Lincoln - On a record-setting day at Memorial Stadium, Sam Keller, Marlon Lucky and the Nebraska offense rolled up 552 yards to power the Huskers to a 41-40 victory over visiting Ball State Saturday afternoon.
Keller finished the game by completing 29-of-37 passes for three touchdowns and a school-record 438 yards. His final pass to MauricePurify not only proved to be the game-winning score, but gave him the highest single-game passing total in Nebraska history, eclipsing the previous mark of 433 yards set by Zac Taylor in 2005.
In the second half alone, Keller was 18-of-23 for 322 yards and three touchdowns.
On Nebraska's final drive, Keller completed 7-of-7 passes for 78 yards, including the record-setting 11-yard touchdown strike to Purify. Nebraska needed the nine-play, 82-yard touchdown drive to cap an impressive rally from a nine-point, fourth-quarter deficit in front of 84,294 fans in the 285th consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium.
Keller's record-setting day highlighted an offensive explosion, as Nebraska racked up 552 yards of total offense only to be outgained by Ball State, which produced 610 yards of offense, the third-highest total ever by an opponent at Memorial Stadium. BSU quarterback Nate Davis proved tough to contain, as he threw for 422 yards and three touchdowns while rushing six times for 57 yards and another score. Dante Love was his favorite target, making 10 catches for 214 yards and a touchdown.
For the Huskers, Marlon Lucky set a record of his own by catching 11 passes for 81 yards. His 11 catches were the most ever by a running back at Nebraska and he added his second 100-yard rushing day of the season with 102 yards on 21 carries. Purify (122 yards) and Sean Hill (129) both had 100-yard receiving days and each added touchdown catches.
Nebraska took the opening kickoff and marched 63 yards in nine plays to take a quick 7-0 lead. A key two-yard Quentin Castille run on fourth-and-one from the Ball State 38-yard line kept the drive alive. Three plays later, Lucky capped the scoring drive with a 28-yard touchdown run. Lucky touched the ball six times on the nine-play drive, accounting for 45 total yards. He finished
Ball State moved the ball in its first possession before Zach Potter sacked Davis and jarred the ball loose. Ndamukong Suh recovered to give the Huskers possession at their own 43-yard line.
The Cardinals moved back into NU territory in the second quarter and tied the score with the help of two third-down conversions as part of a 10-play, 80-yard drive. A 19-yard Davis pass to Darius Hill on third-and-nine kept Ball State on the move followed by another third-down pass, this time a 21-yard strike to Dante Love on third-and-10 that put Ball State on the Huske' 20. Two plays later, Davis hit Hill on a 20-yard touchdown strike to pull Ball State even.
Following a Nebraska punt, Ball State added a field goal to take its first lead of the day at 10-7.
Nebraska quickly answered with an impressive nine-play, 73-yard touchdown drive capped by Quentin Castille's one-yard touchdown plunge with 26 seconds left in the half to send the Huskers to the locker room with a 14-10 lead.
Both offenses started firing on all cylinders in the second half, as the teams combined for five third-quarter touchdowns. Big plays highlighted the entire quarter, with four of the drives taking less than two minutes. The two quarterbacks combined for 15-of-20 passes, 350 yards and three touchdowns in the quarter.
After Ball State was forced to punt in its first possession of the second half, a fumble by Castille after a nice gain put the Cardinals at the NU 39. Davis found Hill for a quick 24-yard strike to move Ball State down to the 15, before Davis put Ball State in front, 17-14, with a 14-yard touchdown run.
Following a pair of punts, Keller hooked up with Hill for a perfect 73-yard touchdown pass on third down. Hill got behind the Cardinal defense and Keller lofted the pass perfectly over a diving Ball State defender and into the hands of Hill, who took it to the house. Hill's catch was the longest by a Husker tight end since Matt Herian in 2002 and put NU back in lead at 21-17.
Ball State provided a quick answer when MiQuale Lewis scampered 43 yards for a touchdown on the next drive to make it 24-21 Cardinals. BSU's lead was short-lived, as Keller opened NU's next drive by firing a 38-yard strike over the middle to Purify. Keller capped the drive with an 18-yard hookup with Nate Swift in the corner of the end zone to give the Huskers a 28-24 edge.
Continuing the back-and-forth affair, Davis found Love deep over the middle for a 58-yard touchdown with just 54 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
The third-quarter big plays continued as Purify hauled in a 28-yard Keller pass on the next-to-last play of the quarter to put the Huskers back in Ball State territory. After throwing for 179 yards and two touchdowns in the third quarter, Keller maintained his rhythm on the first play of the fourth quarter with a 12-yard pass to Terrence Nunn that gave Nebraska a first down at the NU 25.
However, Ball State's B.J. Hill made a terrific break on a Keller pass and intercepted the ball at the BS 4 to halt Nebraska's answer. Lewis quickly gave the Cardinals breathing room with a 23-yard run, before Davis found Love again for a 51-yard gain down to the NU 22. Davis capped the drive with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Madris Grant to give the Cardinals their biggest lead of the game at 37-28 after Jake Hogue missed what turned out to be the decisive extra point with 12:50 to play in the game.
Trailing by two possessions for the first time, Nebraska got the ball back and drove inside the Cardinal 30-yard line before a Keller fumble gave the ball back to Ball State.
The Cardinals appeared to have the game in hand, before Bo Ruud made the biggest defensive play of day for the Huskers by intercepting a Davis pass over the middle and racing 34 yards to paydirt to pull NU with 37-35 with 9:21 left in the game.
Davis used big plays to march the Cardinals back down the field, but the Huskers held on three straight plays from inside the NU 6, to force BSU to settle for a 22-yard field goal with 7:05 remaining.
Trailing by five with less than seven minutes remaining, Keller led the Huskers down the field on a nine-play, 82-yard touchdown drive. Keller was 7-of-7 passing on the drive for 78 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown strike to Purify. Nebraska failed on its two-point conversion attempt to give Ball State hope with 3:13 remaining.
With 36 seconds left in the game, a Darius Hill reception gave BSU a 1st-and-10 at the 43. A dropped pass and a pass breakup by Steve Octavien brought Hogue on for a 55-yard field goal attempt with 17 seconds remaining. Hogue's kick sailed wide left and the Huskers took over on downs with just 12 seconds remaining. Keller took a knee on the game's final play to preserve the 41-40 victory.
The Huskers will play their third consecutive home game while opening Big 12 Conference action when they take on Iowa State at Memorial Stadium next Saturday. Kickoff against the Cyclones has been set for 1:05 p.m. with live radio coverage provided by the Husker Sports Network, including a free live audio broadcast on Huskers.com.
Scoring (NU 41, Ball State 40)
Saturday, Sept. 22, 2007
Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Neb.)
First Quarter (Nebraska 7, Ball State 0)
NU - Marlon Lucky 28 run (Alex Henery kick), 4:43
Second Quarter (Nebraska 14, Ball State 10)
BSU - Darius Hill 20 pass from Nate Davis (Jake Hogue kick), 2:58
BSU - Hogue 45 field goal, 3:40
NU - Quentin Castille 1 run (Henery kick), 4:10
Third Quarter (Ball State 31, Nebraska 28)
BSU - Davis 14 run (Hogue kick), 0:59, 3-39
NU - Sean Hill 73 pass from Sam Keller (Henery kick), 1:22
BSU - MiQuale Lewis 43 run (Hogue kick), 1:44
NU - Nate Swift 18 pass from Keller (Henery kick), 2:40
BSU - Love 58 pass from Davis (Hogue kick), 1:15
Fourth Quarter (Nebraska 41, Ball State 40)
BSU - Madaris Grant 21 pass from Davis (kick failed), 1:29
NU - Bo Ruud 34 interception return (Henery kick)
BSU - Hogue 22 field goal, 2:10
NU - Maurice Purify 11 pass from Keller (two-point conversion failed), 3:45
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