchdown.
“I thought it was a good effort, front to back,” Pelini said.
|Yards per carry||4.5||7.1|
Nebraska is 5-4 all-time against Washington.
|Western Kentucky||Sept. 4|
|South Dakota State||Sept. 25|
|Kansas State||Oct. 7|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 23|
|Iowa State||Nov. 6|
|Texas A&M||Nov. 20|
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