Huskers Hit Road to Battle Bears
Nebraska (4-1, 1-1)
vs. Baylor (4-1, 1-1)
Saturday, Oct. 15, 6:05 p.m.
Floyd Casey Stadium (Grass)
Nebraska Radio: Pinnacle Sports Network (55 Stations)
Internet: Live Radio on Huskers.com
Satellite Radio: Sirius, Channel 110
Nebraska leads, 8-1 (NU leads 2-0 in Waco)
Nebraska 59, Baylor 27, Oct. 16, 2004, Lincoln, Neb.
Huskers Take to the Road for First Time in 2005
Nebraska goes on the road for the first time in 2005 this weekend, traveling to Waco, Texas to take on the 4-1 Baylor Bears. The Huskers have played five straight home games to start the season, but will now finish the season with four of their last six games away from home. The stretch begins with the road test at Baylor, with kickoff set for 6:05 p.m.
Nebraska will also enter the game with a 4-1 record, including a 1-1 record in Big 12 action after a 34-31 loss to Texas Tech on Saturday in Lincoln. The Huskers nearly staged the largest comeback in school history, rallying from a 21-0 deficit to take a 31-27 lead late in the fourth quarter. However, Texas Tech scored the game-winning touchdown with 12 seconds remaining to send Nebraska to its first loss of the season. The Texas Tech game marked Nebraska’s third straight game that was decided in the game’s final seconds or overtime.
Baylor appears to be one of the nation’s most-improved teams in 2005. A year after the Bears finished with a 3-8 record, including a 1-7 mark in the Big 12, Baylor has won four of its first five games of the year. Baylor’s only loss was a 16-13 overtime setback at Texas A&M on Oct. 1, but the Bears responded with a 23-13 victory at Iowa State last Saturday.
Late Texas Tech Touchdown Ends Husker Hopes
Nebraska nearly made history by coming back from a 21-point first-half deficit, but Texas Tech quarterback Cody Hodges found Joel Filani on a 10-yard touchdown pass on 4th-and-2 with 12 seconds left to allow the No. 15 Red Raiders to escape from Memorial Stadium with a 34-31 win over the Huskers.
Filani’s touchdown catch, his third of the day, came on fourth down as the Red Raiders managed to convert a pair of fourth-down plays inside Nebraska’s 20-yard line. Texas Tech also overcame an interception by Nebraska senior defensive tackle Le Kevin Smith that had been tipped in the air by sophomore linebacker Corey McKeon, which appeared to end the Red Raiders’ hopes of victory.
But Texas Tech offensive lineman Bryan Kegans hit Smith during the interception return and forced a fumble that was recovered by Red Raider wide receiver Danny Amendola at the NU 19. The turnover was Nebraska’s fifth of the game, while the Blackshirts forced a pair of turnovers by Texas Tech.
Nebraska slipped to 4-1 overall and 1-1 in the Big 12 despite the nearly record-setting comeback after falling behind 21-0. The Huskers saw their 36-game Homecoming winning streak come to an end, in NU’s third straight game that was decided in the final seconds.
Nebraska quarterback Zac Taylor and the Huskers withstood a quick start by Hodges and Texas Tech, which entered the game as the nation’s top-ranked passing offense. Taylor led Nebraska to a fourth-quarter lead with just over 10 minutes left on wide receiver Terrence Nunn’s magnificent catch in the corner of the end zone to give NU a 28-27 advantage.
After Nunn’s catch, his second touchdown grab of the day and his Nebraska career, the Blackshirts shut down Hodges and the Red Raiders. Taylor led the Huskers on their final scoring drive, marching to the Texas Tech 10-yard line to set up Jordan Congdon’s 27-yard field goal to give NU a 31-27 lead with 5:10 left. Taylor completed 21-of-35 passes for 229 yards with two touchdowns.
While the offense provided the spark for Nebraska’s comeback, it was the defense that put the Huskers in position to win the game by slowing Hodges and the Texas Tech passing attack until the Red Raiders’ decisive scoring drive in the fourth quarter.
After Congdon’s field goal pushed NU’s lead to 31-27, Amendola returned NU’s kickoff 30 yards, and Hodges hit Filani on a 31-yard pass to quickly put the Red Raiders inside NU territory. From there, the Blackshirts forced a pair of fourth downs and a turnover, but were still unable to prevent Hodges from finally finding Filani in the end zone.
The Huskers trailed by 21 points early in the second quarter before rallying against the Red Raiders. Trailing 21-0 with 9:25 left in the first half, Taylor marched the Huskers 80 yards in 13 plays in just over four minutes. NU’s first scoring drive of the day was capped by freshman I-back Cody Glenn’s first career touchdown from five yards out.
The Blackshirts then produced their first defensive stop of the day with a quick three-and-out. Husker return man Cortney Grixby fielded a short kick and raced ahead 20 yards. A Texas Tech personal foul tacked on another 15 yards, putting NU at the Tech 29. Six plays later Glenn scored his second touchdown of the day on a one-yard plunge to trim Texas Tech’s lead to 21-14 with 52 seconds left in the first half.
The Red Raiders temporarily stalled Nebraska’s momentum by forcing turnovers deep in Nebraska territory on each of the Huskers’ first two drives of the second half. However, the Blackshirt defense stood tall, holding Tech to a pair of field goals to keep NU within striking distance at 27-14. The Husker offense responded in a big way, marching 68 yards in 11 plays to trim the Red Raider lead to 27-21 with 1:51 left in the third quarter. On the drive, Taylor complete all seven of his pass attempts for 59 yards, capped by a 15-yard TD pass to Nunn for his first career touchdown catch.
After a defensive stop, Nebraska committed its fourth turnover of the day on a fumble by receiver Mark LeFlore. But the Blackshirts responded again, as defensive end Jay Moore hit Hodges behind the line of scrimmage to force a fumble that was scooped up by linebacker Bo Ruud, who rumbled 46 yards to the Texas Tech 14. The fumble return set up Nebraska’s go-ahead score on the pass from Taylor to Nunn early in the fourth quarter.
Noting Game Five... Texas Tech 34, Nebraska 31
- The loss was the first by Nebraska in four matchups against Texas Tech in Lincoln. Nebraska leads the overall series by a 7-2 margin. Nebraska lost its Homecoming game for the first time since 1968, as Tech snapped a Husker streak of 36 straight Homecoming wins. NU’s last loss on Homecoming was a 12-0 loss to Kansas State in 1968.
- The first-quarter touchdown by Texas Tech marked the first points Nebraska has allowed in the first quarter in 2005. Tech’s score also marked the first touchdown against NU in the first half this season. Tech scored 21 points in the first half. Coming into the game, NU’s first four opponents scored a combined six points in the first half.
- Nebraska senior I-back Cory Ross produced 119 all-purpose yards. Ross rushed 15 times for 68 yards and caught four passes out of the backfield for 51 yards. Ross is averaging 132.6 all-purpose yards per game.
- Nebraska junior quarterback Zac Taylor completed 21-of-35 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns. Taylor has thrown for a combined 660 yards in the past two games, including a school-record 431 yards passing in a win over Iowa State. Taylor completed just 3 of his first 10 pass attempts against Texas Tech, but connected on 18-of-25 the rest of the way. Taylor completed passes to eight different receivers.
- Nebraska freshman running back Cody Glenn scored the first two touchdowns of his career. Glenn scored on runs of 5 and 1 yards in the second quarter, slicing Texas Tech’s lead at the half to 21-14. Glenn carried the ball 12 times for 39 yards in the game.
- Nebraska sophomore wide receiver Terrence Nunn caught three passes for 39 yards and nabbed the first two touchdowns of his Nebraska career. Nunn had a 15-yard third-quarter touchdown reception from Taylor, for his first career touchdown, then added a four-yard TD reception in the fourth quarter to give NU its first lead of the game.
- Nebraska senior wide receiver Mark LeFlore caught five passes for 53 yards, marking the second straight season he had five catches vs. the Red Raiders. Last season LeFlore’s five receptions covered a career-high 110 yards.
- NU converted five trips into the Red Zone into four touchdowns and a field goal. Texas Tech penetrated the Nebraska Red Zone six times and scored three touchdowns and two field goals.
- Nebraska senior linebacker Adam Ickes blocked a Alex Trlica field goal attempt in the first quarter, marking Ickes’ second blocked field goal of the season and the third by Nebraska in 2005. Ickes also blocked a Pitt field goal on the final play of Nebraska’s win over the Panthers and freshmen Zach Potter and Barry Turner teamed up to block a Pitt field goal in the first quarter of that game.
- The Nebraska defense recorded four sacks, giving the Huskers 30 in 2005, after recording 25 sacks in 2004.
- Nebraska junior defensive end Jay Moore finished the game with three tackles for loss for 18 yards, including a 12-yard sack of Cody Hodges. Moore also forced a Red Raider fumble and had a pass breakup at the line.
- Texas Tech had 412 yards of total offense, and 294 yards at the half. After halftime, Texas Tech managed just 118 yards of total offense.
- Nebraska senior punter Sam Koch punted just one time for 32 yards, but downed the ball on the Tech 6 after punting from the Red Raider 38. Koch has had 14 of his 25 punts downed inside the 20 this season.
- Nebraska had five turnovers (four offensive), after committing just two turnovers in the previous three games combined. Nebraska’s defense allowed 13 points after the five turnovers, all coming after Tech took over inside the Nebraska 20. On Nebraska’s first turnover of the day, the Huskers blocked a field goal, while following a fourth-quarter fumble, the Nebraska defense forced a fumble that resulted in a touchdown and a 28-27 NU lead.
Huskers Look for Success in Road Opener
The Baylor contest will mark Nebraska’s road opener for the 2005 season after opening with five consecutive home games. Nebraska has won its last two road openers, picking up a 24-17 victory at Pitt last season after a 38-14 win at Southern Miss in 2003.
Overall, Nebraska has won 10 of its last 12 road openers dating back to 1993. The Baylor game marks the third time in that stretch the Huskers have had their first road game against a conference opponent, most recently at Missouri in 2001.
The Huskers will be looking to end a three-game slide in Big 12 road openers. The Huskers have lost consecutive conference road openers at Iowa State (2002), at Missouri (2003) and at Texas Tech (2004). Nebraska had lost just one other league road opener since 1974 prior to the three-game slide. Saturday night’s game at Baylor will mark the fourth time since the formation of the Big 12 Conference that Nebraska has played its first conference road game in the state of Texas. Nebraska won 49-21 at Baylor in 1997, dropped a 28-21 decision at Texas A&M in 1998 and lost 70-10 at Texas Tech in 2004.
If the Game Were Played on Paper
Nebraska has played three consecutive games that have been decided in the game’s final seconds or overtime. Looking simply at a statistical comparison it would appear that the Huskers’ matchup with Baylor could be another tight matchup. The teams are quite similar statistically through five games of the 2005 season.
The Huskers and Bears have both relied on strong defense and outstanding special teams in building their respective 4-1 starts. Nebraska and Baylor each rank in the top 20 nationally in five statistical categories. Among those, both Baylor and the Huskers are in the top 20 in total defense, scoring defense, net punting and punt returns.
In addition to stingy on defenses, both teams feature similar play in special teams. Nebraska punter Sam Koch ranks 18th nationally in punting at 43.6 yards per punt, while downing 14 of his 25 punts inside the 20. Baylor’s Daniel Sepulveda won the 2004 Ray Guy Award and is having a strong 2005 campaign, ranking sixth nationally by averaging 45.9 yards per boot. In the punt return department, Nebraska’s Terrence Nunn ranks second nationally at 27.6 yards per return, while Cortney Grixby gives the Huskers a one-two punch in the return game. Baylor also has two outstanding punt returners, as both Shaun Rochon and Willie Andrews rank in the top 25 nationally in that department. The Bears’ Ryan Havens is fourth nationally in field goals per contest, connecting on 2.2 per game, while NU true freshman Jordan Congdon has made 1.6 per game to rank 20th in the nation.
Scouting the Baylor Bears
When the Huskers hit the road for the first time this season, they will face an improved Baylor squad that has run to a 4-1 record this season, including a 1-1 mark in league play. The Bears’ lone loss this year was a three-point setback in overtime at Texas A&M to open league play.
Last week, Baylor ended one of its most notorious streaks by winning on the road in a Big 12 matchup for the first time since the formation of the league in 1996. The Bears held on for a victory over Iowa State, 23-13, in Ames, snapping a 37-game Big 12 Conference road losing streak, and a 38-game conference road losing streak overall. Their last league win away from Waco had been Nov. 11, 1995, a 48-7 victory over SMU in a Southwest Conference clash.
The Bears have won behind similar traits exhibited by the Huskers this season. Baylor ranks among the national leaders in several defensive categories, including 13th in scoring defense, 15th in total defense and seventh in pass efficiency defense, while seeing improvements each week in the offensive attack.
Baylor is led by senior free safety Maurice Lane, who has a team-high 44 tackles this season. Lane has topped the 100-tackle mark each of the past two years, including a career-best 129 tackles as a sophomore in 2003. Along with Lane, senior defensive end Montez Murphy has created pressure on opposing teams and recorded 24 tackles including team highs with five tackles for loss and three sacks. Murphy has also caused a pair of fumbles, as the Bears have forced eight and recovered five fumbles on the season.
On offense, the Bears spread the ball around, averaging 147 yards per game on the ground and 204 yards through the air. Quarterback Shawn Bell has hit 61.1 percent of his pass attempts (102-of-167) and has tossed five touchdowns while allowing four interceptions. Bell’s favorite target so far this season has been wide receiver Shaun Rochon, who has hauled in 23 catches for 174 yards, but has a long reception of only 14 yards. Junior wide receivers Trent Shelton and Dominique Zeigler pace the squad with 205 receiving yards apiece, and Zeigler is tied with junior running back Paul Mosley with two receiving touchdowns.
Mosley has also added a team-best four rushing scores and 424 rushing yards. His six combined touchdowns lead the team, and he ranks second in scoring (36 points) behind place-kicker Ryan Havens, who has 46 points on 11 field goals (15 attempts) and 13 extra points (13 attempts).
The Bears have a solid group of special teamers, including one of the nation’s top punters, to help win the field-position battle. Despite ranking third among league punters, 2004 Ray Guy winner Daniel Sepulveda ranks sixth nationally with a punting average of 45.85 yards per boot and has pinned opponents inside their 20 yard line on seven of his 20 punts. Along with Sepulveda, Havens ranks fourth nationally in field goals per game (2.2) ,while Rochon is fifth in the NCAA standings for punt returns at 19.2 yards per return. Rochon trails only Nebraska’s Terrence Nunn (27.6 ypr) in the Big 12 standings.
Baylor Coach Guy Morriss
In his third season guiding the Bears, Guy Morriss owns a 10-18 record and is 19-32 overall in his fifth season as a head coach. Morriss spent two years in charge of the program at Kentucky before taking over at Baylor before the 2003 campaign.
Morriss has led BU to four victories this season after picking up only six wins over the past two years. A native of Texas, Morriss also spent time as an assistant at Kentucky, Mississippi State and Valdosta State, as well as in the professional ranks with Arizona and New England in the NFL and San Antonio of the CFL.
Morriss was an All-Southwest Conference guard at TCU before going on to play in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots. He played in two Super Bowls and was an All-Pro in 1981 with the Eagles.
Nebraska-Baylor Series...10th All-Time Meeting...Nebraska Leads 8-1
The Huskers and Bears are meeting for the 10th time in the series which began with a 20-0 Husker victory in Lincoln in 1939. Baylor won the next matchup by a 26-7 margin in 1956, but the Huskers have reeled off seven straight wins entering this weekend, including the last five when the teams faced off as Big 12 opponents.
Nebraska has entered the contest ranked six times and won every game. This weekend’s contest will be the fourth matchup between unranked Nebraska and Baylor squads, with NU holding a 2-1 series lead in those games.