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Huskers Hit the Road for Thursday Night Contest at Southern Miss

By NU Athletic Communications
Trevor Johnson and the rest of the Blackshirts look to shut down Southern Miss Thursday night.
Trevor Johnson and the rest of the Blackshirts look to shut down Southern Miss Thursday night.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Game 4–No. 15/15 Nebraska (3-0, 1-0) at Southern Mississippi (2-1, 1-0)
Date: Thursday, Sept. 25, 2003
Time: 6:45 p.m.(CDT)
Site: Hattiesburg, Miss.
Stadium: M.M. Roberts Stadium (33,000)
Surface: Natural Grass
Nebraska Radio:
57-station Pinnacle Sports Network (Jim Rose–Play-by-Play; Adrian Fiala–Analyst; Randy Lee–Booth; Gary Sharp–Sideline)
TV: ESPN (Mike Tirico–Play-by-Play; Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit–Analysts; Dr. Jerry Punch–Sideline)
Internet: Live Radio on Huskers.com

Huskers Hit the Road for Thursday Night Contest at Southern Miss
After opening the season with three dominating defensive performances at home, Nebraska takes its unbeaten record on the road to Hattiesburg, Miss., to take on Southern Mississippi on Thursday, Sept. 25. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN, marking Nebraska's fourth straight televised game to open the 2003 season, including three nationally televised contests. Kickoff for the game at Southern Mississippi's M.M. Roberts Stadium is set for 6:45 p.m. (CDT).

The 3-0 Huskers are coming off an 18-10 victory over Penn State last Saturday in Lincoln, completing a successful season-opening three-game homestand. Nebraska's defense stood out for the third straight week, holding Penn State scoreless in the second half and limiting the Nittany Lions to just over 200 total yards in the game. The win over Penn State allowed Nebraska to continue to make a climb in the national polls. After opening the season unranked in both polls, the Huskers are now ranked 15th in both polls, up three spots from last week's 18th-place standing.

Southern Mississippi enters next week's matchup with a 2-1 record after a 23-6 victory over Memphis on Saturday in Hattiesburg. The Golden Eagles opened the year with a road loss at California, but have since bounced back with Conference USA wins over UAB and Memphis.

The matchup between NU and Southern Mississippi is the second game in a three-game contract between the two schools and just the second all-time. The first meeting occurred in Lincoln in 1999, with Nebraska taking a 20-13 victory. The Golden Eagles will make a second visit to Memorial Stadium next September.

The game will mark Nebraska's first Thursday night appearance on ESPN since a 64-21 victory at Oklahoma State in the 1995 season opener. Nebraska's last regular-season game on a Thursday night was a 48-3 win over Rice in 2001 at Memorial Stadium, in a game rescheduled from the previous Saturday following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Southern Mississippi is a regular on ESPN's Thursday night stage, including a 17-12 win over UAB earlier this season on ESPN2. The game in Hattiesburg also marks Nebraska's first-ever trip to the state of Mississippi for a football game. NU has played Ole Miss and Mississippi State once each, but both contests were in bowl games.

Nebraska Defense Continues its Dominant Play Against Nittany Lions
Nebraska used another strong defensive showing and a powerful rushing attack to improve to 3-0 on the young season with an 18-10 victory over Penn State last Saturday night in Lincoln. The Husker defense limited Penn State to just 203 yards of total offense, while shutting out the Nittany Lions in the second half. On the other side of the ball, Nebraska's offense controlled the clock with a punishing rushing attack, churning out 337 yards on the ground, including a career-high 179 yards by senior I-back Josh Davis.

The Huskers got on the scoreboard quickly by marching 35 yards in nine plays on their first possession of the game, capped by a 36-yard David Dyches field goal to give NU a 3-0 advantage. Dyches added his second field goal of the contest early in the second quarter to give the Huskers a 7-6 edge. Penn State capitalized on a Nebraska fumble in its own territory, covering 29 yards in three plays to take a 7-6 edge in the game. The teams traded field goals before halftime and the Nittany Lions took a 10-9 edge into the locker room.

Nebraska changed the momentum of the contest with a powerful drive to open the second half. The Huskers marched 80 yards in 16 plays all on the ground, keyed by Davis' 11 carries for 51 yards on the drive. Jammal Lord capped the 8:12 drive with a three-yard TD run. Nebraska's two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving NU with a 15-10 edge. Nebraska's defense continued to control Penn State's offense, then came up with a Barrett Ruud fumble recovery at midfield midway through the fourth quarter. The NU offense moved deep into Nittany Lion territory before settling for Dyches' fourth field goal from 32 yards to give the Huskers an 18-10 edge with 3:53 to play. Penn State mounted a threat on its next drive moving inside the Husker 40, but the Blackshirt defense held on downs and the NU offense ran out the game's final 2:37 to seal the victory.

Nebraska's ball-control ground game allowed the Huskers to rack up 39:45 in time of possession. In addition, the Huskers ran 78 offensive plays to just 54 for Penn State. In the second half, Nebraska snapped the ball 44 times, including 43 rushing plays.

Davis picked up his career-high 179 yards on 32 rushing attempts and finished the game with 237 all-purpose yards, including 58 on punt returns. Lord gave Nebraska two 100-yard rushers with 100 yards on 20 attempts, while completing 4-of-6 passes for 60 yards. Fabian Washington led the Blackshirt effort with nine tackles, a first-quarter interception, a pair of pass breakups and two tackles for loss.

Recapping Game Three...Nebraska 18, Penn State 10

  • Nebraska improved to 3-0 for the seventh straight season with its 34th straight home victory against non-conference competition. It also marked Nebraska's ninth win in its last 10 games against Big Ten foes and the Huskers' 27th straight home victory in the month of September, dating back to 1991.
  • Josh Davis' career-high 179 yards nearly doubled his previous best of 95 yards against Oklahoma State. His effort was the first 100-yard day by a Husker this fall, and included a career-long 42-yard run in the second quarter. Davis racked up the most rushing yards by a Husker since Lord had 234 vs. Texas last season and the most by an NU I-back since Dan Alexander ran for 240 vs. Northwestern in the 2000 Alamo Bowl. Davis' 32 carries were the most by an NU player since Dahrran Diedrick carried 32 times vs. Notre Dame in 2001. For his effort, Davis was named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week and the Nebraska Chevrolet/ABC Player of the Game.
  • With his 179-yard effort, Josh Davis joined his father, Tony, in NU's century club, making the duo the first father-son combination in school history to top 100 yards rushing in a game. Tony topped 100 yards seven times during his NU career (1973-75), including a career-high 147 yards vs. UCLA in 1973.
  • Quarterback Jammal Lord rushed for 100 yards on 20 carries to post his sixth career 100-yard rushing day. The game marked the first time NU had two 100-yard rushers in the same game since last Nov. 9 vs. Kansas. Lord moved up to 13th place on NU's career passing yardage list with his 60 yards on the game.
  • I-back David Horne picked up 61 yards on 14 carries, marking the third straight game Davis, Lord and Horne have each topped 50 yards on the ground.
  • True freshman David Dyches connected on four field goals (36, 35, 41, 32) for the second straight week. His eight field goals in two games are half of Nebraska's season total of 16 in 14 games in 2002. Dyches is the first Husker in school history to kick four field goals in consecutive games and his two four-field goal performances are two of five all time. Dyches was named Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance and he would rank first nationally in field goals per game and among the top five in scoring, but he has not played in the required 75 percent of his team's games.
  • Nebraska's 16-play, 80-yard drive to start the second half consumed 8:12, NU's longest drive in time since an 8:13 possession against Iowa State in 2001. The Huskers held the ball longer on their opening drive of the third quarter than Penn State did the entire second half (7:33).
  • Sophomore cornerback Fabian Washington recorded his first interception of 2003 and the fifth of his career in the first quarter. Washington also broke up two passes to move his career total to 16, just one breakup outside the Nebraska career top 10.
  • Nebraska limited Penn State to 44 rushing yards in the game, marking the third straight game NU has held the opposition to 86 yards or less on the ground.
  • Nebraska has allowed 10 or fewer points in each of the first three games. The last time the Husker defense accomplished that feat was in 1984, and NU went on to lead the country in total and scoring defense that season. the Husker defense has not allowed a point in the second half this season.
  • Nebraska's win cut Penn State's advantage in the all-time series to 7-6.

Huskers Continuing History of Fast Starts
Nebraska's victory over Penn State gave the Huskers a 3-0 record and marked the seventh straight season it has opened the year with a perfect record through three games. A win over Southern Miss would give the Huskers a 4-0 record for the fifth time in six seasons under Frank Solich and the ninth time in the last 11 seasons. Before suffering their first loss of the season, Solich's teams have started–5-0 (1998), 6-0 (1999), 7-0 (2000), 11-0 (2001) and 3-0 (2002). The Huskers have been close to unbeatable in the month of September in recent years. Since the start of the 1992 season, Nebraska is 36-4 (.900) in the month of September, with the only losses on the road at Washington (1992), Arizona State (1996), Penn State (2002) and Iowa State (2002).

Nebraska Perfect on Thursday Nights
Nebraska has played just four regular-season contests on Thursday nights since ESPN began regularly televising those games in the early 1990s. NU appeared on ESPN three straight seasons on Thursday night from 1993 to 1995, all on the road. Nebraska's most recent Thursday evening game was a 48-3 victory over Rice on Sept. 20, 2001, in a game that was originally scheduled for the previous Saturday, but was postponed after 9-11.

Huskers Hope to Continue ESPN Success
Nebraska has not made frequent appearances on ESPN in recent years, but has made the most of its chances to play on the network. The Huskers are 22-5-1 all-time on ESPN, with a 1-1 record in 2002, including a 48-10 victory over Arizona State in Lincoln in the Black Coaches Association Classic and a 27-23 Independence Bowl loss to Ole Miss. Before last season's victory over Arizona State, Nebraska's three most recent regular-season contests on ESPN were Thursday night wins in 1993, 1994 and 1995

Nebraska Hits the Road for the First Time in 2003
Nebraska opened the season with three impressive home victories, but now faces its first road test of the 2003 campaign at Southern Miss. The Huskers dropped their road opener at Penn State in 2002, but have had good success in their first venture onto opponents' home turf in recent years. Nebraska is 4-1 under Frank Solich in road openers and 16-4 in its first road game the past 20 seasons.

Under Solich, Nebraska has used strong defensive performances to capture victories in road openers. Nebraska limited both California (1998) and Missouri (2001) to just three points and Iowa to seven in 1999. In addition, Notre Dame scored just one offensive touchdown in NU's 2000 win in South Bend.

1999 Revisited?
Nebraska and Southern Miss feature two of the nation's most opportunistic defenses heading into the matchup at M.M. Roberts Stadium. Nebraska ranks No. 1 in the nation in total defense and has forced 10 turnovers in three games and ranks 13th nationally in turnover margin at +1.3 per contest. The Golden Eagles have been even better at causing turnovers, forcing 11 opponent miscues in three games, including six vs. Memphis, and rank sixth in turnover margin at +1.7 per game.

On the other side of the ball, both offenses have been able to move the football, but have had difficulty finishing drives. Sound familiar? Turn back the clock four seasons to the beginning of the 1999 season.

In Nebraska's 20-13 win over the Golden Eagles in September of 1999, the Huskers forced six Southern Miss turnovers, including four interceptions of quarterback Jeff Kelly and scored a pair of defensive touchdowns, one by interception return and one via a fumble return. Southern Miss' ball-hawking defense wasn't far behind in the game, forcing five Nebraska turnovers, including three fumbles.

The teams combined for just 478 total yards and 23 first downs in the game. Nebraska limited Southern Mississippi to 25 yards rushing on 34 attempts and recorded five sacks. Both team's got their offenses untracked as the 1999 season progressed. Nebraska finished the year with a 12-1 record, a Big 12 Championship and a No. 3 final AP ranking, while Southern Miss finished the season with a 9-3 record and a No. 14 ranking.

Scouting Southern Mississippi
Southern Mississippi enters its matchup with Nebraska with a 2-1 mark after consecutive conference victories over UAB and Memphis. The Golden Eagles opened the 2003 campaign on the road at California and suffered a 34-2 loss in Berkely. Southern Miss rebounded the next week at UAB, forcing four turnovers in a 17-12 victory. Last weekend, the Golden Eagles continued their opportunistic ways on defense, using six Memphis turnovers to defeat the Tigers 23-6 in their home opener.

Offensively, quarterback Mickey D'Angelo has connected on nearly 60 percent of his passes in the first three games for 418 yards and a touchdown. The Golden Eagles ground game averages 129.0 yards per game and is led by junior running back Tim Blackwell, who has gained 215 yards on 40 carries, an average of 5.4 yards per attempt. Blackwell is coming off a 96-yard effort against Memphis. Southern Mississippi's receiving corps is led by a pair of junior wideouts–DaRon Lawrence and Marvin Young. Lawrence has 10 receptions for 91 yards in the first three games, while Young has been a big-play threat, hauling in nine passes for 163 yards, an average of 18.1 yards per reception.

Defensively, Southern Mississippi ranks just 82nd nationally in total defense, allowing 389.0 yards per game, but opponents average just 17.3 points per game, thanks in large part to an opportunistic defense. The Golden Eagles are among the nation's leaders in turnover margin, ranking sixth at +1.7 turnovers per contest. USM has forced 11 turnovers in the first three games, including six in last week's victory over Memphis and four in its win at UAB. Senior linebacker Rod Davis is an All-America candidate who leads the defense in tackles with 35 stops, including three tackles for loss, while also forcing two fumbles. Redshirt freshman linebacker Michael Boley is right behind Davis with 33 tackles, a sack and a pair of fumble recoveries.

The Golden Eagles also boast a strong special teams unit. Young ranks 10th nationally in punt returns at 17.8 yards per attempt, while John Eubanks is 14th in kickoff return average at 28.4 yards per return. Golden Eagle punter Luke Johnson is averaging 42.9 yards per kick to rank 24th in the nation in that category.

Southern Mississippi Coach Jeff Bower
Jeff Bower is in his 13th season as the Golden Eagles head coach and owns an 82-59-1 record at his alma mater. Bower has guided Southern Miss to three conference championships in the past seven seasons and taken his teams to five bowl games during his tenure in Hattiesburg. Bower is 0-1 against Nebraska, losing to the Huskers in 1999 in Lincoln, and is 2-5 against Big 12 opposition as the Southern Miss head coach.

Nebraska-Southern Miss Series...NU leads, 1-0
Next week's matchup is the second between the two schools, with Nebraska posting a 20-13 victory in 1999 in the first matchup between the teams. Nebraska and Southern Mississippi are in the second meeting of a three-game contract that also sends the Golden Eagles to Lincoln in 2004. Nebraska has played just one game each against the state of Mississippi's three largest football schools–Southern Miss, Mississippi State and Ole Miss. NU is 1-0 against Southern Miss and MSU, but is 0-1 against Ole Miss, losing in last year's Independence Bowl.

The Huskers' win in the 1999 game came despite Nebraska scoring just one offensive touchdown in the contest. The Nebraska defense forced six Southern Miss turnovers in the game, including two that were returned for touchdowns. Linebacker Julius Jackson returned a USM fumble 16 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter to open the scoring and had a 28-yard interception return midway through the third period to give NU its final advantage. Southern Miss drove into Nebraska territory twice in the final six minutes, but the Huskers thwarted both scoring attempts with interceptions.

Nebraska captured the victory in the game despite gaining just 185 yards of total offense, compared to 293 yards for the Golden Eagles.

Nebraska Head Coach Frank Solich
Coach Frank Solich (Nebraska, 1966) is in his sixth season at the helm of the Husker program with a 52-16 school and career record (.765). Solich ranks sixth among active coaches with at least five years of service in winning percentage.

With a victory over Oklahoma State in the season opener, Solich collected his 50th win in just his 66th game as Nebraska's head coach, the same amount as his Hall of Fame predecessor Tom Osborne (50-14-2). Solich's 49 wins in his first five seasons as a head coach tied him for third place on the all-time Division I-A list for most wins in the first five years of a head coaching career.

Solich has piled up a number of notable accomplishments during his Nebraska tenure including...

  • Becoming just the third first-year Nebraska head coach to record nine wins in his first season at the helm, joining a pair of Hall of Fame Coaches–Tom Osborne (9-2-1 in 1973) and Bob Devaney (9-2 in 1962).
  • He posted the best record of any Husker second-year coach, as his team posted a 12-1 record in 1999, leading NU to a Big 12 championship and No. 2 (coaches poll) and No. 3 (AP poll) final national rankings.
  • The Nebraska graduate has set NU records for most wins after two, three, four and five years as head coach, bettering Devaney and Osborne. The NU best for coaching wins in the first six seasons is 55 by Osborne (73 games). 4Solich was named the 1999 Big 12 Coach of the Year by his league peers and the AP after winning the league championship, and was named coach of the year by the conference coaches a second time in 2001.
  • Solich is the only Husker coach to have won 12 games in either of his first two seasons. In fact, neither Devaney nor Osborne had an 11-win campaign in their first four years, with Devaney posting a pair of 10-win seasons and Osborne hitting 10 wins in his third season.
  • Solich tied Devaney by winning his first conference title his second year, while Osborne tied for his first title in his third year at the helm.

Solich has continued Nebraska's winning tradition the Husker way–by identification of athletic talent regardless of position or recruiting rank; with successful recruitment nationwide of the country's best student-athletes; developing local talent and utilizing the envious Husker walk-on program; and by providing the best athletic facilities and support available for the student-athletes.

Solich also recognizes the Husker tradition, which is most evident in his coaching staff. Including Solich, six of Nebraska's 10 full-time coaches played college ball at Nebraska. Solich is one of 19 current Division I-A football coaches who played for and now coach their alma mater.

Solich was named Nebraska's 26th head coach on Dec. 10, 1997, after serving as an NU assistant for 19 years. He played fullback for Hall of Fame Coach Bob Devaney, lettering in 1963-64-65. Solich was the first Husker running back to rush for 200 yards in a game and remains the only fullback to accomplish that feat. He also lettered for the NU baseball team in 1965. After serving as a local high school football coach for 14 years, Solich took over the NU freshman program and posted a 19-1 record from 1979 to 1982. He was elevated to NU's running backs coach after four seasons, a position he held for 15 years (1983-97). He was promoted to assistant head coach in 1991 and head coach following the 1997 season. Solich earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from NU in 1966 and 1972, respectively.

Fresh Faces on Husker Sidelines for 2003 Season
Solich is surrounded by several new faces on his coaching staff for the 2003 season. Six new coaches are on the NU staff, including three assistants on each side of the ball, led by new offensive and defensive coordinators.

The new Husker assistants (previous coaching stop) include...

  • Barney Cotton, Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line (Offensive coordinator, New Mexico State)
  • Bo Pelini, Defensive Coordinator, (Linebackers, Green Bay Packers)
  • Tim Albin, Running Backs/Passing Game Coordinator, (Graduate Assistant, Nebraska)
  • Scott Downing, Tight Ends/Kickers & Punters/Recruiting Coordinator (Ass't. Head Coach, RBs, Purdue)
  • Marvin Sanders, Defensive Backs, (Secondary, Colorado State)
  • Jimmy Williams, Linebackers (Defensive Line, Toledo)

All of the new assistants had previous Nebraska ties except for Pelini, who came to Nebraska from the NFL coaching ranks and played college football at Ohio State. The newcomers join assistants Ron Brown (17th year), Turner Gill (12th year) and Jeff Jamrog (4th year). Brown continues to coach Nebraska's wide receivers. Gill remains the Huskers' quarterbacks coach and added the title of assistant head coach. Jamrog will again coach the Husker defensive tackles, but will also tutor the defensive ends and serve as Nebraska's special teams coordinator.

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