Lincoln - The Nebraska offense scored early and often, and the Blackshirt defense notched its first shutout since Sept. 23, 2006, as the Cornhuskers celebrated the NCAA-record 300th consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium with a 55-0 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday night.
Playing in front of a Memorial Stadium record crowd of 86,304 and an FSN pay-per-view television audience, No. 25 Nebraska improved to 3-1 on the season after racing to a 34-0 halftime lead against a Ragin' Cajun team that slipped to 2-2. Louisiana-Lafayette's only previous loss came at LSU last week, after knocking off NU's Big 12 Conference brethren Kansas State, 17-15, the previous week.
The Huskers ended any Ragin' Cajun upset hopes early in the game with a truly dominant performance. Husker quarterback Zac Lee marched Nebraska efficiently and consistently, completing 15-of-18 passes for 238 yards and a touchdown in less than three quarters. Freshman Cody Green then came on and led the Huskers on a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown drives, completing 7-of-8 passes for 62 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown connection with fellow freshman Rex Burkhead. Green added a 24-yard scoring run of his own on the next drive to cap Nebraska's scoring with 8:36 left in the game.
The Big Red racked up 433 yards of total offense, including 83 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 carries from junior I-back Roy Helu Jr. Lee and Green distributed the ball effectively throughout the night, as 13 Husker receivers caught at least one pass, including Curenski Gilleylen who hauled in two passes of 85 yards. Burkhead led NU with four receptions for 26 yards including the fourth-quarter touchdown, while Chris Brooks added a career-best three catches for 50 yards and a score.
The Huskers were just as dominant on the defensive side, shutting out the Ragin' Cajuns while forcing three turnovers. The Blackshirts got into the scoring column when senior safety Larry Asante snatched a Chris Masson pass and sprinted 74 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. It was the first interception return for a touchdown by a Nebraska defensive back since Fabian Washington scored for the Huskers in 2002.
Alex Henery and Adi Kunalic also combined for a dominant special teams effort in the kicking game. Henery hit both of his first-quarter field goal attempts to stretch his streak to 21 straight made fields goals of less than 50 yards. The Lou Groza Award candidate also punted three times for a 45.7-yard average, including a 55-yard moonshot that rolled dead at the UL 2, before he buried the Ragin' Cajuns at their own 1 on his only punt of the fourth quarter. Kunalic recorded six touchbacks on his 10 kickoffs and none of the four returns got past the UL 20.
Nebraska got off to a fast start, jumping to a 13-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. Henery put the Huskers on the board with 7:06 left in the quarter, capping their first drive with a 39-yard field goal that capped an 11-play, 55-yard drive that consumed 4:55.
Just over two minutes later, the Huskers hit paydirt when redshirt freshman tight end Ben Cotton recovered Helu's fumble in the end zone for Cotton's first career touchdown. Cotton's heads up play after Helu's four-yard run capped a quick three-play drive that took just 45 seconds and included a Helu 34-yard pickup on a screen pass from Lee.
After a Ragin' Cajun miss on a 50-yard field goal attempt, Nebraska covered 38 yards on six plays and Henery kicked his second field goal of the quarter, this time from 46 yards to push NU's lead to 13-0 with eight seconds left in the quarter. The drive included a 42-yard pass play from Lee to Gilleylen.
After a fast start, the Huskers stepped on the accelerator in the second quarter, erupting for 21 unanswered points, starting with a four-play 27-yard drive that culminated with Lee's four-yard touchdown pass to Brooks.
After Eric Hagg forced a fumble that recovered by Matt O'Hanlon on the Ragin' Cajuns' ensuing possession, Helu hit paydirt on a two-yard plunge less than a minute later to push Nebraska's lead to 27-0.
Asante then provided Nebraska's biggest highlight of the game with his blazing 74-yard interception return for a touchdown with 6:16 left in the half to give the Huskers a 34-0 halftime lead.
Nebraska opens Big 12 Conference action on Thursday, Oct. 8, when the Huskers travel to Columbia to take on the Missouri Tigers. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. (central) with a live national telecast on ESPN.
Final: Nebraska 55, Louisiana-Lafayette 0
First Quarter (NU, 13-0)
NU - 7:06 - Alex Henery 39 FG - 11 plays, 55 yards, 4:55, NU 3-0
NU - 5:03 - Ben Cotton fumble recovery (Roy Helu 4 run) (Henery kick) - 3 plays, 43 yards, 0:45, NU 10-0
NU - 0:08 - Alex Henery 46 FG - 6 plays, 38 yards, 2:16, NU 13-0
Second Quarter (NU, 34-0)
NU - 12:00 - Chris Brooks 4 pass from Zac Lee (Henery kick) - 4 plays, 27 yards, 1:59, NU 20-0
NU - 11:11 - Roy Helu 2 run (Henery kick) - 3 plays, 26 yards, 0:42, NU 27-0
NU - 6:16 - Larry Asante 74 interception return (Henery kick), NU 34-0
Third Quarter (NU, 41-0)
NU 8:36 - Helu 2 run (Henery kick) - 10 plays, 73 yards, 6:18, NU 41-0
Fourth Quarter (NU 55-0)
NU - 11:04 - Rex Burkhead 24 pass from Cody Green (Henery kick) - 5 plays, 41 yards, 1:51, NU 48-0
NU - 8:46 - Green 24 run (Henery kick) - 2 plays, 41 yards, 0:36, NU 55-0
Final: Nebraska 55, Louisiana-Lafayette 0
Time of Game: 2:51