Stillwater, Okla. - In an old-fashioned shootout that may have rekindled memories of Nebraska-Oklahoma State games of the late-1980s, the No. 14 Cornhuskers outyarded, outlasted and outscored the unbeaten and No. 17 Cowboys in a 51-41 win at Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Nebraska amassed 542 total yards, including a career-high and NU freshman record 435 total offense yards from quarterback Taylor Martinez that included career bests of 323 passing yards and five passing touchdowns. The Huskers got some huge special teams plays from Alex Henery and Niles Paul to improve to 6-1 overall and 2-1 in the Big 12, while notching their sixth straight road win.
NU bounced back from its first loss of the season last week against Texas to hand OSU its first loss of the year and improve to 37-5-1 all-time against the Cowboys. OSU slipped to 6-1 overall and 2-1 in the conference with the loss.
The two teams combined for 92 points - the most during the Bo Pelini-era at Nebraska, and the most since NU and Kansas State combined for a 104 points on Nov. 10, 2007. That game included a school-record seven touchdown passes by NU's Joe Ganz, the only player in Husker history to throw more touchdown passes in a game than Martinez's five-TD effort on Saturday.
The Huskers and Cowboys also joined forced for 1,037 total yards.
It was the third-highest scoring game in the history of the NU-OSU series, trailing a 63-42 Husker win between a pair of ranked teams on Homecoming in Lincoln on Oct. 15, 1988. The next year in Stillwater, the two Big Eight brethren mustered 71 points in a 48-23 Husker win. The second-highest scoring game in the series came with a 65-31 Husker win in Lincoln during NU's 1970 national championship season.
Martinez's day also included the fifth 100-yard rushing effort of his seven-game career, as he covered 112 yards on 19 carries. He became the first Husker in history to pass for 300 yards and rush for 100 yards in the same game.
The freshman from Corona, Calif., made the most noise with his arm against the Cowboys, producing the best passing day in school history by a freshman quarterback. He completed 23-of-35 passes for 323 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. His five TDs were two more than his career total entering the game. He hooked up with Brandon Kinnie for three of the scores, including NU's first and last touchdowns of the game. Kinnie finished the day with three receptions for 62 yards.
Paul was Martinez's favorite target, as the senior from Omaha hauled in a career-high nine receptions for 131 yards. It was Paul's fifth career 100-yard receiving day and first this season. Although Paul did not produce a receiving touchdown, he did find his way into the scoring column with his 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the first quarter. It was Paul's third career return touchdown, including an 85-yard kickoff return against San Jose State (2008) and a 59-yard punt return against Colroado (2009).
The return tied Ron Clark (at Kansas State, 1949) for the second-longest return in school history. Paul finished the day with two kickoff returns for 119 yards and added a punt return for 24 yards to account for a career-best 274 all-purpose yards for the Huskers.
Henery also also continued to add to his legend as the best kicker in NU history, connecting on all three of his field goal attempts, including a 52-yarder. He also boomed three punts for a 50.3-yard average, including a 58-yarder. Two of his punts were downed inside OSU's 20. The senior from Omaha was also a perfect 6-for-6 on PATs to finish the day with 15 points.
But the kicks weren't the most impressive thing that Henery did with his magic legs. After Nebraska's opening drive of the game was stopped on 4th-and-8 at the NU 22, Henery rolled right on a punt-run option and sped down the right side for a first down. He made a Cowboy miss on the sideline, before the 6-2, 175-pound Henery cut his run back across the middle for a 27-yard run to set the Huskers up with a first down at the NU 49.
Moments later, Martinez connected with Kinnie on a 45-yard touchdown strike to give the Huskers a quick 7-0 lead just 3:40 into the game, and the shootout was on.
The high-powered Cowboy offense, which has scored 34 or more points in all seven games this season, answered with a pair of field goals to cut NU's edge to 7-6 with 6:40 left in the opening quarter. But after Dan Bailey's second field goal, Paul raced the length of field on the ensuing kickoff to give NU a 14-6 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The 20 points scored in the game's first nine minutes set the tone for the rest of the day.
After OSU answered with an 11-play, 76-yard touchdown drive to trim NU's edge to 14-13 at the end of the quarter, Martinez and the Huskers showed that they planned to keep scoring.
Less than one minute into the second quarter, Martinez capped a nine-play, 58-yard drive with a one-yard scoring toss to fullback Tyler Legate to give the Huskers a 21-13 lead with 14:07 left in the half.
The Cowboys provided an impressive answer of their own with an eight-play, 84-yard drive that ended with Kendall Hunter's eight-yard touchdown run to cut NU's margin to 21-20 with 7:58 left in the first half. Hunter closed the day with the eighth 200-yard rushing effort in history against the Huskers, finishing with 201 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. Although he scored a touchdown in each half, he managed just 55 rushing yards in the second half, compared with 146 in the first half against the Huskers.
Henery provided an answer for the Huskers with his first of three field goals on the afternoon. His first one covered 52 yards and pushed NU's lead to 24-20 and was the fourth career field goal of 50 or more yards for the Lou Groza Award candidate.
But the Cowboys pulled out another dangerous weapon in their impressive arsenal, as quarterback Brandon Weeden connected with Justin Blackmon on an 80-yard scoring strike just 22 seconds later to give OSU its first lead at 27-24 with 5:59 left in the half. Weeden completed 18-of-35 passes for 283 yards and two touchdowns to Blackmon on the day. He was also intercepted once by NU's Eric Hagg. Blackmon closed his day with five catches for 157 yards.
After OSU's quick strike, the Blackshirts began to assert themselves, stopping the Cowboys on their final two drives of the first half. Martinez took advantage, finding Kinnie for the second time - this time on a nine-yard touchdown pass with 55 seconds left - to send the Huskers to the locker room with a 31-27 lead.
The late first-half score was made even larger because it left OSU without enough time to answer, and the Huskers started the second half with the ball.
And the Huskers kept scoring.
Henery capped NU's 10-play opening drive of the second half with a 32-yard field goal to move the Nebraska margin to 34-27 and give him a school-record 58th career field goal. The Blackshirts held on their first defensive possession of the second half, and Martinez capitalized by connecting with Kyler Reed on a 41-yard touchdown pass with 6:35 left to make it 41-27.
The Cowboys refused to quit, as Hunter notched his second touchdown with a one-yard plunge to make it 41-34 at the end of the three quarters.
But Nebraska dominated early in the fourth, starting with a 45-yard Henery field goal with 11:39 left. That kick stretched Henery's streak of consecutive field goals made to 17, while capping his 15th career multiple field goal games.
After a crucial stop by the Blackshirts, the Huskers put the game away with an epic, 12-play, 81-yard that consumed 6:23. Martinez put the exclamation point on his career passing day with a perfect fade route thrown to Kinnie to the left corner of the end zone for Kinnie's third touchdown catch of the game to make it 51-34 Huskers.
Oklahoma State mustered one final scoring drive, capped by Weeden's 25-yard touchdown pass to Blackmon with 1:24 left. But Nebraska fielded OSU's ensuing on-side kick attempt and took a knee to seal the Huskers' sixth straight road victory. The win also gave the Huskers a win over their highest-ranked foe on the road since 1997.
Nebraska returns home for another top-25 showdown next Saturday, when the Huskers battle Big 12 North Division rival Missouri. Kickoff with the Tigers in front of the NCAA-record 309th consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln is set for 2:30 p.m. with an ABC telecast.
Final: #14 Nebraska 51, #17 Oklahoma State 41
Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010
Boone Pickens Stadium (Stillwater, Okla.)
First Quarter (NU, 14-6)
NU - 11:20 - Brandon Kinnie 45 pass from Taylor Martinez (Alex Henery kick) - 7 plays, 80 yards, 2:29, NU 7-0
OSU - 9:37 - Dan Bailey 31 field goal - 7 plays, 46 yards, 1:43, NU 7-3
OSU - 6:40 - Bailey 44 field goal - 5 plays, 7 yards, 1:57, NU 7-6
NU - 6:27 - Niles Paul 100 kickoff return (Henery kick) - NU, 14-6
OSU - 2:39 - Jeremy Smith 1 run (Bailey kick) - 11 plays, 76 yards, 3:48, NU 14-13
Second Quarter (NU, 31-27)
NU - 14:07 - Tyler Legate 1 pass from Martinez (Henery kick) - 9 plays, 58 yards, 3:32, NU 21-13
OSU - 7:58 - Kendall Hunter 8 run (Bailey kick) - 8 plays, 84 yards, 3:19, NU 21-20
NU - 6:11 - Henery 52 field goal - 5 plays, 31 yards, 1:47, NU 24-20
OSU - 5:59 - Justin Blackmon 80 pass from Weeden (Bailey kick) - 1 play, 80 yards, 0:12, OSU 27-24
NU - 0:55 - Brandon Kinnie 9 pass from Martinez (Henery kick) - 5 plays, 66 yards, 1:20, NU 31-27
Third Quarter (NU, 41-34)
NU - 10:57 - Henery 32 field goal - 10 plays, 65 yards, 4:03, NU 34-27
NU - 6:35 - Kyler Reed 41 pass from Martinez (Henery kick) - 7 plays, 74 yards, 3:09, NU 41-27
OSU 3:29 - Hunter 1 run (Bailey kick) - 7 plays, 66 yards, 3:06, NU 41-34
Fourth Quarter (NU, 51-41)
NU - 11:39 - Henery 45 field goal, 9 plays, 40 yards, 3:24, NU 44-34
NU - 4:29 - Kinnie 8 pass from Martinez (Henery kick), 12 plays, 81 yards, 6:23, NU 51-34
OSU - 1:24 - Blackmon 25 pass from Weeden (Bailey kick), 9 plays, 63 yards, 3:05, NU 51-41
Final: #14 Nebraska 51, #17 Oklahoma State 41
Time of Game: 3:34