Seattle - It wasn't quite perfect, but it was impressive. No. 8 Nebraska jumped to a 14-0 lead after just five offensive plays, then scored two more touchdowns on the Huskers' first five offensive plays of the second half on the way to a 56-21 victory at Washington on Saturday.
With the victory, Nebraska improved to 3-0 for the second time in three seasons under head coach Bo Pelini, while Washington slipped to 1-2 in front of a crowd of 72,876 and an ABC/ESPN2 national television audience.
"Coming into a hostile environment, I thought it was a good step for our football team," Pelini said. "I thought it'd be a nice test for us, going against a good football team on the road. It's a tough environment to play in and I thought our guys handled it well. I thought it was a pretty full effort by our football team. I liked their approach. Like I just told them, there's still a lot more out there for us, there's still a lot for us to clean up. We have a long way to go as a football team but this was a good step along the way."
Nebraska rolled up 533 yards of total offense, including 383 on the ground. The Husker trio of Taylor Martinez (137 yards, 3 TD, 19 carries), Roy Helu Jr. (110 yards, 2 TD, 10 carries) and Rex Burkhead (104 yards, TD, 13 carries) combined for Nebraska's fourth triple-100-yard game in school history, and the first since the Baylor game in 2001.
Martinez and Helu Jr. each went over the 100-yard mark for the second straight game. Martinez became just the second quarterback in NU history to record three straight 100-yard rushing performances, joining Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch. Martinez also moved ahead of Tommie Frazier into the No. 8 spot on NU's all-time freshman season rushing list with 421 yards through just three games. Martinez's eight rushing touchdowns already rank fourth all-time among all Husker freshmen.
The Huskers continued to show their quick-strike capabilities, covering 48 yards on just two plays on their opening drive, capped by a 24-yard touchdown pass from Taylor Martinez to Mike McNeill. For the day, Martinez completed 7-of-11 passes for 150 yards, including his first career TD pass to McNeill.
On NU's second drive, it took the Huskers just three plays to cover 73 yards, after a 55-yard pass play from Martinez to Brandon Kinnie carried Nebraska to the goal line. It was the first of five receptions for 105 yards on the day for Kinnie, who registered the first 100-yard receiving day of his career.
Martinez hit paydirt on a quarterback dive on the next play to make it 14-0 less than two minutes into the game.
The two teams exchanged touchdowns before Washington tried to stay in the game by forcing a Cody Green fumble inside NU's own 20. Three plays later, the Huskies found paydirt to make it 21-14 with five minutes left in the first half.
After that, it was all Nebraska. Kinnie made a statement after the Husky touchdown closed the gap by returning the UW kickoff 39 yards to UW 48. NU then pounded the ball between the hashmarks into the end zone to make it 28-14 with just over a minute remaining in the half.
The Huskers forced a punt on UW's final drive of the first half, before receiving the opening kickoff of the second half. Martinez struck again, racing 80 yards for a touchdown on NU's first offensive play of the second half to make it 35-14 Huskers.
Washington tried to keep pace, striking quickly on its opening drive of the second half, with a two-play drive capped by a 45-yard Jermaine Kearse touchdown hookup with Locker.
But Roy Helu Jr., who scored NU's third touchdown of the game with an eight-yard plunge in the first half, dialed up a long-distance 65-yard touchdown run on NU's fifth play of the second half to make it 42-21 with 12:06 left in the third quarter.
Helu's run silenced Washington portion of the Husky Stadium sellout crowd for good, but the more than 20,000 Big Red fans on hand still had plenty to cheer about.
"We talked to the players and said we need to make sure and thank those fans. That was pretty special," Pelini said. "I don't know how many we had here, probably 20-30,000 fans. I heard a comment behind me on the first bus when we were coming in, when we saw all that red, as we were coming into the stadium, and they said 'Is this a home game?'
"That just goes to show you the kind of support we get. It's great. It helps offset the Washington crowd which, man, it's loud. At the start of the football game, that place was loud. We've got great fans here and bringing that many people, I think, shows a statement about what Nebraska football is all about."
While the offense gave the Seattle version of the Sea of Red plenty to cheer about by scoring the Nebraska's first 42 points, Alfonzo Dennard got the Blackshirts on the board midway through the third quarter. Dennard intercepted his second pass of the season and NU's second pick of Jake Locker on the day, and raced 31 yards to make it 49-21.
It marked the second straight game the Blackshirts returned an interception for a touchdown, after DeJon Gomes and Rickey Thenarse both had returns for touchdowns against Idaho. NU's three interception returns for scores on the year are just two shy of Nebraska's all-time season record of five.
The Blackshirt secondary, which has eight interceptions through three games, picked Locker on his first attempt of the game, with Eric Hagg notching his first interception of the season. It was Locker's first interception of the year, and Nebraska converted it into a touchdown just two plays later on McNeill's game-opening scorer.
The Blackshirts surrendered just 246 total yards to the Huskies, including just 71 passing and 175 on the ground. The Huskers held Locker to just 4-of-20 passing on the afternoon, but NU's nation-leading streak of 10 games of holding its opponent to 20 or fewer points ended.
Nebraska returns home to attempt to complete its first perfect non-conference regular season since 2005, when the Huskers take on South Dakota State on Saturday, Sept. 25. The Homecoming kickoff with the Jackrabbits is set for 6 p.m. with an FSN pay-per-view telecast.
Final: #8 Nebraska 56, Washington 21
Saturday, Sept. 19, 2010
Husky Stadium (Seattle, Wash.)
First Quarter (NU, 14-7)
NU - 12:49 - Mike McNeill 24 pass from Taylor Martinez (Alex Henery kick) - 2 plays, 48 yards, 0:36, NU 7-0
NU - 10:45 - Martinez 1 run (Henery kick) - 3 plays, 73 yards, 1:00, NU 14-0
UW - 5:11 - Jake Locker 7 run (Erik Folk kick) - 11 plays, 80 yards, 5:34, NU 14-7
Second Quarter (NU, 28-14)
NU - 8:43 - Roy Helu Jr. 8 run (Henery kick) - 8 plays, 56 yards, 3:40, NU 21-7
UW - 5:11 - Chris Polk 2 run (Folk kick) - 2 plays, 6 yards, 0:42, NU 21-14
NU - 1:19 - Martinez 1 run (Henery kick) - 8 plays, 48 yards, 3:38, NU 28-14
NU - 4:00 - Ricky Thenarse 47 INT return (Henery kick), NU 31-0
Third Quarter (NU, 49-21)
NU - 14:39 - Martinez 80 run (Henery kick) - 1 play, 80 yards, :14, NU 35-14
UW - 13:59 - Jermaine Kearse 45 pass from Locker (Folk kick) - 2 plays, 78 yards, 0:33, NU 35-21
NU - 12:06 - Helu Jr. 65 run (Henery kick) - 4 plays, 76 yards, 1:43, NU 42-21
NU - 8:21 - Alfonzo Dennard 31 INT return (Henery kick) - NU 49-21
Fourth Quarter (NU 56-21)
NU - 7:12 - Rex Burkhead 19 run (Henery kick) - 11 plays, 80 yards, 5:57, NU 56-21
Final: Nebraska 56, Washington 21
Time of Game: 3:06