|T.J. Hollowell recorded one of Nebraska's four sacks on the afternoon.|
Lincoln - Keyed by a record-setting performance by linebacker Demorrio Williams, No. 23/24 (AP/Coaches) Nebraska overcame a sluggish start to defeat Utah State, 31-7, in front of a crowd of 77,284 at Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon
Williams, a 6-1, 215-pound senior linebacker from Beckville, Texas, took control of the game over the final three quarters, making eight tackles, including three sacks, as Nebraska scored 25 unanswered points after spotting Utah State a 7-6 lead.
Williams' three sacks tied the linebacker school record, a mark that was set most recently by LeRoy Etienne against Oklahoma on Nov. 19, 1988, and was the first time that any Husker had three sacks in a game since Steve Warren had three against Texas A&M on Nov. 6, 1999.
The Huskers allowed 145 yards in the first quarter, but Williams and the rest of the Blackshirts allowed just 43 more yards prior to the Aggies' final drive late in the fourth quarter. Utah State finished with just 238 total yards.
The Huskers also received a strong performance by freshman David Dyches, who booted field goals of 23, 29, 20 and 26 yards in his debut, marking only the fourth time in school history that a Husker kicked four or more field goals in a game and the first since Kris Brown had four field goals against Texas A&M in the 1997 Big 12 Championship Game.
Nebraska, which improved to 2-0, totaled over 400 yards of total offense, with three different players (Jammal Lord, Josh Davis, David Horne) rushing for at least 50 yards, helping NU total 273 yards on the ground.
Lord completed 8-of-12 passes for 85 yards, while Joe Dailey, who was making his first appearance, connected on 4-of-5 passes for 47 yards in limited duty.
Utah State took the opening kickoff and moved into Husker territory, but the Husker defense stiffened and held USU off the scoreboard. The Aggies eschewed a potential long field goal on fourth and two at the NU 29, but Chris Cooley dropped the short dump-off pass, allowing the Huskers to take over on downs.
The Huskers quickly responded on their opening possession, marching 71 yards on 13 plays, as Lord scored from 15 yards out. Lord, who had 27 yards rushing and completed both of his passes on the drive, eluded a defender at the 12 and cruised into the end zone for the score. NU led 6-0, as Sandro DeAngelis missed the PAT after Lord's scoring run.
Cooley redeemed himself on Utah State's second possession, scoring on a 41 touchdown passes from quarterback Travis Cox, giving the Aggies a 7-6 lead. Cox, who hit 10 of his first 11 passes, guided USU through the air on the drive, covering 66 yards in just four plays.
Cox finished the day completing 17-of-33 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown, but was sacked four times by the Huskers, who limited Utah State to just 60 yards rushing.
The Aggies, who dropped to 0-2 on the year and 0-8 against NU all time, had a golden opportunity early in the second quarter, getting the ball on the NU 32 after a Husker fumble. But Josh Bullocks snuffed out the drive, as he intercepted a pass from backup quarterback Matt Crivello, who had flanked out a wide receiver on the play.
The Blackshirts gave the Huskers a big break, as linebacker Demorrio Williams sacked USU quarterback Travis Cox and forced a fumble, which he recovered at the Aggie one-yard line. Fullback Judd Davies gave the Huskers the lead for good with a one-yard plunge on the next play, giving NU a 12-7 lead with 7:34 left in the first half
Williams forced his second fumble on as many plays, stripping Cox for his second forced fumble of the day, which Titus Adams recovered at the USU 35. Although NU was forced to start at midfield because of penalty, the Huskers turned the turnover into points, as true freshman David Dyches connected on his first field goal, a 23-yarder, with 3:23 remaining in the half.
Williams single-handedly shutdown the Aggies in the second quarter, making six tackles as USU gained seven yards in the second quarter.
The Huskers took the second half kickoff and quickly moved into scoring position, as Jammal Lord hit Matt Herian on a 39-yard completion to the USU 13-yard line, as the sophomore tight end hauled down the pass between a pair of defenders. Facing a fourth-and-one at the USU 4, Lord kept the drive alive with a quarterback sneak to the three before David Horne capped the 10-play, 74-yard drive with a three-yard scoring run one play later, giving the Huskers a 22-7 advantage.
After forcing a three-and-out, the Husker special teams created NU's next scoring chance, as Andrew Shanle's sideline block keyed a Josh Davis 30-yard punt return, putting the ball at the Aggie 8-yard line after a personal foul. The short field set up a 20-yard field goal by Dyches that gave Nebraska a 25-7 lead. Dyches, a true freshman from Spring, Texas, added his third field goal, a 29-yarder, to cap a seven-play drive after another Husker defensive stance. The freshman added a 26-yard field goal in the fourth quarter for the Huskers' final points.