LINCOLN — Physicality. Imposition of will. Pad level. Old-fashioned push.
Nebraska's run game didn't balk or back down Saturday night. Tasked by coach Mike Riley at the start of week with improving their effort and production on the ground, the Huskers' offense delivered in a 48-9 win over South Alabama.
No fuss. Plenty of muscle. Seven yards per carry and 258 total rushing yards.
Outside zone. Inside zone. Power. Wideout jet sweeps. Even a few quarterback runs. But most of the damage was done by running back Terrell Newby, a quiet, almost reticent junior who came to Nebraska with a lot of recruiting hype and had not, thus far, made good on it.
But coaches told him late in the week: You're going to be the guy. And quarterback Tommy Armstrong told him just before the game: Be the guy who wants the ball in tough situations.
Consider his 28-carry, 198-yard performance a down payment, his first workhorse moment. Newby even admitted he was sore and a little beat up from the night. The praises of his teammates and coaches should ease that pain.
“He ran like he was being chased by everybody,” Armstrong said. “I'm proud of him.”
“Strong runner,” offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said. “Tough kid.”
Newby ran for two scores and had nine runs of ten yards or more, these mixtures of movement and power, wiggle and whomp, blasts through big holes and squeezes through smaller ones. He even caught two passes for 38 yards and a touchdown.
His most dominant-looking play might have been an 18-yard run in the second quarter, when Newby followed fullback Andy Janovich off of tackle Nick Gates' rear end. Janovich led the way. Gates drove his linebacker as far down the field as Newby chugged. The prettiest play may have been his 30-yard catch-and-run in the fourth quarter.
The biggest statement was made on the opening drive, when Newby carried the ball six times for 40 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown right up the gut of South Alabama's blitzing defense. Newby zipped in practically untouched.
“We started getting things going, and we just kept going for it,” said Newby, a top 100 recruit out of Los Angeles.
Riley and Langsdorf kept going back to Newby. That's how it used to be for Riley in the early days at Oregon State — one lead back, getting most of the carries. But he'd shifted away from it recent years, and, in the first week loss to BYU, Newby, Imani Cross and Mikale Wilbon shared carries and touches throughout the game.
“We thought maybe one thing we needed to do better was give (Newby) the ball and let him stay in the game and let him find a better rhythm,” Riley said. “I think that was real good for everybody.”
Well, except the Jaguars (1-1). Their front seven, overmatched in size and strength, had little choice but to go along for the ride. And Nebraska's line happily loaded their foes as cargo on the bus.
“They really ran at will all night against us,” said South Alabama coach Joey Jones.
“We did it like Nebraska linemen definitely should,” left guard Dylan Utter said. The Huskers racked up 561 yards for the night and averaged 7.5 yards per play.
The Jaguars' own running game never got started — 19 yards for the night. South Alabama barely tested Nebraska's defensive line — “they had some big human beings on their defensive front,” Jones said — choosing instead to have quarterback Cody Clements launch deep pass after deep pass at NU corners. Clements hit a few, and South Alabama passed for 313 yards on the night. But Clements missed several more, and his first long toss of the game was intercepted by safety Nate Gerry.
“Very, very good way to start,” Riley said of Gerry's pick.
Nebraska answered with a full dose of Newby to take a 7-0 lead. Nebraska padded it to 14-0 when Newby snagged a swing pass from Armstrong and ran it in for a 8-yard score.
"Offensive line had a great push up front, so it was easy for me to read the holes,” Newby said.
Nebraska's defense struggled to stop South Alabama on third down — the Jaguars converted 7 of 16 — but the Huskers (1-1) got two fourth down stops deep in their own territory. One came late in the first half, when USA marched to the NU 4. Clements overthrew tight end Gerald Everett in the end zone on fourth down.
NU's defense was without two injured starting linebackers — Josh Banderas (groin) and Dedrick Young (toe infection) — but Riley hopes to have them back for the Miami game. While they were out, linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey returned after a one-game suspension and led all Huskers with ten tackles.
The night's lasting image, though, was an easy grin on Riley's face after his first win at Nebraska. He got that win the way most NU teams have churned out most wins — on the ground.
“Now it's going to be important to maintain,” Riley said. “And continue to do that. Obviously — competition will grow.”
|Yards per carry||0.8||7.0|
Nebraska is 2-0 all-time against South Alabama.
|South Alabama||Sept. 12|
|Miami (FL)||Sept. 19|
|Southern Miss||Sept. 26|
|Michigan State||Nov. 7|
Nebraska has played 9 games on Sept. 12. See them all »
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