GAME 1: NEBRASKA vs. SOUTHERN MISS
SEPT. 1, 2012 | MEMORIAL STADIUM
LINCOLN, NEB. | 2:30 p.m. (CT)
TV - ABC
RADIO - Husker Sports Network
SATELLITE RADIO - Sirius Channel 86, XM 86
INTERNET RADIO - Huskers.com
Record: 0-0, 0-0
Rankings: Coaches-16; AP-17
Last Game: Season Opener
Coach: Bo Pelini
Career/NU Record: 39-16/5th year
vs. Southern Miss: 0-0
Record: 0-0, 0-0
Rankings: Coaches-RV; AP-NR
Last Game: Season Opener
Coach: Ellis Johnson
Career/PSU Record: 17-28/5th Year 0-0/1st Year
vs. NU: 0-0
Saturday's game marks the fourth all-time meeting between Nebraska and Southern Miss and the third time the teams will square off in Memorial Stadium. Southern Miss won the most recent meeting in Lincoln, defeating the Huskers 21-17 in 2004, marking Nebraska's first non-conference home loss in 13 seasons. Bo Pelini was on the NU sideline for the Huskers' last win in the series, serving as defensive coordinator in Nebraska's 38-14 win in Hattiesburg in 2003.
Nebraska: Bo Pelini (Ohio State, '90) owns a 39-16 record in his fifth season. Pelini has guided NU to nine or more wins in each of his first four seasons as head coach, joining Bob Devaney, Tom Osborne and Frank Solich in accomplishing that feat. Pelini is one of only six first-time head coaches in NCAA history to win at least nine games in each of his first four seasons at a BCS conference school.
Southern Miss: Ellis Johnson (The Citadel, '75) is in his first season as head coach of Southern Miss. He is 17-28 overall in his fifth season as a head coach. Johnson is facing Nebraska for the second straight game, as he spent the past four seasons as the defensive coordinator at South Carolina. The Gamecocks held Nebraska scoreless over the final three quarters in a 30-13 victory at the 2012 Capital One Bowl.
Scouting Southern Miss:
Southern Miss begins its 100th football season under new direction, as Ellis Johnson will coach his first game as Southern Miss' head coach on Saturday. The Golden Eagles were Conference USA champions last fall, finishing with a 12-2 record. Southern Miss finished 19th in the final 2011 coaches' poll, while coming in at No. 20 in the AP poll. The Golden Eagles finished five spots ahead of Nebraska in the coaches' poll and four spots in front of the Big Red in the AP poll.
USM returns 12 starters from last season, but the Golden Eagles have several key players to replace. On offense, Southern Miss must replace its leading rusher from last season, but the versatile Tracy Lampley returns as does Kendrick Hardy. Lampley, a wide receiver, ran for 463 yards en route to totaling 1,798 all-purpose yards in 2011. Hardy rushed for 426 yards in the first five games last season before suffering a season-ending injury.
Bolstering the running game is the return of center Austin Quattrochi, a preseason candidate for the Rimington Award.
Southern Miss must also replace quarterback Austin Davis, who threw for 3,496 yards and
30 touchdowns last season. Also gone are the Golden Eagles' top two receivers.
Defensively, USM returns three of its top four tacklers from 2011. Jamie Collins returns after totaling 98 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. One of the nation's top defensive linemen, Collins is on the preseason watch list for the Butkus, Lombardi, Bronko Nagurski and Chuck Bednarik awards. Deron Wilson, a preseason candidate for the Jim Thorpe award, also returns to lead the Golden Eagle secondary. Gone is Cordarro Law, who led USM with 22.0 TFLs and 9.5 sacks in 2011.
Nebraska and Southern Miss meet for the fourth time on Saturday and the third time inside Memorial Stadium. The Huskers won the first two meetings in the series, but the Golden Eagles won the last meeting in 2004.
In the last meeting, Southern Miss held on for a 21-17 win inside Memorial Stadium on Sept. 11, 2004. The Huskers turned the ball over five times that day, leading to 18 Southern Miss points. Nebraska's final drive stalled inside the USM 20-yard line as time expired. That loss marked Nebraska's first home non-conference defeat in 13 seasons and snapped the Huskers' 20-game non-conference home winning streak.
Southern Miss has played Nebraska tough in its only two trips to Lincoln. In addition to winning in 2004, the Golden Eagles turned the ball over six times in a 20-13 loss in 1999, a season when Nebraska won the Big 12 title and earned a No. 3 final AP ranking. Southern Miss held the Huskers to fewer than 200 yards of offense in the loss, but NU linebacker Julius Jackson scored a pair of defensive touchdowns.
Southern Miss Head Coach Ellis Johnson
Ellis Johnson will make his debut as Southern Miss head coach on Saturday in his 40th season as a coach. He is entering his fifth season as a head coach, having served as Gardner Webb's head coach for the 1983 season and leading his alma mater, The Citadel, from 2001 to 2003. Johnson owns a 17-28 record as a collegiate head coach.
Johnson will begin his new job against the same team he competed against in his final game at his old school. Prior to accepting the Southern Miss job, Johnson spent the previous four seasons as South Carolina's defensive coordinator. Johnson has also served as defensive coordinator at Alabama, Appalachian State, Clemson and Mississippi State.
*- Nebraska is 846-349-40 all-time, one of just seven schools with 800 all-time victories
*- Nebraska has won five national championships (1970, 1971, 1994, 1995, 1997).
*- The Cornhuskers have won 43 conference championships.
*- 48 all-time bowl appearances rank fourth nationally.
*- Since 1970, NU has 412 wins, 26 more than any other school.
*- Nebraska's 102 football Academic All-Americans lead the nation.
*- The Huskers have had 108 All-Americans in school history.
Nebraska Looks to Add to Season-Opening Win Streak
Nebraska enters the season opener with victories in each of its past 26 season openers. The Huskers' streak leads the nation, bettering Florida's 22 straight wins. NU's last loss in a season opener was a 17-13 setback against Florida State at Memorial Stadium in 1985.
*- Nebraska has won each of the 26 games by at least 10 points, and has scored at least 40 points in 19 of the 26 games, including each of the last six seasons. Nebraska has outscored the opposition 185-44 in four openers under Bo Pelini.
*- The Cornhuskers have limited the opponent to 14 points or less 18 times in the winning streak.
*- Nebraska is 91-26-5 all-time in season openers.
Huskers Continue Streak in National Polls
Nebraska opens the season ranked No. 16 in the USA Today Coaches Poll and No. 17 in the Associated Press Poll. The Huskers have been ranked in every AP poll since late in the 2009 season, a streak of 36 straight weeks in the Associated Press Poll.
*- Nebraska's streak of appearing in 36 consecutive polls is the longest in the Big Ten and the fifth-longest streak in the nation.
Nebraska Faces Challenging 2012 Schedule
Nebraska will once again face one of the nation's more challenging schedules in 2012, including 10 teams that participated in a bowl game in 2011. The Huskers' 10 bowl opponents from last season lead the country and are matched only by Big Ten schools Michigan and Penn State.
The 2012 schedule is highlighted by BCS bowl participants Wisconsin (Rose) and Michigan (Sugar), which will both visit Lincoln. The non-conference schedule features three 2011 bowl teams, which will all have new head coaches in 2012. NU opens on Saturday against Conference USA champ Southern Miss, followed by a Sept. 8 trip to UCLA. Arkansas State comes to Lincoln on Sept. 15, and the Huskers complete non-conference play against Idaho State on Sept. 22.
The Big Ten schedule opens at home against Wisconsin on Sept. 29 in a prime-time game, and the home schedule also includes Michigan, Penn State and MInnesota. Overall, NU's seven-game home schedule includes five teams that won at least nine games last season.
On the road, Nebraska faces four 2011 bowl teams, including Ohio State, Northwestern, Michigan State and Iowa. Six of Nebraska's 11 scheduled opponents won at least nine games in 2011.
*- Michigan will be making only its second trip to Lincoln and its first ever to Memorial Stadium. The only previous meeting between the two schools in Lincoln occurred in the 1911 season before the construction of Memorial Stadium (1923).