San Diego - Nebraska struggled to find its offensive rhythm against an inspired Washington defense in a 19-7 loss to the Huskies in the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium on Thursday night.
With the loss, the Huskers finished with a 10-4 record for the second straight season, while Washington closed the year with a 7-6 mark while winning its final four games.
Washington jumped out to a 10-0 first quarter lead after an early NU miscue on its first drive of the game. The Huskers had put together an eight-play drive that crossed into UW territory when Victor Aiyewa forced a Rex Burkhead fumble. Ta'amu Alameda recovered the ball and returned it 14 yards to the Nebraska 21-yard line. Washington took advantage of the Husker turnover with a three-play drive, capped by Chris Polk's three-yard touchdown run to give the Huskies a 7-0 lead.
After Erik Folk's 39-yard field goal with 1:29 left in the opening quarter, Nebraska put together its only successful drive of the night with a 10-play, 74-yard drive capped by Taylor Martinez's 15-yard touchdown pass to sophomore tight end Kyler Reed.
With the catch, Reed set the NU tight end single-season scoring record with his eighth touchdown grab of the year. Reed finished with two receptions for 31 yards in the game. Alex Henery added the extra point to close his NU career with a school-record 397 points - the 12th-best scoring total by any player in FBS history (seventh among kickers).
The Huskers went to the locker room trailing 10-7 at the half, but were unable to mount any serious scoring threats in the second half. NU managed just 156 total yards in the game, after rolling up 533 yards in the first meeting with the Huskies this season in Seattle. In that game, three Huskers (Martinez, Burkhead, Helu Jr.) each rushed for more than 100 yards among NU's 383 team rushing yards. On Thursday night, NU managed just 91 rushing yards as a team, led by Burkhead's 39 yards on 12 carries and Helu's 34 yards on 11 carries. Helu closed his career as NU's No. 4 all-time leading rusher with 3,404 yards, including 1,245 this season.
Martinez gained 66 yards, but lost 43 yards to net just 23 yards for the game. Martinez completed 7-of-9 passes for 53 yards with one touchdown, but also threw an interception on the night. Cody Green finished the game 3-for-12 through the air for 45 yards.
Washington turned the tables on NU by amassing 268 yards on the ground, including 177 yards on 34 carries from Polk. The Huskies stretched their lead to 17-7 early in the third quarter on a 25-yard touchdown run by quarterback Jake Locker, who added 83 rushing yards on the night.
While the Huskies found success on the ground, Locker continued to struggle against the Blackshirt secondary, completing just 5-of-16 passes for 56 yards. In NU's 56-21 win at Seattle on Sept. 18, Locker completed just 4-of-20 passes for 71 yards with two interceptions.
However, the Huskies didn't need a successful passing game in the Holiday Bowl thanks to a hard-nosed defense, a strong running game, solid execution and perfect ball security. The Huskies committed just three penalties for 30 yards, and did not fumble or throw an interception in the game. Nebraska committed 12 penalties for 102 yards, fumbled threes times with one lost, and threw one interception. NU's penalties and yardage were the most by a Husker team in its 47 all-time bowl games.
Washington achieved the final margin when Nebraska surrendered a safety on its opening drive of the fourth quarter. The safety came on a holding penalty in the end zone that erased Cody Green's 21-yard scramble that would have given the Huskers a first down on 3rd-and-7 from the NU 4.
Green had entered the game for the first time on that drive, with the Huskers buried inside their own 1 after the Blackshirts had stopped the Huskies on 4th-and-Goal. Green took over for Martinez, who left the game favoring his ankle after being sacked for a nine-yard loss on 3rd-and-12 at midfield on NU's final drive of the third quarter. It was one of five sacks for 43 yards by the Huskies. Nebraska did not record a sack in the game.
Senior defensive end Pierre Allen led the Blackshirts with eight tackles, including seven solos with one tackle for loss, while Lavonte David and Jared Crick both added seven tackles (all solos) with one TFL apiece. David pushed his season total to 152 tackles, breaking linebacker Barrett Ruud's previous NU single-season tackle record of 149 in 2003.
Nebraska opens its 2011 season on Sept. 3 against Tennessee-Chattanooga at Memorial Stadium.
Final: Washington 19, Nebraska 7
Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010
2010 Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl
Qualcomm Stadium (San Diego, Calif.)
First Quarter (UW, 10-0)
UW - 9:08 - Chris Polk 3 run (Eric Folk kick) - 3 plays, 21 yards, 1:07, UW 7-0
UW - 1:29 - Folk 39 field goal - 9 plays, 34 yards, 3:05, UW 10-0
Second Quarter (UW, 10-7)
NU - 10:24 - Kyler Reed 15 pass from Taylor Martinez (Alex Henery kick) - 10 plays, 74 yards, 6:05, UW 10-7
Third Quarter (UW, 17-7)
UW - 13:18 - Jake Locker 25 run (Folk kick) - 4 plays, 53 yards, 1:42, UW 17-7
Fourth Quarter (UW, 19-7)
UW - 13:38 - TEAM safety (holding penalty in end zone on NU), UW 19-7
Final: Washington 19, Nebraska 7
Time of Game: 3:16