Lincoln, Neb. - Roy Helu Jr. raced untouched on a trio long touchdown runs on his way to a school-record 307 yards and three touchdowns on a career-high matching 28 carries to power No. 14 Nebraska to a 31-17 victory over No. 7 Missouri on Saturday.
Helu, a senior I-back from Danville, Calif., electrified the NCAA-record 309th consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium and an ABC television audience with a 66-yard scoring sprint on NU's first play from scrimmage. Moments later, he unleashed a career-long 73-yard burst to push Nebraska to a 24-0 first-quarter lead on its way to an important Big 12 North Division win over the Tigers. He added a 53-yard scoring run in the third quarter, while carrying the offensive load for the Huskers in the second half in the absence of quarterback Taylor Martinez.
With the win, Nebraska improved to 7-1 overall and 3-1 in the Big 12, while handing the previously unbeaten Tigers their first loss of the season to slip to 7-1 overall and 3-1 in the conference. The victory marked Nebraska's second straight over an unbeaten, top-15 team. It was also NU's first win over a top-10 team during the Bo Pelini-era.
Helu's huge day eclipsed the previous Nebraska rushing mark set by Calvin Jones with 294 yards and six touchdowns on 27 carries against Kansas on Nov. 9, 1991. It was Helu's 11th career 100-yard effort, and first 200-yard game of his career. His previous career high came with 169 yards on 28 carries against Virginia Tech in 2009. Helu also climbed to No. 6 on the NU career chart with 2,966 career yards. He increased his season total to 807 yards, putting him in position for his third straight 1,000-yard season.
Helu and the Huskers wasted little time making a statement on Saturday. After the Blackshirts forced a three-and-out on Mizzou's opening series, Helu got an explosive block from tight end Ben Cotton and sprinted 66 yards untouched into the end zone to give the Huskers a 7-0 lead just over one minute into the game.
The Blackshirts shut down the Tiger offense again on the second drive, holding MU to minus-one yard on its first six offensive plays, and the offense took advantage. Martinez moved the Huskers 41 yards on seven plays before Alex Henery booted his school-record 18th consecutive field from 42 yards out to give NU a 10-0 lead with 9:37 left in the first quarter. It was Henery's school-record 60th career field goal.
The Blackshirts surrendered a first down on MU's third possession, but Lavonte David's 11-yard sack of Blaine Gabbert gave the ball back to Martinez, who immediately started marching the offense again. Martinez capped the Huskers' third scoring drive with a 40-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kyler Reed to give NU a 17-0 lead with 5:17 left in the opening quarter. It was Reed's fourth TD catch of the season among his six catches. At that point, Martinez had completed all five of his pass attempts for 101 yards in the first 10 minutes of the game.
The Blackshirts held Missouri on the Tigers' half of the field again, and Helu sent the Sea of Red into a frenzy by sprinting down the right sideline untouched for a 73-yard touchdown to give NU a 24-0 lead with 2:46 left in the quarter.
The Blackshirts then closed a perfect first quarter with DeJon Gomes' interception of a Gabbert pass. It was Gomes' second interception of the year and just the fourth thrown by Gabbert all season.
In the first quarter, the Huskers amassed 256 yards of total offense and 24 points against an MU squad that was leading the Big 12 in scoring defense (13.1 ppg) and ranked fifth in the league in total defense with 339.1 yards per game.
The Missouri defense managed its first stop of the game on NU's first drive of the second quarter, and answered with a 52-yard scoring drive capped by De'Vion Moore's 33-yard touchdown run on 4th-and-1.
The two defenses controlled the rest of the half, as only Missouri was able to muster another scoring threat. But the Tigers misfired on Grant Ressel's 54-yard field goal attempt late in the second quarter, and the Huskers went to the halftime locker room with a 24-7 lead.
Martinez did not return for the second half for the Huskers, after coming up gimpy on a hit late in the first half.
After the Blackshirts held on the opening possession of the second half, the Huskers' first offensive possession of the second half was led by Zac Lee and handcuffed by penalties.
Missouri used a 12-play, 78-yard scoring drive to fight their way back into the game and cut NU's margin to 24-14 with 7:30 left in the quarter.
But after a 29-yard Tim Marlowe kick return set NU up at the 43 to open its second drive of the half, Helu took the first hand-off from Lee four yards. On the next play, the senior struck again, cutting back to the middle and galloping 53 yards untouched into the end zone for his third touchdown of the day to give NU a 31-14 lead. It was Helu's 10th carry of the day and pushed his career-best total to 228 yards.
The Tigers refused to go away, producing another long drive inside the NU 1. But the Blackshirts produced a monstrous goal-line stand, forcing MU to settle for a short field to trim the margin to 31-17 at the end of three quarters.
Helu carried the Huskers back to scoring position on NU's opening drive of the final quarter, pushing his rushing total to 254 yards on 18 carries. But Henery had his 51-yard field goal attempt with 10:38 left blocked by Jacquies Smith, and the Tigers stayed alive.
The Blackshirts forced a Missouri punt on the Tigers' final drive, and Helu and the Huskers took over with 8:40 left. Helu did the rest, carrying the ball 10 times on NU's final drive to run out the clock, as Missouri stood helpless after using all of their timeouts in the third quarter. In fact, the Tigers attempted to take four timeouts on offense in the third quarter and were flagged for a delay game before NU's impressive goal-line stand.
Nebraska finished the day with 328 rushing yards and 126 passing to finish with 454 yards of total offense. Most importantly, the Huskers did not commit a turnover on the day.
The Blackshirts held a high-powered Missouri offense to just 341 total yards, including limiting Gabbert to just 199 yards on 18-of-42 passing with one touchdown and one interception. The Huskers sacked Gabbert six times and hurried him seven more, while also notching six breakups. Entering the game, the Tigers were averaging 424.9 total yards per game, including 286.4 passing yards. MU was also averaging 34.7 points per contest.
Nebraska hits the road for another Big 12 North battle next week, when the Huskers take on Iowa State in Ames. Kickoff with the Cyclones is set for 2:30 p.m. with an ABC telecast.
Final: #14 Nebraska 31, #7 Missouri 17
Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010
Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Neb.)
First Quarter (NU, 24-0)
NU - 13:46 - Roy Helu Jr. 66 run (Alex Henery kick) - 1 play, 66 yards, 0:10, NU 7-0
NU - 9:37 - Henery 41 field goal - 7 plays, 41 yards, 2:48, NU 10-0
NU - 5:17 - Kyler Reed 40 pass from Taylor Martinez (Henery kick) - 5 plays, 76 yards, 2:34, NU 17-0
NU - 2:46 - Roy Helu Jr. 73 run (Henery kick) - 1 play, 73 yards, 0:11, NU 24-0
Second Quarter (NU, 24-7)
MU - 11:27 - De'Vion Moore 33 run (Grant Ressel kick) - 6 plays, 53 yards, 2:13, NU 24-7
Third Quarter (NU, 31-17)
MU - 7:30 - T.J. Moe 23 pass from Blaine Gabbert (Ressel kick) - 12 plays, 78 yards, 4:20, NU 24-14
NU - 6:38 - Helu 53 run (Henery kick) - 2 plays, 57 yards, 0:45, NU 31-14
MU - 1:35 - Ressell 23 field goal - 15 plays, 75 yards, 5:03, NU 31-17
Fourth Quarter (NU, 31-17)
Final: #14 Nebraska 31, #7 Missouri 17
Time of Game: 3:26