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Huskers Resume Big 12 Play at Missouri

By NU Athletic Communications
Jammal Lord and the Huskers travel to Missouri this weekend for a showdown with the Tigers.
Jammal Lord and the Huskers travel to Missouri this weekend for a showdown with the Tigers.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Game 6–No. 10/7 Nebraska (5-0, 1-0) at Missouri (4-1, 0-1)
Date: Saturday, Oct. 11, 2003
Time: 6:10 p.m.(CDT)
Site: Columbia, Mo.
Stadium: Memorial Stadium
Field: Faurot Field
Surface: FieldTurf (2003)
Capacity: 68,349
Nebraska Radio: (Jim Rose–Play-by-Play; Adrian Fiala–Analyst; Gary Sharp–Sideline; Randy Lee-Booth, Pregame); 57-station Pinnacle Sports Network
Internet: Live Radio on Huskers.com
TV: TBS, National (Ron Thulin-Play-by-Play; Charles Davis-Color; Craig Sager, Erin Andrews-Sideline)

Huskers Resume Big 12 Play at Missouri
Lincoln --
Nebraska completed a perfect non-conference season with a shutout of Troy State last Saturday in Lincoln and now the 5-0 Huskers return to Big 12 Conference action. Six weeks after opening conference play at home against Oklahoma State, Nebraska gets back into league play on the road at 4-1 Missouri. Saturday's game at MU's Faurot Field is set for a 6:10 p.m. kickoff with the contest televised nationally on TBS.

Nebraska's 30-0 victory over Troy State marked the Huskers' first shutout in nearly three seasons and continued the early-season domination by the Husker defense. The nation's top-ranked defense will now face a stern test at Missouri against a high-powered Tiger offense led by talented sophomore quarterback Brad Smith. The game is a key road test for the Huskers, as they look to continue to set the early pace in a wide open Big 12 North race.

Missouri comes into Saturday night's game with a 4-1 record, including an 0-1 mark in Big 12 Conference play. The Tigers opened the year with four straight non-conference victories, before a 35-14 setback in their Big 12 opener at Kansas on Sept. 27. The Tigers had entered both national polls before the loss at Kansas.

A Husker victory on Saturday would push Nebraska to 6-0 on the year and 2-0 in Big 12 Conference action. NU opened the season with a 17-7 victory over then No. 24 Oklahoma State on Aug. 30 to take the early lead in the North Division race. A win over Missouri would mark the fourth time in Frank Solich's six seasons Nebraska has opened with a 2-0 Big 12 record and the fifth time in six years NU has won its first league game away from Lincoln.

Nebraska's victory over Troy State allowed the Huskers to continue their rise in the national polls. The Huskers moved up one spot to seventh in this week's ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and jumped two spots to 10th in the Associated Press Poll. NU's AP top 10 ranking is its first since before the Penn State game last season (Sept. 8 poll).

Nebraska Blanks Troy State to Improve to 5-0
The nation's top-ranked defense controlled the game from start to finish as Nebraska posted its first shutout in three seasons with a 30-0 victory over Troy State before a sellout crowd on Saturday afternoon in Lincoln. The Blackshirts limited Troy State to just 150 yards of total offense, forced four turnovers and allowed the Trojans to snap the ball in Nebraska territory just three times all day.

Nebraska opened the scoring late in the first quarter on David Dyches' 10th field goal of the season from 40 yards out. In the second quarter, the Husker defense continued to set the tone for the game, forcing Trojan turnovers on three consecutive possessions. The first turnover was sophomore free safety Josh Bullocks' fifth interception in five games this season, while the following two TSU turnovers were the result of fumbles on quarterback sacks. The Huskers failed to convert the first two Trojan miscues into scores, but after Fabian Washington recovered a fumble at the TSU 21, the Huskers took just four plays to convert the score into a touchdown on a 1-yard Jammal Lord run, giving the Huskers a 10-0 lead they carried into halftime.

Nebraska committed a pair of turnovers on its first three drives of the second half, but then got its offense untracked. Lord hit tight end Matt Herian with a 77-yard pass to the Troy State 3 and I-back Cory Ross scored one play later to give the Huskers a 17-0 lead with 5:18 left in the third quarter. The Huskers extended their lead on their next possession, marching 49 yards in six plays with Lord finishing the drive with his second TD run of the day from six yards out. The extra point failed, leaving the NU lead at 23-0. Nebraska capped the day's scoring behind a drive led by No. 2 quarterback Joe Dailey, who hit Herian on a 21-yard scoring strike to account for the final margin. The catch gave Herian Nebraska's first 100-yard receiving day since 2001 with three receptions for 110 yards. The Blackshirts held Troy State in check on its final three drives, preserving NU's first shutout since a 59-0 blanking of Baylor on Oct. 21, 2000.

Recapping Game Five...Nebraska 30, Troy State 0

  • Nebraska improved to 5-0 for the sixth time in the past seven seasons and fifth time in six years under Frank Solich. Solich picked up his 54th win in 70 games as Nebraska's head coach (54-16).
  • Nebraska completed non-conference play undefeated for the fifth time in six seasons under Frank Solich and the 10th time since 1990. The win over Troy State was NU's 35th straight home non-conference victory. Solich is 22-1 in regular-season games against non-conference opponents.
  • The 30-0 shutout of Troy State marked Nebraska's first shutout since a 59-0 whitewash of Baylor on Oct. 21, 2000. It is the fifth shutout in Solich's tenure as head coach.
  • Nebraska forced four Troy State turnovers including two interceptions and two fumbles. The Blackshirts forced Troy State turnovers on three straight second-quarter possessions. It marked the thrid time in five games this season Nebraska has forced four or more turnovers. The Huskers have forced 19 turnovers in the first five games this season after causing just 21 opponent turnovers in 14 games last season.
  • NU has converted opponent turnovers into 54 points this season. A year ago, opponent turnovers led to just 48 NU points in 14 games.
  • Sophomore free safety Josh Bullocks intercepted his fifth pass in five games this season. Bullocks, who is tied for the nation's lead in interceptions per game, moved into a tie for seventh on the NU single-season interception list with his fifth pick. He is just two interceptions shy of tying Nebraska's season interception record.
  • Senior linebacker Demorrio Williams continued to torment opponents. Williams recorded 1 1/2 sacks in the game and finished the game with 13 total tackles.
  • The Nebraska defense recorded a season-high six sacks for 42 yards in losses against the Trojans. In addition to Williams, senior defensive Trevor Johnson had two sacks, while linebacker Barrett Ruud and cornerback Kellen Huston each had one sack.
  • Nebraska again held a large field position advantage, with its average drive starting on its own 45, 18 yards better than Troy State's average starting position. In the first half, of the 61 plays run from scrimmage by both teams, 57 took place on Troy State's side of the field and Troy State did not snap the ball on NU's side of the field until 9:15 remained in the third quarter. The Trojans ran just three plays on NU's side of the field the entire game.
  • The Blackshirt defense held Troy State to 66 yards rushing, 84 passing yards and 150 yards of total offense, the fewest yards allowed by NU this season. The defense still has not allowed any points in the third quarter this season, and has allowed just seven points total in the second half. The Nebraska defense forced three and out or better (causing a turnover) on 10-of-16 Troy State drives (not counting 1-play drive to end game).
  • Nebraska tight end Matt Herian had three receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown against Troy State. Herian's TD came on a 21-yard reception from Joe Dailey, and he also had a 77-yard reception from Jammal Lord to set up a Husker touchdown one play later. Herian has had at least one catch in eight straight games and has multiple catches in three games this season. His 110 receiving yards were a career-best and the first 100-yard effort by a Husker receiver since Wilson Thomas had 109 yards at Colorado on Nov. 23, 2001. Herian's 110 yards were the most by a Husker tight end since Tracey Wistrom had 4-116 vs. Oklahoma State in 1999.
  • Jammal Lord passed for a season-high 135 yards by connecting on 7-of-12 attempts and hit Matt Herian on a 77-yard pass, the longest NU play from scrimmage this season. Lord also rushed 14 times for 72 yards and two touchdowns. Lord now has 2,025 career passing yards, and moved up to 11th on the NU career passing chart. He passed Tommie Frazier on NU's career rushing list and is now 24th with 1,965 career yards.
  • Punter Kyle Larson punted three times in the game, with all three pinning TSU inside its own 20. Larson tied his career long with a 71-yard punt. He has three punts of 60 yards or longer in the last three weeks.
  • Sophomore wide receiver Mark LeFlore had a career-best three catches for 14 yards. Ross Pilkington extended his streak of games with at least one catch to six with one reception for 20 yards.

Scouting Missouri
Missouri enters the matchup with Nebraska with a 4-1 overall mark and an 0-1 record in Big 12 Conference play. The Tigers began the year with four consecutive victories, before a 35-14 loss at Kansas on Sept. 27. Mizzou was idle last weekend before taking on the Huskers this Saturday in Columbia.

The Tiger offense is paced by a strong rushing attack that averages 212.4 yards per game to rank fourth in the Big 12 and 13th nationally. Senior running back Zack Abron leads the Mizzou ground attack, averging 96.0 yards per game, including consecutive 100-yard efforts in the Tigers' last two games. Abron averages 5.3 yards per carry and has scored six touchdowns.

Sophomore quarterback Brad Smith is a dual-threat for Missouri. Smith has rushed for 387 yards and three touchdowns this fall and averages nearly six yards per carry. He has recorded a pair of 100-yard games early in the season and ranks first nationally in rushing among quarterbacks. Smith also has an extremely accurate arm, having completed 66.9 percent (83-of-124) of his passes this fall. He has thrown for 704 yards and eight touchdowns, and has yet to throw an interception in 2003, putting him in the top 40 nationally in passing efficiency. A pair of wideouts have stood out as Smith's favorite targets. Junior Thomson Omboga has 21 receptions for 216 yards and a touchdown, while senior Darius Outlaw also has 21 catches for 128 yards, including four touchdowns. Abron has caught 15 passes out of the Tiger backfield.

Defensively, MU has allowed an average of 335.4 yards per game to rank sixth in the Big 12. The Tigers were very tough against the run in the first three games, but their last two opponents–Middle Tennessee and Kansas–have averaged better than 200 yards rushing. MU is allowing 127.8 yards on the ground and 207.6 yards passing per contest for the year.

Junior linebacker James Kinney leads the Tiger defense in tackles with 65 total stops, including 37 unassisted tackles. Senior linebacker Brandon Barnes has seven tackles for loss among his 56 total tackles, while junior defensive back Nino Williams has 43 tackles and three pass breakups. Mizzou place-kicker Mike Matheny has hit on 3-of-4 field goals and 16-of-18 PATs to open the season, while junior Brock Harvey is averaging 38.6 yards per punt. Punt returner Marcus James ranks among the Big 12's best, averaging 12.1 yards on 14 returns this season.

Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel
Gary Pinkel is in his third season as the head coach at Missouri and his 13th season overall as a collegiate head coach. Pinkel has a 13-15 record with the Tigers and an 86-52-3 (.621) overall record as a head man. Pinkel was the head coach for 10 seasons at Toledo before taking over in Columbia. He has guided the Tigers to 4-7 and 5-7 records in his first two years at Missouri. Pinkel is 0-2 against Nebraska and Frank Solich, 0-1 against the Huskers in Columbia.

Nebraska-Missouri Series...NU leads, 61-32-3
Nebraska holds a commanding 61-32-3 edge in the all-time series between the two schools, largely on the strength of the Huskers' current 24-game win streak in the series. Missouri's last victory over Nebraska was a 35-31 upset of the second-ranked Huskers in Lincoln in 1978. After that game, Nebraska held a 37-32-3 edge in the series, but has significantly extended its lead with the current win streak.

Missouri will be gunning for its first victory against Nebraska at Faurot Field since a 13-12 win over the No. 2 Huskers in 1973, Tom Osborne's first season as Nebraska head coach. Since that game, Nebraska has won 11 straight games over Missouri in Columbia, including six by three touchdowns or more.

Last season in Lincoln, Nebraska extended its winning streak over the Tigers in a hard-fought battle. The Husker defense shined in the game, holding the high-powered Missouri offense to just 220 total yards, including just 28 yards and two first downs in the second half. Missouri opened a 13-7 lead midway through the second quarter, but Nebraska responded with a touchdown just before half to take a 14-13 advantage into the locker room.

Nebraska took a 21-13 edge on an 89-yard punt return by DeJuan Groce midway through the third quarter and added a Josh Brown field goal in the fourth for the final margin. Nebraska picked up 325 yards rushing in the game, including 98 yards by quarterback Jammal Lord. The Huskers controlled the clock, with nearly 33 minutes of possession time, including 20:20 in the second half.

NU-Missouri Series Notes

  • This year's game marks the 35th time in 36 seasons Nebraska has been ranked entering the Missouri game, with 2002 being the lone exception.
  • An unranked Missouri team has defeated a Nebraska team ranked in the top 10 three times in series history, most recently in 1978.
  • Nebraska has averaged 40.8 points in its last four visits to Columbia, outscoring Missouri by a cumulative total of 163-58 in those four games.
  • The Huskers have limited Missouri to 13 points or fewer in eight of the past 10 meetings between the schools. Offensively, NU has scored 36 or more points in eight of the last 10 meetings.

NU-Missouri Ties

  • Nebraska has just one player on its roster from the state of Missouri–sophomore defensive lineman Jared Helming of Springfield, Mo.
  • Former Husker linebacker and 1994 Butkus Award finalist Ed Stewart is in his fifth year as an associate athletic director at Missouri.

Nebraska (5-0, 1-0) Missouri (4-1, 0-1)
Big 12 
Big 12 
Rushing offense
Passing offense
Pass efficiency
Total offense
Scoring offense
Rushing defense
Pass defense
Pass eff. defense
Total defense
Scoring defense
Net punting
Punt returns
Kickoff returns
Turnover margin

Bold - Denotes National Top 25 Ranking

Nebraska Head Coach Frank Solich
Coach Frank Solich (Nebraska, 1966) is in his sixth season at the helm of the Husker program with a 54-16 school and career record (.771). Solich ranks fourth among active coaches with at least five years of service in winning percentage. Nebraska's 5-0 start has allowed Solich to move ahead of Penn State's Joe Paterno and Michigan's Lloyd Carr on that list.

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 is again coaching the Husker defensive tackles, and is also tutoring the defensive ends and serves as Nebraska's special teams coordinator.

Huskers Continuing History of Fast Starts
Nebraska's victory over Troy State gave the Huskers a 5-0 record and marked the fifth time in six seasons under Frank Solich's direction that NU has started at least 5-0. Nebraska has now started nine of the past 11 seasons with a 5-0 record (all except 1996, 2002). 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 were 3-0 this September, and NU has been close to unbeatable in that month in recent years. Since the start of the 1992 season, Nebraska is 37-4 (.902) in September, with the only losses on the road at Washington (1992), Arizona State (1996), Penn State (2002) and Iowa State (2002). Solich's Nebraska teams are 17-5 in the month of October.

Nebraska Adds to Non-Conference Perfection in 2003
Nebraska's 30-0 victory over Troy State on Saturday gave the Huskers a 4-0 record against non-league opponents this season and improved NU to 5-0 overall this season. This year's perfect non-conference record is nothing new for the Huskers, consider...

  • NU has not lost a regular-season non-conference game in five of Frank Solich's six seasons as head coach
  • The Huskers have been perfect in the non-conference portion of their schedule in 24 of 42 seasons during the Devaney-Osborne-Solich era. In two other seasons (1970, 1976) NU's only non-conference blemish was a tie.
  • Nebraska's 4-0 non-conference record this fall marks the Huskers' 10th perfect non-conference mark since 1990.

NU Looks to Get Conference Road Season Started Right
The Huskers opened Big 12 action in style this season, defeating 24th-ranked Oklahoma State, 17-7, in Lincoln on Aug. 30. The victory marked Nebraska's 28th victory in its last 29 conference openers. The Huskers have also had good success in league road openers in recent years. Since the start of Big 12 play in 1996, the Huskers are 6-1 in their first conference road game away from Lincoln (5-1 in opponent's home stadium in addition to a 24-17 win over Oklahoma State in Kansas City in1998). Nebraska's only loss in that period is a 36-14 setback at Iowa State in 2002. In fact, before last season's loss at Iowa State in its league road opener, Nebraska had won its previous 15 conference road openers, including four victories over Missouri in Columbia.

Huskers Dominate Line of Scrimmage in Recent Meetings with Mizzou
Nebraska has won 24 straight games against Missouri since 1979, including five straight meetings under Frank Solich. The Huskers have outscored Missouri 161-63 (32.2-12.6) under Solich, thanks in large part to Nebraska's advantage in the running game. In the past five meetings between the two schools, Nebraska has averaged 327.4 yards rushing per game, while holding the Tigers to just 95.0 yards per game on the ground. Mizzou has been held to less than 100 yards rushing in four of the five meetings, including 25 yards in 1999.

The rushing advantage has allowed Nebraska to have a 184-yard advantage in total offense on average in the matchups. The Huskers have held Missouri to 220 yards or less in four of the last five meetings between the two schools, including 220 yards last season. As a result of controlling the football with its rushing attack, Nebraska has averaged nearly 34 minutes in time of possession in the last five meetings with Missouri.

Nebraska and Missouri both have strong running games entering this year's matchup. The Huskers have the Big 12's top running attack, averaging 241.0 yards per game, while the Tigers are fourth in the league and 13th nationally at 212.4 yards per game.

NU-Mizzou Matchup to Feature Dual-Threat Quarterbacks
For the second straight year, the meeting between Nebraska and Missouri will feature a pair of quarterbacks who rank among the nation's leaders in rushing among quarterbacks, but have also shown the ability to make plays in the passing game.

Nebraska's Jammal Lord totaled 1,412 yards rushing last season, the third-most rushing yards ever by a Division I-A quarterback. This season Lord has rushed for 340 yards (68.0 ypg) and five touchdowns despite being the focus of opposing defenses. Lord is completing 55 percent of his passes and is coming off his best two passing games of the season, including a season-high 135 yards against Troy State.

The Tiger offense is led by sophomore Brad Smith, who like Lord, joined an exclusive club by topping 1,000 yards in both rushing and passing last season. In fact, Smith became just the second player in Division I-A history to pass for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season. This fall, Smith ranks first nationally among quarterbacks in rushing at 77.4 yards per game and is 45th in the nation in total offense at 218.2 yards per game.

Below is a look at the statistical line for each of the quarterbacks in last year's matchup in Lincoln, a 24-13 Nebraska victory.

  • Jammal Lord, 17 rushes, 98 yards; 4-of-12 passing, 34 yards, 1 TD; 132 yards of total offense
  • Brad Smith, 17 rushes, 34 yards; 14-of-29 passing, 123 yards; 157 yards of total offense

Scanning the Polls
Nebraska found itself in an unfamiliar preseason position entering the 2003 season–unranked in both major polls. The Huskers were just outside of the top 25 in both polls, marking the first time since 1969 that Nebraska entered a season unranked in the Associated Press poll. The Huskers took care of that unusual situation in just one week. NU's 17-7 victory over Oklahoma State moved the Huskers into the polls, and they have continued to rise.

The Huskers are ranked seventh in this week's ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and moved up to 10th in the AP poll. Nebraska is one of four Big 12 teams that are ranked in at least one of the polls, joining Oklahoma (1 AP/1 Coaches), Texas (11/11) and Kansas State (22/21). Meanwhile, four other conference teams received votes in at least one of the polls, including Oklahoma State, Missouri, Kansas and Texas Tech.

The Huskers' move back into the national polls came after an absence from the Associated Press weekly polls for 12 straight weeks. Nebraska has now been ranked in 528 of 543 AP polls since 1969 (all but one week in 1977, two weeks in 1981, the final 11 weeks of 2002 and this year's preseason poll). Nebraska's entrance into the AP top 10 this week marks the Huskers' first visit to the top 10 since before the Penn State game last season. Before dropping out of the top 10 last season, NU had been ranked in the top 10 in the previous 54 AP polls. Nebraska has now been ranked in the AP top 10 for at least one week in each of the last 34 seasons and 40 of the last 41 years.

Huskers Turning the Tables on Turnovers
Part of Nebraska's struggles during a 7-7 campaign in 2002 were a result of finishing the season with a negative turnover margin. The Huskers forced 21 turnovers in 14 games last season, an average of 1.5 per contest. On the flip side, Nebraska committed 24 turnovers and finished the year a minus-three in turnover margin, one of just two seasons in the past 28 years Nebraska has had a negative turnover margin.

This season has been far different. Nebraska has forced 19 turnovers in just five games, an average of 3.8 per game, and just two shy of last year's season total. The Husker offense has committed 10 turnovers, giving the Huskers a +1.8 turnover margin per game, good for second in the nation. Entering the season, Nebraska had not forced five turnovers in a game for a span of 43 games since the 1999 campaign. This season, the Blackshirt defense has forced five opponent miscues against both Oklahoma State and Southern Miss and caused four Troy State turnovers last Saturday, including three consecutive second-quarter possessions.

Among the individual stalwarts in the turnover department are...

  • Junior linebacker Barrett Ruud has tied the NU season record for fumble recoveries by a linebacker with three, including a 15-yard return for a touchdown against Oklahoma State. Ruud's three recoveries tie his father, Tom (1974), for the position record. Ruud has also forced a pair of fumbles.
  • Senior Will linebacker Demorrio Williams has created headaches for opposing offenses all season, including forcing two fumbles and recovering two others.
  • Senior nose tackle Ryon Bingham has also recovered a pair of fumbles, both of which have been converted to touchdowns by the Husker offense.
  • Sophomore free safety Josh Bullocks has five interceptions in five games to lead the nation in interceptions per game. Last season Fabian Washington and DeJuan Groce tied for the season interception lead with four in 14 games. Bullocks has six interceptions in his career.
  • Sophomore cornerback Fabian Washington has picked off a pair of passes this season and six in his career and recovered a fumble against Troy State.
  • Sophomore Titus Adams gives Nebraska four players with at least two fumble recoveries this season.

Nebraska's defense will be put to the test in causing turnovers this week. Missouri has turned the ball over just twice in five games, the fewest of any team in the nation.

Shutout Adds to Nebraska's Defensive Dominance
Nebraska's defense was dominant enough in the first four games to lead the nation in total defense and rank in the top 20 in all major defensive categories. The one thing missing from the Blackshirts' early-season resume was a shutout. The resume is now complete after a 30-0 whitewash of Troy State in Lincoln. The Trojans never seriously threatened to put points on the scoreboard, snapping the ball in Nebraska territory just three times on the day.

Troy State Coach Larry Blakeney left Saturday's game impressed with the Husker defense.–

"We faced a very good defense, a defense to be reckoned with. They might be good enough to take that team to pretty good heights."

The shutout was the first by Nebraska since a 59-0 win over Baylor on Oct. 21, 2000, a span of 37 games, and marked Nebraska's fifth shutout under Coach Solich. The 2003 Blackshirts have become just the fifth NU defense in the Osborne-Solich era to hold opponents to 14 points or less in each of the first five games. The Huskers have now accomplished the feat three times in six seasons under Solich (also 1999, 2001) and also held the first five opponents to less than 14 points in 1990 and 1976 under Tom Osborne. The 1976 and 1999 NU defenses held each of the first six opponents to 14 points or less, while the 2001 unit did not allow an opponent to score more than 14 points in the first seven games of the season.

Back in Black and Tops in Total Defense
Nebraska's top defensive players had to wait until just a few days before the season opener to learn who would be given Blackshirts–the coveted practice jerseys worn by first-team Husker defenders. First-year coordinator Bo Pelini's delay in awarding the Blackshirts does not seem to have fazed his players, as Nebraska has opened the season with five straight stout defensive efforts. Here are a few notes regarding the performance of NU's defense through five games...

  • Nebraska ranks in the top 10 nationally in all five major defensive categories and turnover margin, including No. 1 in total defense at 218.6 yards per game and tops in pass efficiency defense with a rating of 79.6 points.
  • The Huskers held their first three opponents to 10 points or less for the first time since 1984. In that season, Nebraska finished the year No. 1 in the country in total defense (203.3 ypg) and scoring defense (9.5 ppg).
  • NU has forced 19 turnovers in the first five games, including five each against Oklahoma State and Southern Miss and four against Troy State. NU did not force more than three turnovers in a game last season and just 21 total in 14 games in 2002. Nebraska's +1.8 turnover margin ranks second in the nation.
  • Nebraska has held each of its first five opponents to 108 or fewer yards on the ground, including just 44 by Penn State, which rushed for 217 yards against Nebraska in 2002. Nebraska is allowing an average of just 72.8 yards per game on the ground, good for 10th in the nation.
  • Nebraska's defense has yet to allow a rushing play of 20 yards or more. The longest rushes against the Huskers this season are three 17-yard runs. scampers by Utah State's David Fiefia, Southern Miss' Tim Blackwell and Troy State's Aaron Leak. Only eight opponent pass plays have covered more than 20 yards.
  • Troy State's 150 yards of total offense were the fewest NU has allowed since Baylor picked up just 84 in a 59-0 NU victory in October of 2000. That game was also NU's most recent shutout before the 30-0 win over Troy State.
  • Nebraska has not allowed a point in the third quarter this season and the Huskers hold a 60-0 scoring advantage in that period. By comparison, NU opponents outscored the Huskers 110-97 in the third quarter in 2002. The Blackshirts have allowed just seven points in the second half this fall, a late TD by Southern Miss.
  • Nebraska has allowed just five drives to enter its red zone in five games. Three of the five drives that have reached Nebraska's red zone have started inside the Nebraska 30-yard line. Opponents have penetrated the red zone on just two of the other 66 drives against the Husker defense this season. Both Utah State and Troy State failed to reach the red zone against NU's defense. Southern Miss reached the NU red zone twice in the second half, marking the first second-half red zone trips by opponents this season.
  • The Huskers allowed Oklahoma State just183 yards of total offense, the fewest Nebraska had allowed in 24 games. Nebraska had not allowed fewer yards in a season opener since Iowa picked up just 169 yards of total offense in the 1999 opener in Iowa City (NU, 42-7). The Cowboys are averaging 470.3 yards per game since their loss at Nebraska.
  • Nebraska's defense was nearly flawless after the first quarter in each of the first two games. Oklahoma State picked up 113 yards in the game's first 18 minutes in the season opener, but managed just 70 yards of offense in the game's final 42 minutes, including 57 in the second half. Utah State gained 145 yards in the first quarter, but had just 93 the remainder of the game, with 59 of those yards coming on the final possession of the game.

Williams Setting Tone for Blackshirts
Nebraska's defensive effort in 2003 has been truly a team effort. However, it is hard not to notice the play of senior Will linebacker Demorrio Williams. The Beckville, Texas, native leads the team with 48 tackles, including 31 solo stops. He tied his career high with 13 tackles against Troy State, including seven solo stops, a pair of tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. His eight tackles for loss (39 yards) and 5.5 sacks (35 yards) both lead the Blackshirt defense. Williams has also forced two fumbles, recovered a pair of fumbles, hurried opposing quarterbacks a team-high five times and broke up a pair of passes.

Williams simply dominated the second quarter against Utah State, recording three sacks for 27 yards, forcing fumbles on two of the sacks. Nebraska converted the fumbles Williams caused into nine points in a 31-7 victory. Williams' play against the Aggies earned him Big 12 Defensive Player-of-the-Week honors. Williams made another strong statement in front of a national stage on ESPN Thursday night at Southern Miss, recording a season-high 12 tackles, the third-most of his Husker career. He has been Nebraska's nominee for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week after three of NU's first five games.

The Butkus and Lombardi Award committees have noticed the play of the 6-1, 215-pound senior by both adding him to the watch lists for their respective awards. Williams' play has also drawn rave reviews from both Nebraska opponents and the NU coaching staff.

"Whoa, that's like having a safety at linebacker. He was in the backfield all the time. We had him blocked and he was quick enough to get around us and cause trouble." –Oklahoma State offensive guard Sam Mayes

"If you really want to know, I can still feel him. He was the best player out there today. I've never played against anyone like him before." –Utah State quarterback Travis Cox

"We don't have an athlete like him. He's a difference maker and those two turnovers he caused were a major, major, major difference in this game." –Utah State Head Coach Mick Dennehy

"He's a special player. He has special talents. That left guard might be seeing him (Williams) in his sleep for a while."–Nebraska Defensive Coordinator Bo Pelini after Oklahoma State game

NU Defense Dominating in All Areas
Demorrio Williams has been the headline grabbing player on defense early in the season, but the Blackshirts have received great individual efforts from numerous players in 2003, including...

  • Junior linebacker Barrett Ruud ranks second on the team in tackles with 44 stops, including a team-high 11 tackles against Utah State and 10 at Southern Mississippi. Ruud's three fumble recoveries have resulted in 17 points, including a pair of touchdowns and a field goal. Ruud's performance this fall has not come as a surprise to NU coaches, a fact Head Coach Frank Solich pointed out after the season opener.–"I thought leading up to this game that Barrett Ruud had a great fall camp. He is a great football player, and I think that showed in a lot of ways today."
  • Left cornerback Fabian Washington is only a sophomore, but has emerged as the leader in the Nebraska secondary. Washington ranks third on the team in tackles with 32 stops, including team-high efforts against Oklahoma State (11) and Penn State (9). Washington was a key in the NU defense that limited Oklahoma State All-America receiver Rashaun Woods to five catches for 47 yards, including two receptions for nine yards in the second half.

    Washington had another superior effort against Penn State, finishing with nine tackles, his first interception of the season, a pair of pass breakups and two tackles for loss. Washington broke up two more passes against Southern Miss and now has 18 career pass breakups, 10th on Nebraska's career list. He added his sixth career interception and a fumble recovery in the shutout of Troy State. Pelini has been impressed with the work of NU's left corner– "He was all over the place (against Oklahoma State). He's a good football player, who really steps it up in live competition. It was no surprise to us the way he played. He's a gamer."

    Defensive Backs Coach Marvin Sanders echoed Pelini's feelings on Washington after his standout performance against Penn State – "He's showed he is a very special player. Fabian has been a very consistent player, and he is getting better every week. I think, right now, he's definitely playing at an All-Big 12 level."
  • Sophomore free safety Josh Bullocks has intercepted five passes this season and is tied for first in the nation in intercpetions per game. Bullocks' two picks against OSU marked the first time a Husker had two interceptions in a game since Washington picked off two Iowa State passes last season. Bullocks' five interceptions are tied for seventh on NU's single-season list and just two away from the school record. Sanders has also praised Bullocks by saying that he is also performing at an all-conference level.
  • Senior linebacker T.J. Hollowell has teamed with Williams and Ruud to make the Husker linebacking corps a three-man wrecking force. Hollowell has made 28 tackles this season, including seven each against Utah State and Southern Miss. He had a tackle for loss, in addition to a pair of quarterback hurries and two pass breakups against Troy State. The Husker linebackers combined for 27 tackles against Troy State.

Power Husker Running Game Controlling Football
Nebraska's offense has yet to hit on all cylinders, but a powerful ball-control Husker running attack, combined with great defense, has kept opponent offenses off the field this season. Nebraska has snapped the ball a total of 362 times (72.4 per game) in the first five games, a remarkable 54 more plays than its opponents have run. The discrepency in offensive snaps has led to a huge Husker advantage in time of possession. Through five games, Nebraska has held the ball an average of 34:26 to just 24:34 for the opposition. Against Penn State, Nebraska's advantage was 19:30 (39:45-20:15). The Huskers' 8:12 drive to open the third quarter represented more possession time than the Nittany Lions had in the entire second half (7:33). The 19 1/2-minute time of possession advantage against Penn State was Nebraska's greatest since Nebraska held the ball for 39:47 in a 41-0 shutout against Kansas in 1998.

Nebraska Looks to Make Most of Red Zone Opportunities
The Husker offense has struggled to cross the goal line once it has moved inside the opponent's 20-yard line, scoring 10 touchdowns in 27 red zone opportunities, with another nine of those drives ending in field goals. While Nebraska's ability to finish drives with touchdowns has been a concern, the offense's ability to march into the red zone this season has been a drastic improvement from 2002.

This season, NU is averaging 5.4 trips per game into the red zone, while last year Nebraska moved inside the 20 just 43 times in 14 games, or an average of 3.1 trips per outing. On the flip side, NU opponents have moved inside the Husker 20 just five times in the first five games, after averaging 3.4 red zone opportunities in 2002.

Huskers Winning Field Position Battle
While Nebraska's offense continues to polish its attack early in the season, the Huskers have leaned on excellent defense and outstanding special teams. While the defense has carried Nebraska by dominating opponents and forcing turnovers, and the offense has controlled the clock, the Husker special teams has quietly done its part to give NU a huge advantage in field position.

  • Through five games, Nebraska holds a 15.3-yard advantage in starting field position, beginning its average drive on its own 42.2, while opponents have started on average at their own 26.9
  • The Huskers are coming off their most lopsided field position advantage against Troy State, holding a 17.4-yard edge in starting position. Nebraska started six drives on Troy State's side of the field and nine drives beyond its own 40, while Troy State started inside its own 20 three times and managed just one drive start in Nebraska territory. Nebraska held a 15-yard advantage in starting field position in the season opener against Oklahoma State, a 17-yard edge against Utah State and better than a 14-yard advantage at Southern Miss.
  • Nebraska has started four drives inside the opponent's 20-yard line, while beginning just four inside its own 20. Opponents have started 16 drives inside their own 20 and just five in Nebraska territory.
  • Nebraska has already gained a 1,012-yard advantage in cumulative starting field position, an average of better than 200 yards per game in field position differential.

Davis Handling Heavy Work Load for Huskers
Senior I-back Josh Davis should be sleeping well on Saturday nights. The 5-11, 200-pound Davis is in his third season as Nebraska's starting kickoff return man, and already owns NU single-game, season and career records for kickoff return yardage. Davis is eight yards from becoming the Big 12's career leader in kickoff return yardage and by season's end could become the first 2,000-yard kickoff return man in Nebraska history. His special teams role has grown this season, as he has taken over Nebraska's top punt return duties. Davis has returned 20 punts for 193 yards, an average of 9.6 yards per return.

Davis has also risen to the top of the depth chart at I-back and has led the Husker rushing attack that ranks sixth nationally in rushing offense. Davis is averaging 83.4 yards per game (42nd in nation) and 4.9 yards per carry. Against Penn State, Davis was a workhorse, setting career highs for carries (32) and rushing yards (179), including a career-long 42-yard run in the second quarter. His tough running style has allowed him to be thrown for only nine yards in losses in 85 carries this season. Davis has also caught three passes for 23 yards out of the backfield.

The running style of Davis reminds many of his father, Tony, who played at Nebraska from 1973 to 1975 and earned the nickname "Tough Tony." Josh's 179-yard effort against Penn State was the first 100-yard day of his career and made the Davis family the first to have a father-son combination both record 100-yard rushing games at Nebraska. Tony had seven 100-yard games in his Nebraska career.

Josh Davis' multi-purpose role with the Huskers has put him among the nation's leaders in all-purpose running. Davis averages 150.8 all-purpose yards per game, good for eighth nationally and tops in the Big 12 in that category. Davis had 237 all-purpose yards in the win over Penn State.

Larson Keys Husker Punting Team
Nebraska's special teams have a tradition of being exactly that–"special". Along with senior kickoff and punt return man Josh Davis, senior punter Kyle Larson headlines the NU special teams this fall. Larson is in his third season as a starter for the Huskers. He has been one of the nation's top punters each of the past two seasons and his statistics rank near the top of Nebraska's career charts.

Larson averaged 43.2 yards per punt last season and keyed a Husker punting unit that ranked second in the Big 12 and fifth nationally in net punting. The Funk, Neb., native had 21 punts of 50 yards or longer last season and pinned the opposition inside its own 20 on 23 occasions. Larson was a second-team All-Big 12 selection by the league's coaches last season and was one of 10 semifinalists for the Ray Guy Award. His 42.82 career punting average ranks second on the Husker career charts, behind only his predecessor Dan Hadenfeldt (1999-2000).

Larson has been strong again in 2003. He is averaging 42.2 yards on 20 punts, with 55 percent (11-of-20) of his punts leaving the opposition inside its own 20 yard-line. All three of Larson's punts against Troy State were downed inside the 20, including a 71-yard boot that tied his career long. Larson has uncorked three punts of 63 yards or longer in the past two weeks. Against Southern Mississippi, Larson averaged 47.6 yards on seven punts, including boots of 63 and 67 yards. His effort against the Golden Eagles earned him Big 12 Special Teams Player-of-the-Week honors, marking the third time in his career Larson has captured that award.

Versatile Lord Continuing Move in NU Record Books
Nebraska senior quarterback Jammal Lord made a large dent in the Husker record book a year ago. The Bayonne, N.J., native set NU game and season records for total offense and rushing yards by a quarterback. Lord finished the season with 1,412 rushing yards, the third-most ever by a Division I-A quarterback and amassed 2,774 yards of total offense. In the process, he also became one of only 19 Division I-A players to both rush and pass for more than 1,000 yards in the same season. He was the third Husker signal caller in six seasons to reach that plateau, joining Scott Frost (1997) and Eric Crouch (2001).

In addition, Lord was Nebraska's most consistent big-play threat a year ago. He had a hand in a remarkable 41 plays of 20 yards or more in 2002, including 21 runs and 20 passes. Despite his gaudy numbers last season, the 6-2, 220-pound Lord worked hard in the off-season to become a more efficient quarterback in 2003, most notably through the air. Last season Lord completed just under 47 percent of his passes and threw for 12 touchdowns against 12 interceptions.

The off-season work has produced results for Lord, who has completed 55 percent of his passes in Nebraska's first five games. He has thrown a pair of touchdown passes (both against Southern Miss) and been picked off three times. His passing percentage improvement of nearly eight points is the most drastic among recent NU quarterbacks in their second year.

Lord is coming off his two most productive passing days of the young season. At Southern Miss he hit on 6-of-14 passes for 124 yards, including scoring strikes of 44 and 43 yards to Ross Pilkington and Isaiah Fluellen, respectively. In Nebraska's 30-0 win over Troy State, Lord connected on seven of his 12 attempts, including a season-long 77-yard pass to tight end Matt Herian.

Lord continues to be among Nebraska's most dangerous rushing threats, despite being constantly keyed on by opposing defenses. Lord has rushed for 340 yards on 90 carries and scored five touchdowns this season. Lord ran for 100 yards on 20 carries against Penn State, marking the sixth 100-yard game of his career and first in 2003. Only 2001 Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch (17) has more career 100-yard rushing games than Lord from the quarterback position. Lord is coming off a 72-yard rushing effort on 14 carries against Troy State, including a pair of touchdown runs. Lord's 72 rushing yards moved him past Tommie Frazier into 24th place on Nebraska's career rushing list, third among quarterbacks. Lord is just 35 yards from becoming Nebraska's 22nd 2,000-yard career rusher. He eclipsed the 2,000-yard passing barrier against Troy State and now has 2,024 yards to rank 11th on that career list.

Recent Nebraska history indicates that Lord could continue to make significant improvement this fall. Husker quarterbacks in their second seasons as starters have enjoyed much greater success in year two at the helm versus their first season as a starter. Most recently, Crouch improved his completion percentage from 48.5 percent as a freshman to 51.9 percent as a sophomore. Crouch also improved his average yards per total offense attempt by nearly a yard. The graphic below examines several Nebraska quarterbacks' statistics in their first seasons as starters versus their second years.
NU Strives for Offensive Efficiency

Nebraska entered the season with a desire to become a more balanced, efficient offense. Through five games, Nebraska has primarily relied on its punishing running game to control the clock and keep opponents off the field. As a result, the Huskers have run the ball on 293 of 362 offensive snaps, allowing NU to control the ball for an average of more than 35 minutes per game.

Solich and offensive coordinator Barney Cotton have regularly talked about increasing the Huskers' completion rate into the 55 to 60 percent area and through five games results are good, with NU connecting on 56.5 percent of its pass attemtps. Despite the run-oriented attack early in the season, this year's Husker offense still has the potential to be one of Nebraska's more balanced units in recent years.

Last season Nebraska generated 72 percent of its offense on the ground, and in the first five seasons under Solich the Huskers have accounted for just over 70 percent of their offense via the run. This season, Nebraska has gained 68.5 percent of its yards on the ground. By comparison, Tom Osborne's last five Husker teams (1993-97) picked up 71.5 percent of their offense via the run.

Solich's most balanced offensive attack came in his first season in 1998, when NU gained 65.9 percent of its offense on the ground (34.1 percent passing). In fact, that season marks Nebraska's most pass-oriented offense in the past 26 years. Nebraska has not picked up more than 35 percent of its offensive yardage via the pass since the 1976 season. In that campaign, Vince Ferragamo guided an NU passing attack that led the Big Eight Conference at 188.0 yards per game and accounted for 46.1 percent of Nebraska's offense. Each of Osborne's first four NU teams (1973-76) picked up at least 37 percent of their offense by passing.

Youthful Receiving Corps Starting to Make Large Impact
Nebraska graduated all three starters and eight lettermen at its three receiving positions from the 2002 team. Heading into the season, Nebraska coaches knew the receiving corps would be extremely youthful and relatively untested, but also knew that the group possessed a great deal of talent and athleticism. That ability has started to show in the past two weeks as NU's passing attack has opened up.

Among Nebraska's two-deep at the two receiver positions and tight end, four of the six players are either sophomores or redshirt freshmen, including....

  • Sophomore tight end Matt Herian who averaged a remarkable 43.0 yards on seven receptions last season, including four touchdowns. Herian has shown the same big-play ability this season, averaging 20.5 yards on 12 receptions, including a 77-yard catch from Jammal Lord against Troy State. He also caught his first TD pass of the season against the Trojans, a 21-yard reception from freshman Joe Dailey. Herian finished the Troy State game with three receptions for 110 yards, the first NU 100-yard receiving game since Wilson Thomas at Colorado in 2001. It also marked the most receiving yards by an NU tight end since Tracey Wistrom had four catches for 116 yards against Oklahoma State in 1999. Herian and Lord have connected for nine pass plays of 28 yards or longer in the past two seasons, including three this year. Herian has caught a pass in eight straight games dating back to last season.
  • Sophomore receiver Ross Pilkington spent two seasons playing minor league baseball before joining the Nebraska program and plays with the poise of a veteran. Also a physical downfield blocker, Pilkington is tied with Herian for the team lead in receptions with 12 for 175 yards, an average of nearly 15 yards per reception. Pilkington caught a 44-yard TD pass from Lord at Southern Miss and has a catch in six straight games.
  • Sophomore wideout Mark LeFlore is Nebraska's co-No. 1 "Z" receiver and ranks third on the team with six catches for 41 yards, including a career-high three catches against Troy State.
  • Redshirt freshman Isaiah Fluellen is among the fastest players on the Husker roster and has emerged as a big-play threat in recent weeks. Fluellen hauled in a 43-yard TD reception on the first catch of his Husker career at Southern Miss and carried on a pair of reverse plays against Troy State.

Dyches Heads Newcomers Making Impact for 2003 Huskers
Last season a group of newcomers made a strong impact on the Nebraska football program. Five true freshmen saw action for Coach Frank Solich last fall and all made their presence known. In fact, three of the five scored touchdowns the first time they touched the ball as a Husker. Cornerback Fabian Washington set NU freshman records for pass breakups and interceptions, I-back David Horne finished third on the team in rushing, while split end Ross Pilkington and tight end Matt Herian tied for the Husker rookie receiving yardage record.

Another talented group of newcomers could have a similar impact for Nebraska this fall. Place-kicker David Dyches has been Nebraska's headline newcomer so far in 2003. Dyches has connected on 10-of-13 field goal attempts this year, including four each against Utah State and Penn State. The Spring, Texas, native ranks third nationally in field goals per game (2.5 pg) and is 10th in the nation in scoring at 9.75 points per game. Dyches is just the third Husker place-kicker (five times) and first freshman to connect on four or more field goals in a game.

Five other true freshman have already seen action this season, including wide receiver Andy Birkel, defensive tackle Brandon Teamer, long snapper Lane Kelly, quarterback Joe Dailey and offensive guard Greg Austin. Dailey has been impressive as Nebraska's No. 2 quarterback, connecting on 6-of-9 passes for 72 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 76 yards on 14 carries. Austin made his NU debut against Troy State, becoming the first true freshman offensive lineman to play for Nebraska since 1999, when both Toniu Fonoti and John Garrison saw action as true freshmen.

Personnel, Injury Update
Three Husker starters missed the Troy State game with injuries, including offensive guard Jake Andersen, nose tackle Ryon Bingham and strong safety Philip Bland. Solich is hopeful that all three could return to action this week at Missouri.

Senior fullback DeAntae Grixby has missed the first five games after suffering an ankle injury during fall camp, but has resumed running and was in uniform against Troy State. Nebraska has suffered just one season-ending injury this season, a severe knee injury by senior place-kicker Dale Endorf.

Junior linebacker Lannie Hopkins missed much of fall camp while recovering from off-season surgery, played on special teams in the season opener, but has sat out the past four games. Sixth-year senior defensive lineman Jason Lohr did not play in Nebraska's first three games, but saw his first action in two seasons at Southern Miss and also played against Troy State and shared a tackle for loss. Cornerback Willie Amos has played in three games this season after a comeback from a severe knee injury suffered in the spring of 2002.

Nine Players Competing in 2003 With Degree in Hand
Nine members of the Huskers' senior class had already completed their undergraduate educations heading into the 2003 season. This season represents the most graduates Nebraska has had entering a season under Head Coach Frank Solich. Included in that group is senior nose tackle Patrick Kabongo, who played his junior season with his degree after graduating in three years in August of 2002. In addition to the nine players who already have their degrees, 11 more players are on track to earn their degrees after the fall semester. Last season, five Huskers played the entire season with their degree and a total of 16 Nebraska players had earned their degrees before the Huskers' appearance in the Independence Bowl.

Nebraska Tops Elite Programs in Consistency
Nebraska ranks third among Division I-A schools in all-time football victories with 776 wins. The Huskers have the nation's best record since 1962, posting a 410-85-5 record in the last 42 seasons. In that period, Nebraska has easily been the most consistent program in the nation. That is evident when comparing the Huskers' record to the other nine programs among the top 10 in all-time victories.

The Huskers have had just three seasons (including 2002) since 1962 with eight or fewer victories. Eight of the other nine schools in the top 10 have had at least 15 seasons with eight or fewer wins in that span. Nebraska's last losing season occurred in 1961. Michigan has not had a losing record since 1967, but the other eight schools on the all-time top 10 wins list have all had losing seasons since 1988, including six programs with losing campaigns in the past seven seasons.

Nebraska is back in the national rankings after opening the season with a 5-0 record and hopes to contend for Big 12 and national honors in 2003. The Huskers need look no further than the top 10 winningest programs for direction. Although each has experienced a downturn of some degree, the group had a strong season in 2002. Eight of the 10 teams won at least nine games and ranked in the top 16 in the final Associated Press poll. This season seven of those teams find themselves ranked in the most recent Associated Press poll.

Against AP Ranked Teams
With its season-opening victory over 24th-ranked Oklahoma State, Nebraska improved to 90-96-3 (.484, 189 games) all time vs. AP ranked opponents, not a bad percentage considering NU started with a 7-35 mark before Coach Bob Devaney arrived in 1962. Over the last 10 seasons, the Huskers have gone 29-14 against ranked foes, with just two of the losses at home. Nebraska has won 14 of its last 19 games against top 10 AP teams (since 1994).

The Huskers were 0-4 last season against AP ranked opponents, and ended a six-game overall losing skid against ranked foes with the victory over Oklahoma State. Nebraska's previous victory over a ranked opponent was a 20-10 defeat of No. 2 Oklahoma on Oct. 27, 2001.

Over the last 31 years, NU is 72-49-1 (.594, 122 games) vs. ranked teams. In the 1990s, NU was 27-10-1 (counting the Jan. 2, 2000, win over Tennessee). Solich is 11-12 vs. ranked teams (4-5 vs. top 10 AP teams), and has lost just twice at home to a ranked AP team (7-2 home, 1-8 away, 3-2 neutral). The Huskers have two future 2003 opponents currently ranked in the AP poll, including No. 11 Texas and 22nd-ranked Kansas State.

Former Huskers a Fixture on NFL Rosters
Nebraska is consistently among the nation's leaders in supplying talent to the National Football League and this season is no different. The Huskers had a total of 42 former players on NFL rosters at the start of this fall's training camp and 32 players are currently on NFL rosters. In all, 19 teams had at least one former Husker on their opening day rosters, with Kansas City, Houston, St. Louis and Oakland each having three former Huskers on their opening rosters.

All four Huskers selected in the 2003 NFL Draft made opening day rosters, including Chris Kelsay (2nd round, Buffalo), DeJuan Groce (4th, St. Louis), Josh Brown (7th, Seattle) and Scott Shanle (7th, St. Louis). Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro offensive guard Will Shields and Oakland Raiders defensive tackle John Parrella are Nebraska's most experienced NFL veterans, each entering their 11th season in the league. A full list of Nebraska's NFL players is in the left column.

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