LINCOLN — The final score Saturday from Memorial Stadium was the Nebraska special teams 23, the Nebraska defense 14, the Nebraska offense 14 and Missouri 7.
Regardless of how you add it up, the Tigers never had a chance to upset the fifth-ranked Huskers during a 51-7 blowout before a crowd of 75,133.
“I said all along,” MU Coach Larry Smith said,”that Nebraska’s strength is their defense and special teams.”
And it showed early.
While the Husker offense struggled in the first half, in part because of quarterback Scott Frost’s severe knee bruise on the game’s third play, Nebraska created 23 points in the first 28 minutes off turnovers and punting errors.
Then early in the second half, the NU offense pitched in.
I-back Ahman Green, who has been bothered for a month by a turf toe injury, broke two tackles to turn a probable no gain into a 56-yard touchdown on the Huskers’ first play of the second half. That gave Nebraska a 30-0 lead.
On the next series, Green raced 70 yards on the option to set up I-back DeAngelo Evans’ 1-yard touchdown run. Green finished with 161 yards in 12 carries, giving Nebraska its first 100-yard rusher in four games.
“It felt like I was back to where I was before I was hurt,” said the sophomore from Omaha Central. “The toe didn’t really bother me today.”
The win boosted Nebraska to 8-1 overall and 6-0 in the North Division of the Big 12. Colorado also is 8-1 and 6-0 in the North. Missouri fell to 3-6 and 1-5.
“We played another very fine defensive football game,” Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne said. “And we had a lot of great plays in the kicking game.”
The reviews of the offense weren’t as glowing.
Against a Missouri defense that gave up 378 yards rushing to Iowa State’s Troy Davis alone last month, Nebraska ran for 299 and passed for 114 for 413 total yards.
“I thought we were a little sporadic,” Osborne said. “I would have liked to have seen us run the ball a little better.
“Early in the game, we threw it fairly well. I don’t like to rely on that exclusively, but we’ll do it when we have to.”
Frost’s running ability was limited when he ruptured a bursa sac on his right knee while running a bootleg barely a minute into the game.
“I landed with all the weight on the inside of my knee,” he said. “I knew when I landed that something was wrong. It got stiffer and stiffer as the game went along.”
During warmups for the second half, Frost said, Osborne asked how he felt.
“I didn’t know how effective I would be on the option game,” Frost said. “He told me I would probably play two or three series.
“Once we scored on the first play of the second half on Ahman’s great run, the game wasn’t in hand but it was definitely in our favor. So they didn’t want to take any more chances of me getting hurt.”
Frost finished with 28 yards rushing on eight carries. He completed 9 of 14 passes for 114 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions.
Backup Matt Turman came on and led Nebraska to touchdowns on three straight possessions in the third quarter.
In the first half, all the points Nebraska generated were set up or scored by the defense and special teams.
“We have a defense that disrupts people a lot,” Osborne said. “You hate to count on defensive scoring. You can’t just say you’re going to score 14 points a game on defense.
“But we seem to be doing it a lot.”
Nebraska missed a 31-yard field-goal try on its first possession, then went three downs and out on the second series. But Missouri’s Randy Potter fumbled the punt, and reserve I-back Jay Sims recovered for NU at the MU 25.
Three plays later, Husker split end Brendan Holbein got behind Potter to catch Frost’s 14-yard pass for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 4:47 left in the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, a disputed 23-yard penalty against Missouri for intentional grounding created a fourth-and-28 at the Tigers’ 8. Punter Vince Sebo dropped the snap and then took a hit from NU free safety Eric Warfield. The ball eventually rolled out of the end zone for a safety, which put Nebraska ahead 9-0 with 13:06 to go in the first half.
Warfield said the punt-block team got revved up after seeing Nebraska’s offense sputter.
“That’s when we work the hardest because we want to provide a spark,” he said. “We have a pretty good offense. It just takes them a little while to get rolling.”
The Husker defense set up the next touchdown. Missouri quarterback Kent Skornia, on his second play after replacing injured starter Corby Jones, threw an interception that NU roverback Mike Minter returned 27 yards to the Tigers 4. Two plays later, Frost sneaked in from the 1 for a 16-0 lead with 4:44 to go in the half.
The interception was the fifth of the season for Minter, who is ranked 15th nationally in pickoffs.
“I couldn’t believe the guy threw it,” Minter said. “I was right on the man, and he threw it anyway.”
On its next possession, Missouri lost 9 yards on three plays. With Jason Smith replacing Sebo at punter, Warfield plowed through a blocker to stuff the punt-his third block of the season.
Weakside linebacker Terrell Farley grabbed the bouncing ball and returned it 9 yards for a touchdown to give NU a 23-0 lead with 2:23 to go in the half.
Osborne said it’s no fluke that Nebraska’s special teams now have scored 30 points this season and the defense 28.
“If it just happened once or twice, you would say it’s just the breaks,” he said. “But we’re nine games into the season, and you keep seeing it over and over. So you realize there is something going on that isn’t just chance.”
After Green’s two long runs early in the third quarter helped Nebraska build a 37-0 lead, the special teams and defense contributed again.
Octavious McFarlin ran Sebo’s 26-yard punt back 26 yards to the Missouri 5. On the next play, Evans scored to make it 44-0 with 4:46 to go in the third quarter.
On Missouri’s next play, NU rush end Mike Rucker deflected an option pitch and recovered it at the Tigers 8. Three plays later, Turman ran in from the 5 for a 51-0 lead.
Missouri avoided a shutout with a 24-yard touchdown pass against NU’s No. 3 defense with 2:02 left in the game. But the Tigers could barely move the ball on Nebraska’s Blackshirts.
MU didn’t cross midfield until 33 seconds remained in the third quarter. Of the Tigers’ 170 total yards, 82 came in the first three quarters and 88 in the fourth quarter.
Minter said he was most proud about stopping Missouri’s running game. The Tigers, ranked 13th nationally at 239.6 yards a game, gained just 47 yards in 43 carries.
“No team had stopped them,” Minter said. “But we did. And they had scored on their first possession the past three games. But they didn’t today. That speaks well for our defense.”
|Yards per carry||1.1||5.8|
Nebraska is 65-36 all-time against Missouri.
|Michigan State||Sept. 7|
|Arizona State||Sept. 21|
|Colorado State||Sept. 28|
|Kansas State||Oct. 5|
|Texas Tech||Oct. 19|
|Iowa State||Nov. 16|
|Virginia Tech||Dec. 31|
Nebraska has played 17 games on Nov. 9. See them all »
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