Nebraska (5-1, 2-1)
Missouri (4-2, 2-1)
Saturday, Oct. 22, 2005
Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field
Capacity: 68,349 (FieldTurf)
Television: FSN Regional Cable
Nebraska Radio: 55-station Pinnacle Sports Network
Internet: Live Radio on Huskers.com
Satellite Radio: Sirius Satellite Radio, Channel 126
Series Record: Nebraska leads, 62-33-3
Last Meeting: Nebraska 24, Missouri 3, Oct. 30, 2004, in Lincoln
Huskers, Mizzou Square Off in Key North Division Battle
Nebraska will hit the road for the second consecutive week, traveling to Columbia, Mo., to take on the Tigers in a crucial Big 12 North Division matchup. The Huskers and Missouri enter Saturday’s game tied for the Big 12 North lead with Colorado at 2-1 in conference play. The NU-Mizzou game will be televised on a regional basis by FSN with kickoff set for 11:40 a.m. at MU’s Faurot Field.
Both Nebraska and Missouri come into the game after key conference wins last Saturday. The Huskers improved to 5-1 overall by picking up a 23-14 win at Baylor in their first road game of the season. Meanwhile, Missouri snared its second straight Big 12 victory by knocking off Iowa State, 27-24, in overtime in Columbia.
Nebraska will enter Saturday’s game hoping a victory will catapult the Huskers into the national rankings for the first time since the close of the 2003 season.The Huskers were just outside the AP poll this week, picking up the 26th-most points in the poll, just five points behind No. 25 Cal. The Huskers also ranked among the leaders in others receiving votes in the coaches poll and are ranked 24th in this week’s Harris Poll. Nebraska gathered enough points to also rank 26th in the AP poll before its loss to Texas Tech.
The Huskers have a decided edge in the series between the two schools, including victories in 25 of the past 26 meetings. However, Missouri knocked off 10th-ranked NU, 41-24, in the Huskers’ last visit to Columbia in 2003.
Huskers Victorious in First Road Test of 2005
Nebraska used a balanced offense and strong play by the defense and special teams to improve to 5-1 with a 23-14 win at Baylor on Saturday. In its first road game of the season in front of 40,857 fans at Floyd Casey Stadium, including an estimated 8,000 red-clad Husker fans, the Huskers knocked off a Baylor squad that entered the game with a 4-1 record.
Quarterback Zac Taylor led NU to scores on four of its first five drives to produce 20 unanswered points after the Bears took an early 7-0 lead. Taylor finished the night 18-of-32 with two touchdowns and no interceptions through the air, while adding a career-best 30 rushing yards on five carries. Taylor connected with Terrence Nunn and Todd Peterson on touchdown passes to power the Husker victory. Nunn's four-yard grab was his third touchdown catch in the last two games, while Peterson's 21-yard scoring strike on NU's opening drive of the second half marked his first career catch.
Baylor opened the scoring with a long march to open the game, but the 7:21 scoring drive would be the Bears’ only sustained drive of the night, as Nebraska controlled the line of scrimmage and the clock the rest of the night. Nebraska sliced Baylor’s lead to 7-3 near the end of the first period on a career-long 41-yard field goal by Jordan Congdon, the first of three field goals for the true freshman.
Nebraska took the lead for good with 5:09 to play in the second quarter on Taylor’s four-yard scoring pass to Nunn, putting the Huskers ahead 10-7. The score was set up by a career-long 48-yard punt return by Cortney Grixby that positioned NU at the Baylor 9-yard line. Nebraska extended its lead to 13-7 at the half on Congdon’s 29-yard field goal with 22 seconds remaining before intermission.
The Huskers continued to pound the Baylor defense after halftime. Nebraska ran the ball on its first eight plays after halftime, before Taylor connected with Peterson on a 21-yard touchdown to push the lead to 20-7. The reception was the first of Peterson’s Nebraska career. Baylor got back into the game with a 52-yard scoring play with 6:19 remaining in the third quarter. Shawn Bell connected with Trent Shelton on a 51-yard pass, before Shelton fumbled at the NU 1, however Dominique Zeigler fell on the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.
Baylor was unable to scare the Huskers the rest of the way. After Congdon closed the scoring with his third field goal with 9:21 to play, the NU defense and power running game took over. Nebraska took the ball away from Baylor on its final three possessions, including a fumble recovery and 33-yard return by Grixby, and interceptions by Zack Bowman and Daniel Bullocks. The Nebraska offense took care of killing the clock, controlling the ball for 22:22 in the second half and 37:12 on the night.
NU produced 350 yards of total offense, including a season-high 182 rushing yards. Cory Ross led NU's ground game with 26 carries for 93 yards. Nebraska held Baylor to 253 yards, including 51 on the ground. The Huskers had four sacks on the night, two each from senior nose tackle Le Kevin Smith and freshman defensive end Barry Turner.
Noting Game Six... Nebraska 23, Baylor 14
- The Huskers improved to 9-1 all-time against Baylor, including 3-0 against the Bears in Waco. The victory was Nebraska’s third straight in a road opener after winning at Southern Miss in 2003 and at Pittsburgh in 2004. The victory ended a three-game losing streak in Big 12 road openers, including losses at Iowa State in 2002, at Missouri in 2003 and at Texas Tech in 2004. The win also snapped a four-game road losing streak dating back to last season.
- Nebraska limited Baylor to 51 rushing yards, including minus-11 yards rushing in the first half and minus-26 rushing yards in the second quarter. The Huskers have limited four opponents to less than 100 yards rushing this season, including each of the past three games. Maine was held to minus-6 yards in the season opener, while Iowa State had 57 yards rushing and Texas Tech managed just 44 rushing yards.
- The Nebraska defense recorded four sacks, giving the Huskers a nation-leading 34 sacks in six games this season. Nebraska has had at least four sacks in all six games.
- The Nebraska offense piled up a season-high 83 snaps and controlled the football for 37:12. After Baylor held the ball for 7:21 on the opening drive of the game, the Bears held the ball for just 15:27 the remainder of the game. Nebraska had the ball for 22:22 in the second half, including 12:14 in the fourth quarter. The last time the Huskers controlled the football longer was 39:45 against Penn State in the third game of the 2003 season.
- Nebraska senior I-back Cory Ross caught three passes against Baylor, giving him 21 this season and 49 in his career. Ross’ 49 career receptions moved him into the top 25 on Nebraska’s career receptions list. Ross’ 21 receptions this season match his total of 21 receptions in 2004.
- Ross carried the ball 26 times for 93 yards, pushing his career rushing total to 2,410 yards, pushing Ross within 163 yards of the top 10 on Nebraska’s career rushing list.
- Nebraska sophomore wide receiver Terrence Nunn caught a second-quarter touchdown, his third in the past two games after he caught a pair of second-half touchdowns against Texas Tech. The touchdowns are the first three of Nunn’s career.
- Nunn finished with five receptions for 49 yards. Nunn has caught 16 passes in Nebraska’s past three games, including a career-high eight against Iowa State, and leads the team with 22 catches this season.
- NU redshirt freshman wide receiver Todd Peterson made the most of his first career reception, grabbing a 21-yard touchdown pass on Nebraska’s initial possession of the second half.
- Nebraska sophomore Cortney Grixby had a 48-yard punt return in the second quarter to the Baylor 9 to set up a touchdown that gave Nebraska a 10-7 lead. The return was a career-long for Grixby, bettering his 23-yard return against Texas Tech in the previous game. Grixby also had a 33-yard fumble return in the fourth quarter, broke up a pair of passes and had his first career interception nullified by a roughing the passer penalty.
- Nebraska freshman place-kicker Jordan Congdon was 3-of-3 on field goals, including a career-long 41-yarder in the first quarter. Congdon is now 11-of-14 on the season, just three field goals from the NU frosh record.
- Baylor took the opening drive for an 81-yard touchdown, gaining 76 yards of total offense on that drive. After that, the Nebraska defense stiffened, as Baylor gained just 35 yards the remainder of the first half.
- Nebraska senior punter Sam Koch had four punts for a 45.2-yard average. Koch did not punt in the first half, punted only once last week against Texas Tech, and did not have a punt in the fourth quarter of the Iowa State game, giving NU a span of seven quarters with just one punt which ended with Koch’s 55-yard punt midway through the third quarter.
- Nebraska senior Daniel Bullocks nabbed his eighth career interception and first of 2005 in the fourth quarter, moving him within two interceptions of the top 10 on the NU career list.
- Nebraska junior cornerback Zack Bowman snared his first career interception in the fourth quarter.
- Nebraska freshman Barry Turner registered career highs with two sacks (15 yards) and three tackles-for-loss, while senior Le Kevin Smith racked up a pair of sacks for the second time in 2005. Smith also had two sacks in the opener against Maine.
Big Plays Help NU Against Tigers
Nebraska’s 24-3 victory over Missouri last year in Lincoln was sealed on Cory Ross’ 86-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run that gave Nebraska a three-touchdown advantage.
That long play continued Nebraska’s recent trend of producing big players against the Tigers.
The Huskers have had at least one scrimmage play or return of 50 yards or more in each of the last nine meetings with Missouri, including plays of 86 yards or more in four of the last five meetings. Overall, Nebraska has had six runs, two pass plays and four returns that have covered more than 50 yards against the Tigers since 1996, including:
- Ahman Green runs of 56 and 70 yards in a 51-7 win in 1996
- A 51-yard Joe Walker kickoff return in a 45-38 overtime win in Columbia in 1997
- Shevin Wiggins' 53-yard punt return in NU's 20-13 victory in 1998
- A 53-yard TD pass from Eric Crouch to Bobby Newcombe and a 57-yard run by Correll Buckhalter in 1999
- Newcombe's 94-yard punt return touchdown and Buckhalter's 58-yard run in a 42-24 win in Lincoln in 2000
- Crouch's record-setting 95-yard touchdown run in NU's 36-3 win in Columbia in 2001
- An 89-yard punt return touchdown by DeJuan Groce in a 24-13 Husker victory in 2002
- Mark LeFlore’s 55-yard TD catch from Jammal Lord vs. Mizzou in 2003
- Ross’ 86-yard touchdown run last season in Lincoln
Huskers, MU Have History of Tight Tussles
The Nebraska-Missouri series has long been regarded as one of the hardest-hitting, hotly contested matchups in the Big Eight and now Big 12 Conference. Although NU piled up a 24-game win streak in the series prior to a 2003 loss in Columbia, the matchups between the schools have often come down to the final minutes.
In 2003, Missouri came from behind in the fourth quarter for a 17-point victory, while Nebraska pulled away for a three-touchdown (24-3) win last year in Lincoln. However, those margins have not been the norm in the NU-Mizzou series. During Nebraska’s 24-game win streak (1979 to 2002), 10 of NU’s victories were by 11 points or fewer, including a 45-38 overtime victory in 1997. Tight games in the series go back further than the Huskers’ recent run of success. Since 1954, the Husker-Tiger clash has been decided by 11 points or fewer in 28 of 51 seasons, including four one-point decisions.
Scouting the Missouri Tigers
Nebraska hits the road for the second straight Saturday when it takes on the Missouri Tigers in a key Big 12 North matchup in Columbia, Mo., this weekend. The Huskers enter the contest tied with MU in the North Division standings with a 2-1 league mark. NU and MU are joined atop the leader board with Colorado, which plays host to Kansas on Saturday.
The Huskers will face their second potent offense in three weeks when they take on the Tigers. MU enters the weekend ranked among the national leaders in several offensive categories, including rushing offense (235.8 ypg, 11th), total offense (476.3 ypg, 14th) and scoring offense (36.0 ppg, 19th). The Tigers also rank first in the league and fourth nationally in punt returns.
Leading the Mizzou offense this season is senior quarterback Brad Smith. A multiple-threat quarterback, Smith ranks 18th nationally and first in the Big 12 with 103.2 rushing yards per game and is seventh in the league with 194.5 passing yards per game and a pass efficiency of 122.0.
Smith, who is third in the Big 12 Conference in total offense at nearly 300 yards per game, suffered a concussion in last week’s overtime victory against Iowa State. Following the injury midway through the fourth quarter, he was replaced by freshman Chase Daniel, who led Missouri on two scoring drives in the final five minutes to tie the game. The Tiger defense shut out ISU in the overtime and MU kicked a field goal to win 27-24.
Daniel has played in five games and has completed 25-of-41 pass attempts for 246 yards and one touchdown, a 4-yard pass to Sean Coffey with 20 seconds remaining in regulation against the Cyclones. Coffey is one of five Tigers with at least 20 receptions this year, including Chase Coffman who has a team-high 24 catches for 266 yards.
Defensively, the Tigers have allowed 31.5 points per game this season to rank last in the Big 12 Conference and 100th nationally. MU is giving up 391.7 yards per game, including 171.8 yards on the ground. The Tigers have recorded 11 turnovers, but have turned the ball over 13 times, including losing 8-of-10 fumbles this year. Opponents have fumbled 18 times but have lost the ball only seven times.
Missouri’s safeties have led the defense as strong safety David Overstreet has a team-high 56 tackles while free safety Jason Simpson is second in tackles (50) and leads the team with eight pass breakups. Up front, defensive end Brian Smith has applied the most pressure on opposing offenses with 39 tackles, including 11 for a loss and his 5.5 sacks rank third in the conference.
The Tigers will try to set up a short field with their punt return unit, which ranks fourth nationally at 21.2 yards per return. Four Tigers have returned at least one punt this year with Earl Goldsmith and Marcus Woods each bringing back four returns. Woods leads the way with 176 punt return yards for an average of 44.0 yards per return. He has taken one back for a 76-yard touchdown, which is more return yardage than the rest of the Tigers combined.
Place-kicker Adam Crossett has hit 9-of-12 field-goal attempts and connected on 21-of-23 extra point tries. Crossett has connected on 3-of-4 attempts of 40 or more yards, including a season-best 45 yarder.
Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel
Gary Pinkel is in his fifth year guiding the Tiger program and 15th as a collegiate head coach. Pinkel owns a 26-27 record at Missouri, including a 1-3 record vs. Nebraska, and is looking for his 100th career win this weekend as he holds a 99-64-3 career mark.
Pinkel spent 10 seasons guiding Toledo to 73 victories, including five conference or division titles. His teams have won at least eight games in a season five times, including once at Missouri (2003, 8-5). Pinkel spent seven years as an offensive coordinator at Washington before taking over the head job at Toledo in 1991. He also served eight seasons as an assistant coach at Washington and two years at Bowling Green.
Nebraska-Missouri Series...99th All-Time Meeting...Nebraska Leads 62-33-3
The Huskers and Tigers are meeting for the 99th time in the Huskers’ third-longest running series. Only the Kansas (112th game this year) and Iowa State (100th) series are longer.
Nebraska recorded a 1-0 forfeit victory in the first scheduled meeting in 1892, but lost the first two times the teams met on the field over the next two years. NU then won 12 of the next 13 and has cruised to a 62-33-3 series advantage. Nebraska has won 25 of the last 26 matchups, including 24 straight until a Missouri victory in 2003.
It Doesn’t Get Much Closer Than This
Nebraska fans got their money’s worth in a recent three-game home stretch against Pitt, Iowa State and Texas Tech. All three games were decided in the game’s final seconds or in overtime.
Nebraska 7, Pitt 6
The Huskers’ 7-6 win over Pitt was decided as time expired. After Nebraska missed a field goal with 1:28 remaining, Pitt drove to the Nebraska 29-yard line and lined up for a potential game-winning field goal. A bizarre finish ensued. The Panthers botched the snap on their field-goal attempt on second down and kicker Josh Cummings threw an incomplete pass with one second remaining. Pitt lined up for a second 46-yard FG attempt that was blocked by Adam Ickes to preserve the NU victory.
Nebraska 27, Iowa State 20 (2OT)
A turnover inside the ISU 20-yard line late in a 13-13 tie, forced Nebraska and the Cyclones into overtime. After Iowa State scored a touchdown to open the overtime, Nebraska matched the score to force a second overtime. The Huskers scored on an eight-yard Zac Taylor to Cory Ross pass, then held ISU on downs to complete a 27-20 victory in the first overtime game in Memorial Stadium history.
Texas Tech 34, Nebraska 31
After trailing 21-0 in the second quarter, Nebraska rallied for a 31-27 edge with 5:10 remaining. Tech mounted a scoring threat, but Cody Hodges was picked off by defensive tackle Le Kevin Smith with just more than one minute remaining. However, Tech forced Smith to fumble and recovered at the NU 18. Four plays later on fourth-and-2, Hodges connected with Joel Filani for a 10-yard touchdown pass with 12 seconds left to give the Red Raiders a 34-31 victory.