Lincoln - Call it redemption. Call it justice. Call it Karma. Whatever you want to call it, Nebraska brought home a sweet victory over an old rival, as the Blackshirt defense hauled in five interceptions and shut down No. 20 Oklahoma in a 10-3 victory at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
In a game that harkened back to the classic battles of the Big Red of the past four decades, Nebraska held the Sooners out of the end zone and mustered enough offense to improve to 6-3 overall and 3-2 in the Big 12. The Huskers dropped the 20th-ranked Sooners to 5-4 and 3-2 in front of 86,115 fans and ABC television audience.
In a game dominated by one of the nation's best defensive units, Blackshirt Matt O'Hanlon played the biggest game of his career to help the Huskers erase a two-game home skid while erasing the memory of committing eight turnovers in a loss to Iowa State at Memorial Stadium on Oct. 24.
O'Hanlon, a senior from Omaha, Neb., tied a Nebraska record with three interceptions while erupting for a career-high 12 tackles. The last of his interceptions ended the Sooners' last chance at the end zone with 27 seconds left in the game. O'Hanlon's huge game also erased any memories Husker fans had of a last second touchdown scored by Virginia Tech in a road loss against the Hokies in September.
"This is one of the biggest wins of my career here and I probably can't play much better," O'Hanlon said after the game. "I was pretty down after the Virginia Tech game, and I just needed a breakout game to get my confidence back. I think that happened tonight."
Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini said he was proud of his senior safety.
“Matt has great character and resolve," Pelini said. "He’s one of the leaders, that’s why he walked on the field tonight as a captain because he’s earned that right.”
O'Hanlon played big from start to finish, achieving his career-best in tackles with nine in the opening half. O'Hanlon helped the Huskers carry a 7-3 lead into the locker room at halftime, but he was far from alone.
Defensive back Prince Amukamara hauled in NU's first inteception of the night, picking off a Landry Jones pass and returning it 22 yards to the OU 1. One play later, junior quarterback Zac Lee hit tight end Ryan Hill on a one-yard scoring pass to give the Huskers a 7-0 lead with 13:36 left in the first half.
The Huskers also got big plays in the special teams from senior defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and junior punter Alex Henery. Suh blocked Tress Way's 45-yard field goal with 6:50 left in the first quarter. It was Way's second unsuccessful attempt of the quarter, following a 46-yard miss on OU's opening possession.
The NU defense also held the Sooners on a 4th-and-1 play inside the 20 with a big tackle for loss from Eric Hagg, before Way finally cashed in with a 28-yard field goal for the Sooners with 24 seconds left in the half for OU's only points of the game. But his struggles continued in the third quarter, when he misfired wide left on a 42-yard attempt to end another OU scoring opportunity.
Nebraska, which had been pinned deep in its own territory early in the first quarter, flipped the field on the Sooners with Henery's 66-yard punt that buried OU at its own 2. Henery punted six times in the first half for a 43.5-yard average, including two punts inside the OU 20.
In the opening half, Nebraska managed 75 yards on 17 carries on the ground, led by Helu's 77 yards on seven carries. Lee and starter Cody Green combined to complete just 3-of-8 passes for five yards. Jones completed 14-of-28 passes for 106 yards, but his interception was converted into a touchdown for the Huskers. OU mustered just 28 yards on 17 carries on the ground.
In the third quarter, O'Hanlon made a major impact by pulling down his first interception and returning it 30 yards to set up a Henery field goal that gave NU a 10-3 lead with 5:38 left in quarter. Unfortunately for Henery, exactly one quarter later, he misfired wide right on a 43-yard field goal attempt to end his streak of 25 consecutive field goals made of less than 50 yards. That attempt would have given the Huskers a 10-point lead.
In the fourth quarter, O'Hanlon struck again. Just seconds after Jones connected with Dejuan Miller on a 33-yard pass play, O'Hanlon hauled in his second interception of the night to notch NU's third pick of Jones for the game. The interception ended OU's threat and gave the Husker offense possession at the NU 19 with 12:53 left.
Oklahoma native Phillip Dillard then got in on the action picking off a Jones pass at the NU 33 and returning it nine yards. Dillard, a senior linebacker from Tulsa, recorded eight tackles, including two tackles for loss and one 13-yard sack of Jones as well.
The Sooners got one last shot, with 41 seconds left, but O'Hanlon put his name in the Husker record book alongside of Dana Stephenson, Joe Blahak and Ric Lindquist as the only players in NU history to post three interceptions in a game with his pick at the NU 6 with 27 seconds left.
Sophomore Jared Crick, the reigning national defensive player of the week, continued his strong play with eight tackles of his own, including a shared sack, three quarterback hurries and a pass breakup, while Larry Asante added eight tackles of his and one breakup.
Senior defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh added four tackles of his own, while adding three hurries, a breakup and a blocked field goal.
The Blackshirts held OU to just 325 total yards on 87 plays, while forcing five turnovers. Jones completed 26-of-58 passes for 245 yards, while the Sooners mustered just 80 rushing yards on 29 carries.
Junior I-back Roy Helu Jr. carried the Nebraska offense with 20 carries for 138 rushing yards, while adding three receptions for 15 yards. Helu accounted for 153 of NU's 180 total yards, as Lee and Green combined to complete 7-of-14 passes for 39 yards. Alex Henery played a major role with 11 punts and a 43.7-yard average.
Nebraska returns to action next Saturday when the Huskers hit the road for a crucial Big 12 North Division showdown at Kansas. Kickoff against the Jayhawks is set for 2:30 p.m. in Lawrence with live regional television coverage provided by ABC.
Final: Nebraska 10, #20 Oklahoma 3
First Quarter (0-0)
Second Quarter (NU, 7-3)
NU - 13:36 - Ryan Hill 1 pass from Zac Lee (Alex Henery kick) - 1 play, 1 yard, 0:23, NU 7-0
OU - 0:24 - Way 28 FG - 9 plays, 59 yards, 3:14, NU 7-3
Third Quarter (NU, 10-3)
NU - 5:41 - Alex Henery 28 FG - 7 plays, 33 yards, 2:57, NU 10-3
Fourth Quarter (NU, 10-3)
Final: Nebraska 10, #20 Oklahoma 3
Time of Game: 3:23