Lincoln - Nebraska kicks off the 116th season in school history on Saturday night when the Huskers take on the Maine Black Bears in a 6:10 p.m. contest in Lincoln. The game will be played before the 269th consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium and will be televised on a pay-per-view basis by FSN.
The matchup with Maine begins the Huskers’ second season under the direction of Head Coach Bill Callahan. The 2005 Huskers return 12 starters, including six on offense, five on the defensive side of the football and one specialist. Saturday night’s game will also be the debut of several talented Husker newcomers who formed a recruiting class that was generally regarded among the nation’s best in 2005.
Nebraska hopes to extend its tradition of season-opening success. Last season’s 56-17 victory over Western Illinois in the season opener marked the Huskers’ 19th straight victory in a season opener, dating back to a 1985 loss to Florida State. The Huskers have dominated in those contests, winning each game by 18 or more points.
Maine comes to Lincoln after a 5-6 record last fall in the Division I-AA ranks. The Black Bears made national headlines in 2004, winning 9-7 at Mississippi State in Maine’s first-ever meeting with a Division I-A foe. Maine faced one of the nation’s most difficult schedules last fall. In addition to their win at Mississippi State, the Black Bears lost to both Division I-AA finalists and a pair of quarterfinalists.
In addition to the opening-night festivities, Nebraska will also honor several past greats this weekend as 11 new inductees will be enshrined into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame, including eight former members of the Cornhusker program.
Opener the First of Five Straight Home Games to Begin 2005 Season
Nebraska will spend nearly the first five games of its 2005 season in front of the Husker faithful at Memorial Stadium. After this weekend’s opener against Maine, the Huskers will also play host to home games against Wake Forest (Sept. 10), Pittsburgh (Sept. 17), Iowa State (Oct. 1) and Texas Tech (Oct. 8), before venturing on the road. Nebraska’s first road test of the season will be at Baylor on Oct. 15, followed by a road trip to Missouri.
The Huskers’ long season-opening homestand is a rarity for the program.
The 2005 campaign marks the first time Nebraska has had five straight home games to open the season since 1975, when NU won its first five games at home en route to a 10-0 start. The only other times in school history Nebraska has opened with five straight home games were in 1906 and 1918.
Nebraska has opened the season with four straight home games 10 times in school history, most recently in 2001.
The last time Nebraska played five consecutive home games at any point in the season was in 1995. After opening the year with two straight road games, Nebraska played games three through seven at Memorial Stadium, winning all five on its way to a second straight national championship.
Huskers Schedule Features Five 2004 Bowl Teams
After opening against Maine and Wake Forest, the Huskers will face three straight 2004 bowl teams at home before hitting the road. The home tests against Pittsburgh, Iowa State and Texas Tech are three of five Nebraska contests against 2004 bowl teams.
Nebraska won at Pittsburgh last season before the Panthers rallied to win the Big East title and earn a trip to the Fiesta Bowl as the conference’s BCS representative. Iowa State posted a 6-5 regular-season record and played in the Independence Bowl, while Texas Tech defeated California in the Holiday Bowl.
The Huskers’ final two games against 2004 bowl teams are against last year’s Big 12 title game participants Oklahoma (Oct. 29) and Colorado (Nov. 25). The Sooners captured the Big 12 title en route to a trip to the Orange Bowl, while Colorado earned a berth in the Houston Bowl.
Nebraska Hopes to Make Maine Latest Season-Opening Victim
In just its second game against a Division I-A opponent, Maine will face the task of trying to end the nation’s longest winning streak in a season openers. The Huskers have a history of opening the season in winning fashion, coming out on the winning end in their last 19 season openers since a 17-13 setback at the hands of Florida State to open the 1985 season. (complete list of season-opening victories in left column)
Nebraska's 19-game win streak in season openers leads the nation, bettering 15 straight wins by both Kansas State and Florida. The Huskers have won each of those 19 games by 10 points or more, and owns an 84-26-5 all-time record in season openers. Since 1973, the Huskers are 27-4-1 in season openers, including 22-2 at Memorial Stadium, with losses to only Florida State in 1985 and Washington State in 1977. In all-time home openers, Nebraska is 93-17-5, including 65-14-3 at Memorial Stadium. The Huskers are 29-2 in their last 31 home openers.
NCAA Record Sellout Streak Continues vs. Maine
Including this week’s matchup against Maine, Nebraska now boasts an incredible NCAA-record 269 consecutive sellouts at Memorial Stadium. The sellout streak dates back to Hall of Fame Coach Bob Devaney's first year in 1962 (vs. Missouri on Nov. 3). Notre Dame is second in all-time consecutive sellouts with 179, 90 fewer than Nebraska.
The Huskers are 237-31 during the 268 sellouts entering Saturday’s game. The mark includes a 38-20 record against ranked teams. Nebraska is 5-0 in the five milestone sellouts during that period (50th, 100th, 150th, 200th and 250th sellouts), including a 24-7 win over No. 2 Colorado on Oct. 29, 1994 (No. 200) and a 44-13 victory over Utah State on Sept. 7, 2002 (No. 250).
The fan support at Memorial Stadium has led to a dominant home advantage for the Huskers. Nebraska has won at least six home games in 17 of the past 18 seasons and is a remarkable 149-15 at home since 1981. Eight of the losses in the span have come against teams that finished in the top eight of the final AP poll. With seven home games in 2005, Nebraska's record sellout streak is set to reach 275 by the end of the season.
Memorial Stadium Remains a Work in Progress
While a packed house is nothing new at Memorial Stadium, the 82-year-old facility continues to take on a different look. Construction continues on the Memorial Stadium Expansion Project, the Tom and Nancy Osborne Athletic Complex and the Championship Indoor Center.
The expansion project includes more than 6,400 new seats in the North Stadium, which will raise Memorial Stadium’s capacity to more than 80,000 for the 2006 season. There will also be 13 new sky suites high above the North Stadium, including a 48-seat Super Suite.
The Osborne Complex will provide the Husker football program with state-of-the-art locker room, strength and conditioning and athletic medicine facilities. The building will also house new offices for the Nebraska coaching staff. The football team will move into its new home before the start of the 2006 season.
Nebraska will be able to utilize the Championship Indoor Center during the 2005 season. The building gives Nebraska two full-sized indoor facilities to utilize. When completed the Championship Indoor Center and the Osborne Complex will be connected by a sky bridge.
The Nebraska Sideline Club will make its debut this weekend. The field-level seating area provides 42 premium seats just off the Southeast corner of the playing field. Fans in the Sideline Club will be seated outdoors, but will have access to an indoor area. The Sideline Club is the first seating area of its kind in college football.
A new FieldTurf playing surface was installed in Memorial Stadium in the summer of 2005. The two-tone green playing surface sits on a new sub-surface, and the crown of the field was cut in half, from its previous 18 inches to nine inches for the 2005 season.
Bullocks Back for Senior Season in Secondary
Senior strong safety Daniel Bullocks may feel a little lonely in the Husker secondary this fall. Not only is he the only returning starter in the Nebraska defensive backfield, but it will be the first time Bullocks plays without seeing his twin brother, Josh, alongside him in the Blackshirt secondary.
Josh Bullocks gave up his senior season at NU, and was a second-round draft choice of the New Orleans Saints. Josh earned All-America honors in 2003 when he intercepted a Big 12-record 10 passes. A second-team All-Big 12 pick last season, Daniel Bullocks will look to join his brother on Nebraska’s prestigious All-America wall with a strong senior season. A year ago, Daniel stepped out of his brother’s shadow with a strong junior season and is poised to continue to make his mark in the Nebraska record book.
Daniel Bullocks intercepted five passes last season, returning the picks for 187 yards, a school single-season record for interception return yardage. Bullocks needs 56 interception return yards in 2005 to set the Nebraska career record, currently held by Ralph Brown who had 253 interception return yards in his career.
Entering his senior season, Daniel Bullocks has seven career interceptions and needs four interceptions in 2005 to move into the top five on Nebraska’s career interceptions list. He is six interceptions behind his brother Josh, who ranks second in school history with 13 interceptions.
Daniel Bullocks has 143 tackles in his Nebraska career and needs 57 tackles as a senior to become the third defensive back in school history to record 200 career tackles.
Nebraska Boasts Tradition of Winning
Nebraska enters the 2005 season as the nation’s fourth-winningest program, both in terms of victories and winning percentage. The Husker football program owns a 786-317-40 all-time record in 1,143 games (.705) in 115 years of football. In the last 36 years, Nebraska’s record is an impressive 352-76-5 for an .818 winning percentage in 433 games, an average of 9.8 wins per season.
NU has won 10-or-more games 24 times since 1962, has gone undefeated and untied through the regular season seven times, played in 13 national title games (for at least one of the teams) and won the championship five times.
Since the first Nebraska season in 1890, Husker teams have won 11 or more games 12 times, including seven of the last 12 years.
NU has won 12 or more games seven times, and 13 games three times (1971, 1994 and 1997).
Nebraska (702), Michigan (705), Alabama (728) and Notre Dame (736) were the only four programs to win 700 games in the 1900s. NU became the first Division I team to win 100 or more games in consecutive decades, ranking first in the 1980s (103-20-0, .837) and second in the 1990s (108-16-1, .890) and posted a nation’s best 309-56-5 record in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s combined.
2005 Huskers Look for Return to Bowl Season
Nebraska’s NCAA record for consecutive bowl appearances ended at 35 years in 2004, but the Huskers are intent on starting a new streak this fall. The Huskers’ NCAA-record 35-bowl streak is five bowl games longer than the streak of 30 consecutive bowl trips by Michigan, that spans 1975 to the present.
Nebraska's 42 overall bowl appearances is fifth best, one behind USC’s 43 and also trailing Alabama's 52, Tennessee’s 45, and Texas’ 44.
Nebraska played the first of its 42 bowls in the Rose Bowl, when No. 7 Nebraska lost to No. 2 Stanford, 21-13, following the 1940 season. NU's 35 consecutive bowl streak began with a 45-6 win over Georgia in the 1969 Sun Bowl, and ended with a 17-3 victory over Michigan State in the 2003 Alamo Bowl. The Huskers are 21-21 all-time in bowl games.
NU Leads Conference in Football Crowns
Nebraska is one of only two teams to capture two or more Big 12 titles in the first nine seasons of the conference. Oklahoma captured its third Big 12 crown in 2004, while the Huskers won Big 12 titles in 1997 and 1999 and appeared in the game in 1996. Nebraska, Texas, Colorado and Kansas State have also made three Big 12 title game appearances, while Oklahoma has made four appearances.
Nebraska has won 43 football conference championships overall, including eight under Coach Bob Devaney and 13 under Coach Tom Osborne. Oklahoma has won 35 conference championships to rank second behind NU among conference schools.
All-Americans Call Nebraska Home
In addition to pacing all Division I schools in academic All-Americans, Nebraska owns a long tradition of being among the nation’s leaders in All-Americans on the field. In 2003, punter Kyle Larson and free safety Josh Bullocks were each picked as first-team All-America selections adding to Nebraska’s long list of All-Americans, beginning with tackle Vic Halligan in 1914.
The Huskers have had at least one first-team All-American in all but three (1991, 1998, 2004) of the past 35 years. Overall, Nebraska has seen 92 different players earn first-team All-America honors from at least one recognized source with 14 winning double honors for a total of 106 first-team awards. Nebraska had its most All-Americans in one season when six Huskers earned first-team honors in the 1971 national championship campaign. The offensive line is Nebraska’s most honored position, with 26 players earning 31 first-team All-America certificates.
Last season, senior linebacker Barrett Ruud was a third-team All-America selection by the Associated Press.
Nebraska A Regular Supplier to NFL
Nebraska had three players selected in the 2005 NFL Draft, all in the first 40 picks of the draft. Cornerback Fabian Washington was taken as the 23rd pick in the first round by the Oakland Raiders, giving Nebraska its first selection in the opening round since 1998. In addition to Washington, linebacker Barrett Ruud was taken with the 36th overall pick by Tampa Bay, while safety Josh Bullocks was selected 40th overall by New Orleans.
Nebraska is one of the most well-represented schools in the National Football League. The Huskers had a total of 37 former players on NFL rosters at the start of the 2004 regular season. In all, 21 teams had at least one former Husker on their 2004 opening day roster. Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro offensive guard Will Shields is Nebraska's most experienced NFL veterans, entering his 13th season in the league in 2004. Shields and Green Bay Packer running back Ahman Green represented the Huskers in the 2005 Pro Bowl in Honolulu.