|Cory Ross rushed for a career-high 169 yards in Saturday's loss to the Golden Eagles.|
Lincoln, Neb.—Southern Miss scored 18 points off four Nebraska turnovers and defeated the Huskers, 21-17, Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium. With the loss, the Huskers fell to 1-1 on the season.
Forced to battle back from five turnovers and trailing 21-17 with less than four minutes remaining in the game, the Huskers began their final drive at their own 41-yard line after forcing Southern Miss to punt from its own 21. NU picked up two quick first downs, as sophomore quarterback Joe Dailey hit Ross Pilkington with a 21-yard pass, then connected with Grant Mulkey for 14 yards. After a 4-yard rush by sophomore running back Cory Ross and an incomplete pass, Terrence Nunn had a 5-yard reception. On fourth-and-one, Ross carried for a 3-yard gain.
With a first down at the 12, Dailey threw two incomplete passes before the Huskers were hit with a 5-yard penalty for delay of game. Dailey’s pass to the corner of the end zone slipped through Matt Herian’s hands, as USM’s Caleb Hendrix was credited with a pass breakup. On fourth down, Dailey couldn’t find an open receiver and scrambled 10 yards as time expired.
“Southern Miss was very opportunistic,” NU Coach Bill Callahan said. “When you turn the ball over the amount of times we did today, you’re going to lose. It’s unfortunate that a lot of good things were done on the field today, and I felt like we had improvement in certain areas. It’s disappointing and unfortunate that the players had a game taken away from them. Our ball security needs to improve. We had 476 yards total offense and gave the ball away five times, that’s a tough pill to swallow. I thought our defense played outstanding.”
The Huskers won the time of possession battle, 35:18-24:35 and racked up 476 yards of total offense while limiting the Golden Eagles to 274 yards. Nebraska also posted 148 kickoff return yards to USM’s 23.
Dailey was 22-of-42 with 202 yards, two touchdown passes, three interceptions and a fumble. Dailey’s 42 attempts tied the single-game school record set by Dave Humm in 1972.
Ross finished with a career-high 169 yards on 27 carries, highlighted by a career-long 52-yard run. Herian tied a school record for tight ends with eight receptions for 71 yards and a score.
Southern Miss quarterback Dustin Almond finished with 142 yards passing, hitting 12-of-28 attempts with one touchdown and one interception.
Trailing 9-3 after the first half, Nebraska took its first lead of the game with a 73-yard scoring drive on its opening series of the second half. Ross broke loose for a career-long 52-yard run on the first play of the drive, marking the longest run by a Husker running back since the 2002 season. With a first down on the Southern Miss 21, NU rushed three straight times to make it first-and-goal at the 9-yard line. Dailey then hit sophomore Grant Mulkey for the first touchdown of the game with 11:29 remaining in the third quarter.
The drive swung the momentum to the Huskers, as junior safety Daniel Bullocks intercepted an Almond pass intended for Antwon Courington on the second play of USM’s ensuing series. Bullocks returned the pick 16 yards to the Southern Miss 28 to set up another quick Nebraska score. Facing third-and-nine, Dailey connected with Herian for a 13-yard touchdown pass, and NU led, 17-9, after Sandro DeAngelis’ PAT kick. The touchdown reception was Herian’s third of the season.
But just as Nebraska appeared to be in control of the game, the Golden Eagles again scored on a Husker turnover. USM linebacker Naton Stewart intercepted Dailey and sprinted 49 yards for the score as time expired in the third quarter. NU stopped Southern Miss on a two-point conversion attempt to maintain a 17-15 advantage.
However, Southern Miss capitalized on another NU turnover in the fourth quarter. Green rushed up the middle for 18 yards, was surrounded by the Golden Eagles’ defense and fumbled. Darrell Bennett recovered and ran 17 yards to the Southern Miss 49. After a three-yard rush by Anthony Harris, Almond threw a 46-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Young to give USM a 21-17 lead with 7:47 left in the fourth quarter. Southern Miss then failed on its second two-point conversion attempt of the game.
Nebraska trailed, 6-0, after Southern Miss capitalized on two Husker turnovers. Dailey directed the Huskers to the Golden Eagles’ 30-yard line before facing a fourth-and-seven situation. USM defensive end Matthew Chatelain broke up a Dailey pass, and defensive lineman Terrance Ford grabbed the tipped ball and ran 31 yards to the Nebraska 33. Southern Miss’ Darren McCaleb capped a seven-play, 11-yard drive with a 39-yard field goal.
On the Huskers’ next offensive series, USM’s John Eubanks intercepted a pass from Dailey intended for Ross Pilkington. Eubank’s 12-yard return put the Golden Eagles at the NU 27. Southern Miss moved just three yards against the Blackshirts and ended the drive with a 41-yard field goal by McCaleb, taking a 6-0 lead with 3:14 remaining in the first quarter.
Nebraska finally responded on the next series. Green returned the USM kickoff 28 yards and later broke a 24-yard run to highlight the 52-yard drive. DeAngelis connected on a 35-yard field-goal attempt to cut the Southern Miss lead in half with 14:50 remaining in the second quarter.
The Huskers continued to struggle offensively, punting for the first time in 2004 on their next offensive series and then failing to convert on a fourth-and-eight on the USM 32 on the following drive.
Meanwhile, the Golden Eagles produced their longest drive of the half. Almond completed 3-of-5 attempts for 38 yards to direct USM to first-and-goal at the NU 6. Southern Miss was hit with a 15-yard penalty for a chop block. Back at the Nebraska 21, Harris had back-to-back carries for three yards each. Then, Young recorded a 2-yard reception to set up a 21-yard field goal by McCaleb that gave the Golden Eagles a 9-3 lead with 1:42 left in the first half.
The Huskers will travel to Pittsburgh next week for their first road game of the season. NU takes on the Panthers at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 18. The game will be televised regionally by ABC.