Lincoln - In a game dominated by the defenses, No. 6 Nebraska survived a spirited effort by visiting South Dakota State for a 17-3 victory on Homecoming at Memorial Stadium on Saturday night.
Playing in front of the NCAA-record 307th consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium and an FSN pay-per-view television audience, the Cornhuskers improved to 4-0 on the season, while the Jackrabbits slipped to 0-3.
Just days after Blackshirts were handed out to Nebraska's top-unit defenders, Lavonte David notched one of the top tackle efforts in school history. The 6-1, 210-pound junior linebacker from Miami, Fla., registered 19 tackles to tie for seventh on NU's all-time list, while adding a pair of pass breakups.
In addition to David's career tackle performance, Alfonzo Dennard and P.J. Smith both notched their third interceptions of the season to help hold the Jackrabbits to just 236 yards of total offense. Ricky Thenarse pitched in 10 tackles for NU, while DeJon Gomes added nine.
The Jacks threw down some defense of their own against a Nebraska offense that entered the game averaging 47.7 points and 513.3 yards per game. SDSU limited NU to just 345 total yards, including a season-low 205 rushing yards on 48 carries.
South Dakota State linebacker Derek Domino produced 16 tackles for the Jacks, while adding one of SDSU's two interceptions on the night. Mike Lien pitched in 11 tackles, while Dirk Kool added an interception for the Jacks. Winston Wright also contributed a fumble recovery.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez led NU with 75 rushing yards on 13 carries, while completing 6-of-14 passes for 140 yards and one touchdown. He also threw two interceptions.
Sophomore I-back Rex Burkhead added 14 carries for 66 yards and NU's first touchdown, while Roy Helu Jr. contributed 59 yards on 19 carries. Brandon Kinnie led the NU receivers with three catches for 34 yards, while Mike McNeill added a career-long 64-yard reception to set up Burkhead's touchdown.
Running back Kyle Minett led the Jackrabbits with 112 rushing yards on 28 carries, while adding five catches for 14 yards. Thomas O'Brien completed 12-of-28 passes for 95 yards while throwing a pair of interceptions.
In a scoreless first quarter, South Dakota State controlled the flow of play by maintaining possession for 10:44 in the opening period. The Jackrabbits gained two first downs on the game's opening drive to reel off four minutes. Martinez then fumbled deep in Husker territory on NU's first play from scrimmage.
The Blackshirts held on 4th & Goal from the one yard line, but SDSU forced a three-and-out on Nebraska's second drive. NU's defense shut down the Jacks on the next drive, but after a high snap forced SDSU punter Dean Priddy to retreat for the ball, he unleashed a 39-yard punt that was caught in the air by a Jack cover man at the NU 4.
Nebraska's offense got untracked on its third drive, as Roy Helu Jr. uncorked a 14-yard run for an NU first down at the 19. On NU's opening play of the second quarter, Martinez connected with Mike McNeill for a career-long 64-yard reception down to the SDSU 3. Rex Burkhead put the Huskers on the board with a three-yard run on the next play to give NU a 7-0 lead with 14:31 left in the half.
The Blackshirts forced a three-and-out on SDSU's ensuing drive, and Martinez and the Husker offense went to work again. This time, Martinez hit Kyler Reed for a career-long 33-yard reception for Reed's first career touchdown.
The two teams exchanged field goals in the second half, and while the outcome was never in question for the Huskers, Coach Bo Pelini was disappointed in Nebraska's play.
"I always believe when you walk out there you're going to get better or you're going to get worse. We got worse today," Pelini said. "I call it as I see it. I'm not going to try and paint a picture that is different. A lot of the same things that came out today were things that reach out and grab you in practice. When the errors aren't being corrected and people aren't making adjustments and are repeating their errors, that's a problem. It will reach up and get you. Across the board we just didn't execute, forget about everything else. We didn't take the field and do what we're coached to do. We didn't execute our offense, for a lot of times we didn't execute defensively. It all comes down to our football team wasn't ready to play for whatever reason. That comes squarely back to the guy in charge. I take responsibility."
Nebraska opens Big 12 Conference play by taking on Kansas State on Thursday, Oct. 7 in Manhattan, Kan. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. with live national television coverage provided by ESPN.
Final: #6 Nebraska 17, South Dakota State 3
Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010
Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Neb.)
First Quarter (0-0)
Second Quarter (NU, 14-0)
NU - 14:31 - Rex Burkhead 3 run (Alex Henery kick) - 6 plays, 96 yards, 3:01, NU 7-0
NU - 10:46 - Kyler Reed 33 pass from Taylor Martinez (Henery kick) - 4 plays, 54 yards, 2:13, NU 14-0
Third Quarter (NU, 14-3)
SDSU - 5:11 - Kyle Harris 35 field goal - 12 plays, 73 yards, 4:43, NU 14-3
Fourth Quarter (NU 17-3)
NU - 14:57 - Henery 30 field goal - 11 plays, 52 yards, 5:09, NU 17-3
Final: #6 Nebraska 17, South Dakota State 3
Time of Game: 2:55