Nebraska continues Big 12 Conference action with its league home opener against high-powered Texas Tech at Memorial Stadium. The game will be televised to a regional audience on ABC with kickoff set for shortly after 2:30 p.m. (CDT).
The Huskers improved to 4-1 on the season by winning their Big 12 opener last Thursday evening at 24th-ranked Missouri. Nebraska trailed 12-0 entering the final quarter, but put together an impressive comeback to post a 27-12 victory in rainy Columbia. The win was Nebraska’s fourth straight victory in conference play dating back to last season and its fifth straight victory against North Division foes. The victory also boosted Nebraska in the national polls, with the Huskers checking in at No. 15 in the Associated Press poll and 17th in the USA Today Coaches poll.
Texas Tech will provide Nebraska with another stern Big 12 test. The Red Raiders own a 4-2 overall mark and a 1-1 record in league play after a 66-14 dismantling of Kansas State in Lubbock on Saturday night. Texas Tech is second nationally in passing, scoring and total offense entering this weekend’s contest.
The game will mark the 11th between the schools, with Nebraska holding a 7-3 edge, including a 4-3 mark while the schools have been members of the Big 12 Conference.Texas Tech has won each of the past three meetings, with the last two decided in the waning seconds. Tech pulled out a 34-31 victory in Lincoln in 2005, its only victory in four trips to Memorial Stadium. Last year, NU took the No. 7 Red Raiders to overtime, before falling 37-31 in Lubbock.
Nebraska: Bo Pelini (Ohio State, ‘90) owns a 14-5 record in his second season with the Huskers. Pelini guided Nebraska to nine wins in his first season as head coach, joining Bob Devaney, Tom Osborne and Frank Solich as the only Nebraska coaches to win nine games in their first season leading the Cornhuskers. Prior to taking over as the Huskers’ head coach, Pelini served as defensive coordinator at NU, Oklahoma and LSU. Previously, he had stints as an NFL assistant with San Francisco, New England and Green Bay.
Texas Tech: Mike Leach (BYU, ‘83) is in his 10th season as the Red Raiders coach. He has guided Texas Tech to an 80-41 record, including an 11-2 mark and Big 12 South co-championship last season. Leach is 3-2 against Nebraska.
· Nebraska is 821-338-40 all-time, one of just seven schools with 800 all-time victories
· Nebraska has won five national championships (1970, 1971, 1994, 1995, 1997).
· The Cornhuskers have won 43 conference championships.
· Nebraska’s 45 all-time bowl appearances rank fifth nationally.
· Since 1970, Nebraska has 387 wins, 27 more than any other school.
· Nebraska’s 98 football Academic All-Americans lead the nation.
· The Huskers have had 106 All-Americans in school history.
Nebraska Has Found Success Since Close Loss in Lubbock
Nebraska nearly knocked off No. 7 Texas Tech in Lubbock last season, dropping a 37-31 overtime decision. However, that near miss sparked a turnaround that has continued into Nebraska’s 4-1 start to the 2009 season.
Nebraska posted a 35-7 victory the following week at Iowa State on Oct. 18, 2008, and in the year dating to this week the Huskers have been impressive.
· The Huskers are 10-2 over that stretch, with both losses coming on the road to top-10 opponents, including a last-second, one-point loss at No. 5 Virginia Tech this season and a setback at No. 4 Oklahoma last fall.
· Over the same stretch, NU has posted a 6-1 record in Big 12 contests and a 6-0 record inside Memorial Stadium.
Huskers Hope to Continue Success in Big 12 Home Openers
Saturday’s game marks Nebraska’s first Big 12 Conference home game of 2009. The Huskers have historically been impressive in their Big 12 home opener, as NU owns a 12-1 record in those games, including a perfect 3-0 mark against South Division opponents.
Nebraska had won every one of its 12 Big 12 home openers before a 52-17 loss to fourth-ranked Missouri last season. Overall, that loss snapped Nebraska’s 30-game winning streak in conference home openers dating back to a 24-21 loss to Iowa State in the Big Eight Conference home opener during the 1977 season.
In the Big 12 era (1996 to present) Nebraska has been dominant in its first league game at home. The Huskers have nearly doubled their opponents’ point total with a combined score of 447-224. The average score of Nebraska’s first 13 Big 12 home openers has been 34-17.
Husker-Texas Tech Matchup to Feature Strength vs. Strength
With apologies to the Nebraska offense and the Texas Tech defense, much of the focus this week will be on the matchup between the resurgent Cornhusker defense and the high-powered Red Raider offense.
Texas Tech has earned a reputation as the nation’s most explosive passing offense under the direction of 10th-year head coach Mike Leach and this year is no different. The Red Raiders enter the game ranked second nationally in passing offense at 443.5 yards per game, including 25 touchdown passes. Tech has had two quarterbacks throw seven touchdown passes in a game already this year and also ranks second in scoring offense and total offense.
Nebraska’s strong start has been highlighted by continued drastic improvement on defense. The Huskers rank second nationally in scoring defense, are third in pass efficiency defense and 13th in total defense.
Here’s a look at a few key statistical matchups to watch.
Nebraska Defense Category Texas Tech Offense
No. 14 in Pass Defense Yards (162.6 ypg) Passing No. 2 in Passing Yards (443.5 ypg)
No. 3 in Pass Efficiency Defense (86.48) Passing Efficiency No. 11 in Passing Efficiency (161.27)
No. 2 in Scoring Defense (8.0 ppg) Scoring No. 2 in Scoring Offense (43.2 ppg)
No. 13 in Total Defense (273.4 ypg) Total Yards No. 2 in Total Offense (521.5 ypg)
No. 15 in Turnover Margin (+1.0 pg) Turnovers No. 99 in Turnover Margin (-0.67 pg)
Points Hard to Come By Against Nebraska Defense
Nebraska has allowed 40 points in five games, and the 8.0 points per game average ranks second in the nation, just behind top-ranked Florida. The 40 points allowed through five games represent the fewest allowed by Nebraska in the first five games since allowing 38 points in 2003. It is the fifth lowest five-game points allowed total since 1980.
· The Nebraska defense has surrendered only four touchdowns this season. The Blackshirts did not allow a touchdown until the second quarter of the second game, as the Huskers held their opponents out of the end zone for the first five quarters of the year, the longest season-opening streak since 1994. The 2009 Blackshirts became just the third NU team in the past 40 seasons to not allow a touchdown in the season opener. Only one of the four touchdown drives against the Nebraska defense has covered more than 45 yards. Two of the four touchdown drives have covered 32 or fewer yards.
· Nebraska has held five straight opponents under 20 points for the first time since a streak of five games to open the 2003 season. Head Coach Bo Pelini was Nebraska’s defensive coordinator that season. The last time Nebraska held six straight opponents to fewer than 20 points was between the 2000 and 2001 seasons when NU held eight straight opponents to 17 points or fewer.
· The Huskers’ 55-0 shutout of Louisiana-Lafayette marked Nebraska’s first whitewashing of an opponent since a 56-0 win over Troy on Sept. 23, 2006.
· In three home games this season, Nebraska has only allowed one touchdown while surrendering just 12 points. The Huskers have not allowed a touchdown at Memorial Stadium in more than six quarters and have not allowed a point in nearly 65 minutes of game time.
Win at Missouri Highlights NU’s Continued Fourth-Quarter Dominance
After ranking second nationally last season in fourth-quarter points scored (155) and fourth-quarter point differential (+103), the Huskers are dominating the final quarter again in 2009.
In the fourth quarter this season, Nebraska has outscored its opponents 58-9. The highlight of the Huskers’ fourth-quarter domination came at Missouri. NU outscored the 24th-ranked Tigers 27-0 in the final quarter and tied the school record by rallying from a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit to post a 15-point win.
The 27 points were NU’s most in any quarter since the 2004 season opener against Western Illinois when the Huskers posted 28 second-quarter points. The fourth-quarter outburst was Nebraska’s largest since also scoring 27 points at Baylor in the final frame in 2001. NU scored 28 points in the fourth quarter of a 49-27 win at Iowa State in 2000, the last time NU scored more than 27 points in the final quarter.
· Overall this season, Nebraska has outscored its opponents 91-12 in the second half. Nebraska’s second-half dominance has begun right from halftime. The first opponent’s drives of the second half in 2009 have produced no points, three first downs and a combined 50 yards. In the last three games those numbers are zero points, zero first downs and nine combined yards.
· Under Head Coach Bo Pelini, Nebraska is 14-1 when leading at any point in the fourth quarter (including his 2003 Alamo Bowl victory as interim head coach). That lone loss came this season, when No. 5 Virginia Tech scored in the final minute to pull out a one-point victory on Sept. 26.
· The last time Nebraska lost a home game it led in the fourth quarter was in 2005 against Texas Tech, when the Red Raiders scored the game-winning touchdown with 12 seconds left.