Big Plays Lead Huskers Past Bulldogs
Lincoln, Neb. - Quarterback Taylor Martinez threw for 219 yards and rushed for 166 more, and freshman Ameer Abdullah set a school record with 211 kick return yards, including a 100-yard fourth-quarter explosion to lead Nebraska to a 42-29 win over Fresno State at Memorial Stadium on Saturday night.
Playing in front of the NCAA-record 313th consecutive sellout (85,101 attendance) at Memorial Stadium and a Big Ten Network television audience, Nebraska used big plays all night long to improve to 2-0 on the season. Fresno State slipped to 0-2 despite leading 20-14 midway through the third quarter. The Bulldogs rolled up 444 yards in total offense against the Blackshirts thanks to 169 rushing yards from Robbie Rouse on 36 carries and 254 yards passing from Derek Carr. Fresno State's balanced offensive attack allowed them to maintain possession for more than 37 minutes in the game.
While the Bulldogs used four scoring drives of 10 or more plays to produce one touchdown and three field goals, the Huskers used four scoring drives of six or fewer plays to outlast the Bulldogs.
Martinez's 46-yard touchdown run on 3rd-and-3 with 2:02 left clinched the victory to cap an explosive night for the Husker offense. Along with a pair of touchdown runs, Martinez added a third-quarter touchdown pass to Quincy Enunwa.
Martinez finished with 385 yards of total offense - the second-best total of his career and the eighth-highest mark in Nebraska history. It was his seventh career 100-yard rushing performance, and his second-best passing total of his career.
For the game, Martinez added long runs of 57 and 38 yards, while adding a 53-yard pass to Kyler Reed, a 43-yard connection with Jamal Turner and a 42-yard hookup with Kenny Bell. Those six plays accounted for 279 of Nebraska's 438 yards of total offense. Abdullah added a 38-yard kickoff return to his 100-yard score to give the Huskers eight total plays of 38 or more yards in the game.
Fresno State used a big play on special teams to strike first, as returner Devon Wiley took Brett Maher's 49-yard punt back 67 yards for a touchdown to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead with 7:45 left in the first quarter. It was the first punt return for a touchdown by a Husker opponent since Wes Welker's 85-yard return for Texas Tech in 2001.
Martinez provided a quick answer for the Huskers, pushing NU 80 yards in just five plays capped by his one-yard touchdown run. The Husker drive was sparked by Martinez's 57-yard run on the opening play of the march, and included a 20-yard completion from Martinez to tight Ben Cotton to set up the tying score.
Bulldog sophomore quarterback Derek Carr than provided an answer of his own with a high-flying four-yard touchdown run as he stretched ball inside the pylon on the NU sideline across the goal while soaring out of bounds. Carr's run gave Fresno State a 14-7 with 28 seconds left in the opening quarter.
The Huskers answered again midway through the second quarter, as Martinez opened the drive with a 38-yard run, then connected with Bell on a 42-yard pass on the next play to put NU on the Bulldogs' doorstep.
Junior I-back Rex Burkhead, who finished with 15 carries for 55 yards and two touchdowns, capped the drive by diving over the pile on 4th-and-Goal from the 1 to tie the score at 14 with 4:43 left in the half.
But Fresno State carried the lead to the locker room by marching 67 yards on 11 plays capped by Kevin Goessling's 22-yard field goal with 25 seconds.
The Bulldogs built their lead to 20-14 on the opening drive of the third quarter, as Goessling tacked on a 36-yard field goal with 10:17 left. Goessling kick capped a 10-play, 61-yard drive.
Martinez then gave the Huskers their first lead of the game by showing more big-play ability. On 3rd-and-10 from the NU 39, Martinez hooked up with Turner on a 43-yard completion. Two plays later, Martinez found Enunwa on a 16-yard touchdown strike. Maher's extra point gave Nebraska a 21-20 lead with 8:20 left in the third quarter.
The two defenses played to a draw the rest of the third quarter, before Martinez and the Huskers used another big play to strike again to open the fourth. Martinez found tight end Kyler Reed down the middle for a 53-yard strike to open the drive after forcing a Fresno State punt. After another Reed catch for an eight-yard gain, Burkhead burst up the middle to cap the drive with a six-yard touchdown run to give the Huskers a 28-20 advantage with 12:59 left in the game.
Less than a minute later, Fresno State used its quickest scoring strike of the night by covering 76 yards in just four plays capped by Carr's 26-yard touchdown pass to Josh Harper to cut the NU lead to 28-26. Carr's two-point conversion pass to tie failed with 12:06 left.
Abdullah answered with Nebraska's quickest score of the night, covering 100 yards with a dazzling return to put the Huskers up 35-26 with 11:50 left.
True to their namesake, the Bulldogs kept fighting and marched 52 yards in 14 plays over the next 6:19. However, Fresno State had to settle for a 37-yard Goessling field goal to pull within a score at 35-29 with 5:24 left.
Nebraska then responded with its longest sustained drive of the night, covering 80 yards in seven plays in 3:22. Burkhead carried the ball the first six times for 34 yards on the drive, before Martinez exploded over the left side on an option play to race 46 yards for the final score with 2:02 left.
Nebraska continues its three-game season-opening homestand next week when the Huskers play host to Washington. Kickoff with the Huskies at Memorial Stadium is set for 2:30 p.m. (central) with an ABC telecast.
Final: #10 Nebraska 42, Fresno State 29
Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011
Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Neb.)
First Quarter (FS, 14-7)
FS - 7:45 - Devon Wiley 67 punt return (Kevin Goessling kick) - FS, 7-0
NU - 5:54 - Taylor Martinez 1 run (Brett Maher kick) - 5 plays, 80 yards, 1:51, 7-7
FS - 0:28 - Derek Carr 4 run (Goessling kick) - FS, 14-7
Second Quarter (FS, 17-14)
NU - 4:52 - Rex Burkhead 1 run (Maher kick) - 6 plays, 85 yards, 2:49, 14-14
FS - 0:25 - Goessling 22 FG - 11 plays, 67 yards, 4:18, FS 17-14
Third Quarter (NU, 21-20)
FS - 10:17 - Goessling 36 FG (Maher kick) - 10 plays, 61 yards, 4:43, FS, 20-14
NU - 8:20 - Quincy Enunwa 16 pass from Martinez (Maher kick) - 5 plays, 61 yards, 1:50, NU 21-20
Fourth Quarter (NU, 42-29)
NU - 12:59 - Burkhead 6 run (Maher kick) - 3 plays, 67 yards, 1:00, NU 28-20
FS - 12:06 - Josh Harper 26 pass from Carr (Carr pass failed) - 4 plays, 76 yards, 0:46, NU 28-26
NU - 11:50 - Ameer Abdullah 100 kickoff return (Maher kick) - NU, 35-26
FS - 5:24 - Goessling 37 FG, 14 plays, 52 yards, 6:19 - NU 35-29
NU - 2:02 - Martinez 46 run (Maher kick) - 7 plays, 80 yards, 3:22, NU 42-29
Final: #10 Nebraska 42, Fresno State 29
Time of Game: 3:36