Huskers Look to Get Back on Track Against Texas A&M
Game 7–No. 18/14 Nebraska (5-1, 1-1) vs. Texas A&M (3-3, 1-1)
Date: Saturday, Oct. 18, 2003
Time: 11:40 a.m.(CDT)
Site: Lincoln, Neb.
Stadium: Memorial Stadium
Field: Tom Osborne Field
Surface: FieldTurf (1999)
Capacity: 73,918 (260th Consecutive Sellout)
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: Fox Sports Net, National (Bill Land-Play-by-Play; Dave Lapham-Color; Jim Knox-Sideline)
Special Event: 2003 Nebraska Homecoming
Huskers Look to Get Back on Track Against Texas A&M
Lincoln -- Nebraska was one of six unbeaten teams to fall last Saturday, suffering its first loss of the season 41-24 on the road at Missouri in a key Big 12 North Division game. The loss dropped Nebraska to 5-1 overall on the season and 1-1 in Big 12 Conference play. The Huskers also took a hit in the national polls this week, falling out of the top 10 in both polls to 14th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and 18th in the Associated Press poll.
The loss came after Nebraska took a 24-14 advantage into the fourth quarter, but Missouri countered with 27 fourth-quarter points to end the Huskers' 24-game winning streak in the series between the schools. Despite the loss, NU is still in good shape in a jumbled North Division race, sitting in a four-way tie for first at 1-1 in league play.
The Huskers will have an opportunity to re-establish their momentum with a pair of home games, beginning with this Saturday's contest against Texas A&M at Memorial Stadium. The game will mark the 11th all-time meeting between the two schools and the seventh all-time meeting between the two schools in Lincoln. Game time is set for 11:40 a.m. (CDT) on Saturday, with the game televised nationally by Fox Sports Net.
Texas A&M enters Lincoln with a 3-3 record after a 73-10 rout of Baylor on Saturday in College Station. The Aggies opened the year with two home victories, before suffering three straight losses before the win over Baylor.
Saturday's game will also mark Homecoming 2003 on the NU campus. The Huskers have a remarkable run of success on Homecoming weekend, winning 34 straight Homecoming contests since a 1968 loss to Kansas State.
Nebraska Suffers First Setback on the Road at Missouri
Missouri ended 24 years of frustration, taking advantage of five Nebraska turnovers and erasing a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to secure a 41-24 victory over the Huskers on Saturday night in Columbia. The Tigers scored 27 fourth-quarter points, including three scoring runs by Brad Smith, to overcome a 24-14 deficit.
Trailing by three, Missouri converted the Huskers' fourth turnover of the game, a fumble by Jammal Lord, into the game winning score. The Tigers executed a fake field goal on Santino Ricco's 15-yard touchdown pass to Victor Sesay with 11:41 remaining. Ricco, the backup quarterback, lofted a pass to Sesay in the back of the end zone to put MU ahead for good at 28-24. In all, the Tigers converted Nebraska's season-high five miscues into 21 points. Smith accounted for more than 300 yards of total offense and four touchdowns against the nation's top-ranked defense, as he scored on runs of 39, 1 and 9 yards, while catching a 47-yard touchdown pass from Darius Outlaw.
The loss overshadowed strong offensive performances by Lord and I-back David Horne. Lord completed 12-of-18 passes for 146 yards, while rushing for 111 yards. He threw and rushed for a score. Horne came off the bench to rush for a season-high 119 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.
The Blackshirts made their mark on Missouri's opening possession, as sophomore Josh Bullocks intercepted a Smith pass and returned it 16 yards to the 42-yard line. NU converted the miscue quickly, as Lord found Mark LeFlore on a screen pass for a 55-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead. The Tigers got a golden opportunity of their own later in the quarter, as Josh Davis fumbled a punt, and the Tigers recovered at the 6-yard line. The turnover was costly, as Zack Abron scored on a touchdown run two plays later.
Nebraska thwarted another Tiger threat after a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, as Demorrio Williams snuffed out the drive with his first career interception. Missouri did jump ahead later in the second quarter, as the the Tigers marched 95 yards on nine plays to take a 14-7 lead. The Tigers opened the playbook with a 47-yard throwback pass from Outlaw to Smith for the touchdown.
The Huskers showed their two-minute offense before halftime, marching 37 yards in eight plays in the final 40 second to set up a David Dyches' 30-yard field goal, putting NU within 14-10 at the half. The Huskers dominated the third quarter, marching 62 yards on 14 plays on their first drive of the second half with Horne capping the drive with a five-yard TD run to give NU a 17-14 advantage. The Huskers extended the lead to 24-14 two possessions later, going 67 yards on five plays, as Lord, who accounted to 57 yards on the drive, raced the final 35 yards for the score. NU saw its lead cut to 24-21 with 14:53 remaining on a 39-yard touchdown run by Brad Smith, a play that sparked the Tigers to 27 fourth-quarter points on a defense that had allowed seven second-half points all season.
Recapping Game Six...Missouri 41, Nebraska 24
Nebraska saw its 24-game winning streak against Missouri snapped with the loss. The win streak was the third-longest by a Division I-A team over another, trailing only NU's 34-game win streak against Kansas and Notre Dame's streak over Navy.
Nebraska senior Josh Davis set the Big 12 career kickoff return record with 97 yards on three kickoff returns. Davis now has 1,887 yards on kickoff returns in his career, surpassing the old record of 1,798 yards, set by Colorado's Ben Kelly from 1997 to 1999.
Nebraska quarterback Jammal Lord accounted for 257 yards of total offense in the game and reached a pair of milestones. Lord passed the 2,000-yard career rushing mark, becoming the 22nd Husker and third NU quarterback to reach that plateau. He also cracked 4,000 yards of total offense in his career, the ninth Nebraska player to account for 4,000 yards or more.
Lord's 146 yards passing were a season-high and marked the third consecutive game he has thrown for 100 yards or more. Lord added 111 yards rushing, marking the third game in his career in which he has topped 100 yards in both rushing and passing. Lord also tied the most accurate day of his career, hitting on 12-of-18 passes to match his effort against McNeese State last season.
Husker sophomore free safety Josh Bullocks picked off a pass for the third straight game and now has six interceptions in six games this season. Bullocks is just one interception away from tying the NU single-season record.
Lord connected with wide receiver Mark LeFlore on a 55-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, marking the eighth straight year Nebraska has had a scrimmage play or return of 50 yards or more against Missouri.
LeFlore caught a career-high six passes in the game for 76 yards, also a career-best. The 55-yard touchdown was the first TD catch of LeFlore's career and second score overall, along with a TD run on a reverse last season.
Sophomore I-back David Horne rushed for a season-high 119 yards on a career-high 26 carries in the game. The effort was the fourth 100-yard day of Horne's career and his first of the 2003 season.
Nebraska committed a season-high five turnovers in the loss, including four fumbles. However, the Husker defense did intercept a pair of Missouri passes to give the Blackshirt defense 21 turnovers gained in six games this season. NU's 21 turnovers gained matches the season total in 14 games last season.
Tight end Matt Herian had two receptions for 31 yards in the game and has now caught at least one pass in nine straight games. Herian had a 21-yard catch from Lord, marking his sixth reception of 20 yards or longer this season.
Ross Pilkington extended his streak of games with at least one catch to seven with two receptions for 35 yards.
Linebacker Demorrio Williams made 10 tackles in the game, marking the third straight game in which he has recorded double figures in tackles. Williams also nabbed his first career interception and ran his season sack total to 6.5, with a five-yard sack of Brad Smith.
Sophomore defensive tackle Le Kevin Smith recorded a career-high 10 tackles in the loss.
The game marked the 15th time under Frank Solich that Nebraska has had two or more players rush for 100 yards in the same game, but the first time the Huskers have lost in one of those games.
Missouri quarterback Brad Smith rushed for 123 yards and three touchdowns, marking the eighth straight game Nebraska has lost when allowing a 100-yard rusher.
Scouting Texas A&M
Texas A&M enters its matchup at Nebraska with a 3-3 overall record and a 1-1 mark in Big 12 Conference action. The Aggies opened the season with a pair of victories, defeating Arkansas State and Utah at home, but dropped their next three games, including road setbacks at Virginia Tech and Texas Tech and a home loss to Pittsburgh. A&M rebounded on Saturday with a 73-10 win over Baylor in College Station, evening its conference record.
The Aggies boast an explosive offense led by quarterback Reggie McNeal. A&M is averaging 441.5 yards per game of total offense to rank 18th nationally, and feature one of the nation's most balanced attacks. The Aggies are 10th nationally and second in the Big 12 in rushing offense at 217.3 yards per game. The A&M air attack averages 224.2 yards per game to rank fifth in the conference.
McNeal has completed better than 55 percent of his passes for 988 yards and seven touchdowns, against just two interceptions. He has also rushed for 237 yards and ranks 50th nationally in total offense and 19th in passing efficiency. Texas A&M rolled up 719 yards of total offense in last week's victory over Baylor, including 437 rushing yards. Redshirt freshman Courtney Lewis leads the Aggie rushing attack with 586 yards and nine touchdowns, while averaging nearly seven yards per carry. Senior wideout Jamaar Taylor is A&M's leading receiver with 25 catches and four touchdowns, while averaging 18.2 yards per reception.
Defensively, the Aggies have allowed 381.7 yards per game, including 147.2 per contest on the ground and 234.5 per game through the air. A&M is coming off a strong defensive effort against Baylor, holding the Bears to just 184 yards of total offense and forcing four Baylor turnovers. Sophomore defensive back Jaxson Appel leads the Aggie defense with 69 tackles and three interceptions.
Texas A&M Coach Dennis Franchione
Dennis Franchione is in his first season as Texas A&M's head coach, after two seasons at Alabama. Franchione is 3-3 in his first season in College Station and owns a 158-76-2 (.674) overall record in 21 seasons as a collegiate head coach. Franchione posted a 17-8 record in his two seasons at Alabama. He previously had head coaching stops at TCU (1998-2000), New Mexico (1992-97), Southwest Texas State (1990-91), Pittsburg State (1985-89) and Southwestern (Kan.) College (1981-82). Franchione has led teams to bowl games in five of the last six seasons. This is his first meeting with Nebraska.
Nebraska-Texas A&M Series...NU leads, 8-2
Nebraska has won eight of the 10 all-time meetings between the two schools, including five of the six meetings in Lincoln. The teams met six times on the gridiron before both were members of the Big 12 Conference, with five of those matchups in Lincoln and the sixth in the 1988 Kickoff Classic in East Rutherford, N.J. Since the formation of the Big 12, the schools have met four times, including scheduled regular-season matchups in 1998 and 2002 in College Station and 1999 in Lincoln. Nebraska also defeated Texas A&M, 54-15, in the 1997 Big 12 Championship Game in San Antonio en route to a national championship.
The Huskers and Texas A&M combined for three straight Big 12 titles from 1997 to 1999, and have a combined five appearances in the league championship tilt, including the 1997 matchup between the schools.
Last season's game in College Station was a memorable matchup as Nebraska rallied from a 17-point second-half deficit for a 38-31 victory over the Aggies. The comeback tied the largest in school history and was NU's largest under Coach Frank Solich. For more notes on last season's comeback victory please see page five.
Nebraska controlled last year's matchup statistically, rushing for 381 yards on 73 attempts, while holding the Aggies to just 53 rushing yards. The Huskers held a 497 to 322 edge in total offense and a seven-minute advantage in time of possession. However, A&M built a 17-point third-quarter lead, thanks in part to a blocked punt for a touchdown and a fumble return for a touchdown. Nebraska's ground attack was led by quarterback Jammal Lord who rushed an NU quarterback record 30 times for 159 yards, while freshman I-back David Horne carried 24 times for 128 yards and four touchdowns.
NU-Texas A&M Series Notes
Nebraska has scored 37 or more points in three of the last four meetings with the Aggies.
Four of the 10 games in the series have resulted in shutouts, including three by Nebraska, most recently a 37-0 blanking of A&M in Lincoln in 1999.
Nebraska has held the Aggies to seven points or less in five of the 10 all-time meetings.
The Huskers' 1998 loss in College Station was Frank Solich's first as a head coach and ended NU's 40-game regular-season conference win streak.
NU-A&M, Texas Connections
Texas A&M Director of Athletics Bill Byrne served in the same capacity at Nebraska for 10 years until taking over in College Station this January. Aggie Senior Associate A.D. Jeff Schmahl served as the Director of HuskerVision at Nebraska until leaving for A&M this past summer.
Nebraska has 13 players from the state of Texas on its 2003 roster, including starting linebackers Demorrio Williams (Beckville) and T.J. Hollowell (Copperas Cove) and starting place-kicker David Dyches (Spring). Other players from Texas likely to see action include offensive guard Greg Austin (Cypress), offensive tackle Nick Povendo (Keller) and cornerback Willie Amos (Sweetwater).
Nebraska Head Coach Frank Solich
Coach Frank Solich (Nebraska, 1966) is in his sixth season at the helm of the Husker program with a 54-17 school and career record (.761). Solich ranks sixth among active coaches with at least five years of service in winning percentage. Nebraska's loss at Missouri dropped Solich from fourth to sixth on the list, but he is just behind Michigan's Lloyd Carr in fourth place and Penn State's Joe Paterno who stands fifth on the 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 Make Alumni Happy on Homecoming
Saturday's matchup with Texas A&M will be Homecoming at Nebraska, and the Huskers have a long history of success in front of the alumni. Nebraska has won 34 straight Homecoming contests since a 12-0 loss to Kansas State in 1968. That game also marked the last time Nebraska was shut out at home. The Huskers improved to 69-19-4 all-time on Homecoming with last season's 45-7 victory over Kansas, the Huskers' most frequent Homecoming victim. The Huskers have won 15 of their last 17 Homecoming contests by 17 points or more.
Nebraska Dominates in October Home Games
Nebraska has been nearly unbeatable through the years at home, losing only 12 home games since 1981. Much of the Huskers' success in that time period has come in the month of October. In the last 24 seasons, including 2003, Nebraska has won 50 of its 51 games at Memorial Stadium in the month of October, most recently a 30-0 shutout of Troy State on Oct. 4. Nebraska won all 39 of its home games from 1981 to 1997, and is 11-1 at home in October under Frank Solich with the only loss a 20-16 setback against Texas on Oct. 31, 1998.
Controlling Line of Scrimmage Sets Tone in NU-A&M Matchups
The last four meetings between Nebraska and Texas A&M have been controlled by the team that has been able to run the football effectively. Last season, Nebraska churned out 381 yards on the ground in a 38-31 comeback victory in College Station. The Husker defense controlled the Aggie running game, limiting A&M to just 53 rushing yards.
Nebraska rushed for 335 yards in both 1997 and 1999 victories against the Aggies, while making the Texas A&M running game virtually non-existent. The Huskers held the Aggies to just two yards rushing in a 37-0 win in 1999, and limited A&M to just 13 yards rushing in the 1997 Big 12 Championship Game.
Texas A&M used a rushing advantage to knock off No. 2 Nebraska in 1998 in College Station. The Aggies pounded out 259 yards on the ground in a 28-21 victory, while holding the Huskers' ground game to just 141 yards.
2002 Comeback at A&M Historic
Nebraska pulled off a historic come-from-behind victory at Texas A&M last season. In the game, Nebraska rallied from a 31-14 third-quarter deficit to post a 38-31 victory at Kyle Field. The Huskers trailed 31-21 entering the fourth quarter in the game. A few notes on Nebraska's comeback victory at A&M last season.
The 17-point rally tied the top comeback in school history and was Nebraska's best under Head Coach Frank Solich. NU trailed 17-0 in the first quarter of its 1991 game at Kansas, but rallied to win 59-23.
The second-largest deficit Nebraska has overcome to win under Solich was 10 points against Missouri on Oct. 24, 1998, in Lincoln. NU trailed 13-3 in the second quarter, but rallied for a 20-13 win.
The last time Nebraska rallied from a bigger deficit entering the fourth quarter was on Oct. 22, 1966, at Colorado. The Huskers trailed 19-7 entering the fourth quarter, but rallied for a 21-19 victory vs. the Buffs.
Before the A&M game, NU had not won a game when trailing at any point in the fourth quarter since a 34-32 victory over Colorado on Nov. 24, 2000. CU led 32-31 late in the game, but NU's Josh Brown hit a game-winning field goal on the last play of the contest. The CU win marked the first time since statistics have been kept (since 1946) that the Huskers won on the last play of regulation.
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 continued to rise until last week's 41-24 setback at Missouri.
The Huskers are ranked 14th in this week's ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, down seven spots from last week and fell to 18th in the AP poll. Nebraska is one of six Big 12 teams that are ranked in at least one of the polls, joining Oklahoma (1 AP/1 Coaches), Texas (20/20), Texas Tech (–/23), Oklahoma State (23/24) and Missouri (24/–). Meanwhile, Kansas State is receiving votes in the polls.
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 529 of 544 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 entered the AP top 10 at No. 10 last week before the loss at Missouri, marking NU's first visit to the top 10 since before the Penn State game last season. 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.
Turnovers Key Factor in Nebraska's 2003 Season
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 21 turnovers in six games, an average of 3.5 per game, and equal to last year's season total. The Husker offense, however, has had its own struggles with turnovers, especially in the last two weeks. After committing three turnovers in a win over Troy State, NU had a season-high five turnovers in its 41-24 loss at Missouri, with the miscues leading directly to 21 Tiger points.
Nebraska still maintains a +1.0 turnover margin on the year to rank third in the Big 12 Conference and 14th nationally in that category. 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, including three consecutive second-quarter possessions.
Among the individual stalwarts in the turnover department are...
Sophomore free safety Josh Bullocks has six interceptions in six games to tie for the national lead in interceptions per game. Last season Fabian Washington and DeJuan Groce tied for the season interception lead with four in 14 games. Bullocks' six interceptions are tied for fourth on the NU single-season list and just one away from the school record of seven, held by Larry Wachholtz (1966), Dana Stephenson (1969) and Bill Kosch (1970). Bullocks is the first Husker to have six interceptions in a season since cornerback Kenny Wilhite in 1991.
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. He had his first career interception at Missouri.
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 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.
Blackshirts Back Among Nation's Best Defenses
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 played strong defense throughout the season. Although NU's performance at Missouri did not match its dominant ways in the first five games, Nebraska still ranks among the nation's best in nearly every statistical category. Here are a few notes regarding the performance of NU's defense through six games...
NU ranks in the top 18 nationally in all five major defensive categories and turnover margin, including No. 2 in total defense at 257.5 yards per game (behind Georgia, 255.2) and third in pass efficiency defense with a rating of 87.4 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 21 turnovers in six 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 +1.0 turnover margin ranks 14th in the nation and third in the Big 12 Conference.
Nebraska held each of its first five opponents to 108 or fewer yards on the ground, before Missouri picked up 211 in a 41-24 win over the Huskers. NU held Penn State to just 44 yards, after the Nittany Lions rushed for 217 yards against Nebraska in 2002. The Huskers are allowing an average of just 95.8 yards per game on the ground, good for 18th in the nation.
Nebraska's defense has allowed just two runs of 20 yards or longer this season, both by Missouri's Brad Smith. The previous long rushes against the Huskers this season were three 17-yard runs. scampers by Utah State's David Fiefia, Southern Miss' Tim Blackwell and Troy State's Aaron Leak. Only 10 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 74-0 scoring advantage in that period. By comparison, NU opponents outscored the Huskers 110-97 in the third quarter in 2002. The Blackshirts allowed just seven points in the second half through the first five games, before Missouri exploded for 27 fourth-quarter points in last week's 41-24 NU loss.
Nebraska has allowed just 10 drives to enter its red zone in six games, including only five in the season's first five games. Eight of the five drives that have reached Nebraska's red zone have started inside the Nebraska 36-yard line, including all five by Missouri (three inside NU 10). Opponents have penetrated the red zone on just two of the other 77 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 451.6 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.
Shutout Adds to Nebraska's Defensive Dominance
Nebraska's defense established its dominance in the season's first four games, but the one thing missing from the Blackshirts' early-season resume was a shutout. That goal was accomplished with 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 the 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 became 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.
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 58 tackles, including 37 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. Against Missouri, Williams recorded his third consecutive double-figure tackle game, and added a sack and his first career interception.
The senior has nine tackles for loss (44 yards) and 6.5 sacks (40 yards) both team-leading totals. Williams has also forced two fumbles, recovered a pair of fumbles, hurried opposing quarterbacks a team-high five times, broke up a pair of passes and intercepted a pass.
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 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 six 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 this 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 56 stops, including three double-figure tackle games (12 vs. Missouri, 11 vs. Utah State, 10 vs. Southern Miss). 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 35 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 19 career pass breakups, tied for seventh 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 six 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' six interceptions are tied for fourth on NU's single-season list and just one away from the school record. Sanders has also praised Bullocks by saying that he is also performing at an all-conference level. Bullocks has intercepted a pass in three straight games, marking the first time a Husker defender has accomplished that feat since Troy Watchorn had interceptions in four straight games in the 2000 season (Iowa, Missouri, @ Iowa St., @ Texas Tech).
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 35 tackles this season, including seven each against Utah State, Southern Miss and Missouri. The Husker linebackers combined for 29 tackles against Troy State.
Power Husker Running Game Controlling Football
Nebraska's offense has not consistently 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 435 times (72.5 per game) in the first six games, 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 six games, Nebraska has held the ball an average of 33:52 to just 26:08 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 11 touchdowns in 30 red zone opportunities, with another 10 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 5.0 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 10 times in the first six 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 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 quietly did its part to give NU a huge advantage in field position. The tables were turned on Nebraska at Missouri, as the Tigers held a 13-yard advantage in starting field position, with their average drive start on the MU 43. Missouri started five drives inside Nebraska territory, including three drives inside the Husker 10 after NU turnovers.
Through six games, Nebraska still holds a 10.4-yard advantage in starting field position, beginning its average drive on its own 40.3, while opponents have started on average at their own 29.9.
The Huskers had 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 seven inside its own 20. Opponents have started 18 drives inside their own 20 and 10 in Nebraska territory.
Nebraska has a 717-yard advantage in cumulative starting field position, an average of nearly 120 yards per game in field position differential.
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 42.68 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 41.5 yards on 26 punts, with 46 percent (12-of-26) 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 three 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.
Davis Moves to Top of Big 12 Kickoff Return Record Books
Senior Josh Davis is in his third season as Nebraska's starting kickoff return man and his work has earned him a place in the Nebraska and Big 12 Conference record books. Davis had three kickoff returns for 97 yards at Missouri, pushing his career total to 1,887 yards on kickoff returns, bettering the previous Big 12 career record of 1,798 yards, set by Colorado's Ben Kelly from 1997 to 1999. Davis also holds the Big 12 career record for kickoff returns (76) and kickoff return yards in a season (994 in 2002). He is now just 113 yards from becoming the first Nebraska player to reach 2,000 career kickoff return yards.
Davis should be sleeping well on Saturday nights. In addition to his kickoff return duties, the 5-11, 200-pound Davis has taken over Nebraska's top punt return duties. Davis has returned 21 punts for 195 yards, an average of 9.3 yards per return.
Davis is also at the top of the depth chart at I-back and is a key part of a Husker rushing attack that ranks fifth nationally in rushing offense. Davis is averaging 70.2 yards per game and 4.6 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 24 yards in losses in 92 carries this season. Davis has also caught four passes 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 142.5 all-purpose yards per game, good for 17th nationally. Davis had 237 all-purpose yards in the win over Penn State.
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 and continues to do so in 2003. The Bayonne, N.J., native set NU game and season records for total offense and rushing yards by a quarterback in 2002. 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 57.7 percent of his passes this season. He has thrown for three touchdowns and been picked off four times. His passing percentage improvement of more than 11 points is the most drastic among recent NU quarterbacks in their second year.
Lord is coming off his three most productive passing days of the 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 threw for a season-high 146 yards at Missouri by completing 12-of-18 passes in the game, including a 55-yard touchdown pass to Mark LeFlore. His 146 yards passing at Missouri were just five yards short of his career-best 151 yards last season against McNeese State and tied the most accurate passing effort of Lord's career (also 12-18 vs. McNeese State, 2002).
Lord continues to be Nebraska's leading rusher, despite being constantly keyed on by opposing defenses. Lord has rushed for 451 yards on 109 carries and scored six touchdowns this season. Lord ran for 111 yards on 19 carries at Missouri, marking the seventh 100-yard game of his career and second in 2003 (100 vs. Penn State). Only 2001 Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch (17) has more career 100-yard rushing games than Lord from the quarterback position.
Lord also passed two milestones in his 257-yard total offense performance at Missouri. Lord became the ninth Husker to pass 4,000 yards of career total offense early in the first quarter and later in the game became the 22nd Husker and third NU quarterback to reach 2,000 career rushing yards. Lord now has 4,247 yards of career total offense to rank eighth in Nebraska history, just less than 400 yards behind his position coach Turner Gill who is seventh at 4,634 yards. Lord is within striking distance of second place on the career list, held by Tommie Frazier at 5,476 career yards. Lord has 2,076 career rushing yards, just 50 yards from moving into the top 20 on the NU career list. Against Troy State, Lord became Nebraska's 12th career 2,000-yard passer and now ranks 11th on that list with 2,181 career passing yards.
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.
Lord Hopes to Duplicate Strong 2002 Game vs. A&M
Jammal Lord produced one of the top performances of his Nebraska career in leading NU to a 38-31 comeback victory last season at Texas A&M. Lord accounted for 275 yards of total offense in the victory, and...
Lord set a Nebraska quarterback record for rushing attempts in a game with 30 carries for 159 yards, the third-best rushing effort of Lord's career and the seventh-best ever by a Nebraska quarterback.
Lord hit on 7-of-12 passes for 116 yards, marking one of three games in his career he has topped 100 yards in both rushing and passing (also McNeese State, 2002; Missouri, 2003).
Lord's 275 yards of total offense are the third most in his career.
NU Strives for Offensive Efficiency
Nebraska entered the season with a desire to become a more balanced, efficient offense. Through six 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 347 of 435 offensive snaps, allowing NU to control the ball for an average of nearly 34 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 six games results are good, with NU connecting on 58.0 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 and that has shown in the past three weeks with Nebraska topping 100 yards through the air in three straight games.
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 67.6 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.
Horne is Nebraska's "Mr. October"
Nebraska sophomore I-back David Horne has waited until the month of October to hit full stride in each of the past two seasons. A year ago, Nebraska was looking for a needed spark in its running game and turned to the true freshman before the Oct. 5 game against McNeese State. Horne responded with 81 yards in his career debut and seems to have taken a liking to the month ever since.
Horne has rushed for at least 80 yards in five of the six games he has played in the month of October in the past two seasons, with the lone exception against Troy State two weeks ago.
Three of Horne's four career 100-yard games have come in October, including 125 yards at Oklahoma State last season, a career-high 128 yards in last year's win at Texas A&M and a season-high 119 yards on 26 carries last week at Missouri.
Horne has scored seven of his 10 career touchdowns in the month of October, including four last year against the Aggies and one last week at Missouri.
Horne has carried the ball 20 times or more four times in his career, all in October, including a career-high 26 carries last week at Missouri.
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 three 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 19.8 yards on 14 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 nine 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 14 for 210 yards, an average of 15 yards per reception. Pilkington caught a 44-yard TD pass from Lord at Southern Miss and has a catch in seven straight games.
Sophomore wideout Mark LeFlore is Nebraska's co-No. 1 "Z" receiver and ranks third on the team with 12 catches for 117 yards. He is coming off a breakout game at Missouri, with a career-high six receptions for 76 yards, including his first career touchdown catch, a 55-yarder in the first quarter. LeFlore scored a rushing touchdown on a reverse as a true freshman last season.
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 11-of-14 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 (2.2 pg) and is tied for 17th in the nation in scoring at 9.0 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. Dyches' 11 field goals are just three shy of the Nebraska freshman field goals record of 14, set by Josh Brown in 1999.
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 Toniu Fonoti saw action as true freshmen.
Personnel, Injury Update
Two Husker starters missed the Missouri with injuries, including nose tackle Ryon Bingham and strong safety Philip Bland. Andersen returned to action at Missouri. Solich is hopeful both can return to the field this week. Senior fullback DeAntae Grixby missed the first five games after suffering an ankle injury during fall camp, but returned to action at Missouri. 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 five 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 410-86-5 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 5-1 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).
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.