Huskers, Sooners Renew Historic Series
Nebraska (5-2, 2-2)
Oklahoma (4-3, 3-1)
Saturday, Oct. 29, 2005
11:10 a.m. (ABC)
Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Neb.)
Tom Osborne Field (FieldTurf, 2005)
Capacity: 73,918 (274th Consecutive Sellout)
TV: ABC Split National
Gary Thorne, Ed Cunningham, Mark Morgan
Nebraska Radio: 55-Station Pinnacle Sports Network
Jim Rose, Adrian Fiala, Randy Lee, Matt Davison
Internet: Live Radio on Huskers.com
Satellite Radio: Sirius Satellite Radio, Channel 123
Special Events: Reunion of Nebraska’s 1995 National Championship Team
Nebraska, Sooners Set to Renew Historic Series
Nebraska returns home for the first time in three games this Saturday when the Huskers play host to Oklahoma in the latest meeting between two of college football’s most storied programs. The 82nd meeting between the two schools will pit a pair of unranked teams, but matches two teams looking to improve their postseason chances and stay alive in their respective Big 12 divisional races. The game will be televised to much of the country on ABC Sports, with kickoff set for 11:10 a.m.
The Huskers enter this week’s contest coming off a 41-24 loss at Missouri last Saturday. After falling behind 21-3 early, Nebraska battled back to tie the game at 24-24 at halftime, only to see the Tigers score the game’s final 17 points to take the victory. The loss dropped Nebraska to 5-2 overall and 2-2 in Big 12 play, one game behind North Division co-leaders Missouri and Colorado.
Oklahoma comes to Lincoln with a 4-3 overall record and a 3-1 record in the Big 12 Conference. The Sooners are coming off a 37-30 double-overtime victory last Saturday against Baylor in Norman. The victory was OU’s third in its past four games, with the only loss in that stretch against second-ranked Texas.
Nebraska will be looking for a seventh straight home victory over Oklahoma on Saturday, as the Sooners have not left Lincoln with a victory since 1987.
The Nebraska football program will also honor the 1995 national championship team at Saturday’s game. More than 100 members of that team are expected to attend the game and will be honored at halftime.
Smith, Tigers Run Past Huskers
Nebraska rallied from a 21-3 first-quarter deficit to reach halftime tied at 24, but Missouri quarterback Brad Smith was a difference-maker in the game by amassing 480 yards of total offense in a 41-24 Tiger victory at Faurot Field last Saturday. Nebraska orchestrated a fierce first-half rally by using big plays on offense, defense and special teams to close the opening half tied with the Tigers. But in the end, Smith proved himself as one of the top offensive players in Big 12 history by rushing for 246 yards and three touchdowns, while throwing for 234 yards and another score to help the Tigers move one game ahead of the Huskers in the Big 12 North Division standings.
Although the game ended in a 17-point victory margin for the Tigers, Nebraska threatened take control midway through the third quarter. The Huskers appeared on the verge of taking their first lead of the game when Zac Taylor found Terrence Nunn on a crossing route on fourth-down-and-two from the MU 33. Nunn raced inside the Tiger 10, before the football was stripped from behind by Jason Simpson, and recovered by MU’s David Overstreet at the Tiger 3, and momentum swung drastically from there. Smith’s 45-yard touchdown run, his third of the day, capped a 97-yard scoring drive to give the Tigers momentum and a 31-24 lead with 2:38 left in the third quarter. Nebraska was never able to mount another rally, as Smith controlled the clock and guided Missouri on two more scoring drives, including a 31-yard field goal by Adam Crossett and a 14-yard scoring run by Tony Temple, to seal the victory. It was only Missouri’s second win over the Huskers in the last 27 meetings in the series.
Missouri, which scored on its first four possessions of the game, set the tone for the first-half shootout early, as Smith found Tommy Saunders for a 15-yard touchdown pass just 2:09 into the game. He added a four-yard TD run with 8:48 to play in the first to give the Tigers a 14-0 lead. Nebraska trimmed the lead to 14-3 on Jordan Congdon’s 12th field goal of the year, but Smith raced 79 yards for a touchdown to give MU a 21-3 lead with 4:13 left in the first.
The Huskers cruised 73 yards on just four plays on the ensuing drive, capped by Taylor’s 34-yard touchdown strike to walk-on wide receiver Todd Peterson with 2:44 left in the first quarter. After a Mizzou field goal pushed the lead to 24-10, the Blackshirts shut down Missouri the rest of the half. The Husker special teams sparked NU’s surge as safety Daniel Bullocks blocked a punt and recovered at the Tiger 1. Freshman running back Cody Glenn scored on a one-yard touchdown plunge one play later to cut Missouri’s lead to 24-17 with 4:49 left in the half.
The Blackshirts came up with another big play to set up NU’s tying touchdown. Nebraska defensive end Barry Turner sacked Smith for a nine-yard loss and forced a fumble that was scooped up by defensive end Jay Moore and returned 17 yards to the MU 8. Taylor connected with wide receiver Nate Swift two plays later on an eight-yard touchdown pass to knot the score at 24 with 2:07 left in the half. Taylor finished with 281 yards passing and two touchdowns, but had two interceptions and was sacked four times. Swift enjoyed a career receiving day, hauling in nine catches for 135 yards and a touchdown.
Nebraska managed 279 yards of total offense, including minus two yards rushing on a school-record low 19 rushing attempts. It was just the second game in school history that Nebraska finished with a negative rushing total, trailing only minus 17 yards rushing against Oklahoma on Nov. 24, 1951.
Noting Game Seven...Missouri 41, Nebraska 24
- The setback was Nebraska’s second straight loss in Columbia, as the Huskers also lost 41-24 in 2003. Before the 2003 loss in Columbia, Nebraska had won 13 straight against the Tigers at Faurot Field and 24 in a row vs. Missouri overall.
- Nebraska junior quarterback Zac Taylor passed for 281 yards and two touchdowns, marking the fourth straight game Taylor has thrown for two or more touchdown passes, after having just one touchdown pass in the first three games combined. Taylor’s 281 yards passing, his second-highest total of the season, pushed his season total to 1,508 yards, putting him in ninth place on the NU single-season list.
- Nebraska redshirt freshman wide receiver Nate Swift caught a career-high nine passes for 135 yards and his first career touchdown. Swift’s previous high in receptions was five vs. Iowa State (81 yards). Swift now has 19 receptions this season, all in Nebraska’s past four games. Swift is the second Husker to have 100 yards receiving in a game this season, joining Frantz Hardy who had 153 yards receiving in the season opener against Maine.
- Swift’s nine receptions tied for fourth on NU’s single-game chart, while his 135 receiving yards were 11th on the NU single-game list. The last time a Husker had more receptions was on Oct. 10, 1998 when Matt Davison had 10 catches for a school-record 167 receiving yards at Texas A&M.
- Nebraska redshirt freshman wide receiver Todd Peterson caught a 34-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Zac Taylor in the first quarter. The catch was Peterson’s second career catch, both for touchdowns. Peterson had a 21-yard touchdown reception at Baylor the previous week. Peterson finished the day with three catches for 65 yards and a touchdown.
- Nebraska’s defense recorded four sacks, including one each by Adam Carriker, Corey McKeon, Blake Tiedtke and Barry Turner. Carriker’s sack was his team-high seventh of the season, while McKeon has six and Turner has added five. The Huskers have had at least four sacks in all seven games this season. Nebraska’s 38 sacks this season is 15 sacks shy of the school record of 53, set in 1999.
- Nebraska senior safety Daniel Bullocks blocked a second-quarter Tiger punt to set up a Nebraska touchdown that cut the MU lead to 24-17. The block was the first blocked kick of Bullocks’ career. Bullocks previously had a 10-yard return for a touchdown last year at Kansas State on a botched snap on a Wildcat punt.
- Bullocks’ blocked kick marked the second straight year NU blocked a punt against the Tigers. In 2004, Andrew Shanle blocked a second-quarter Tiger punt that Adam Ickes scooped up and returned 16 yards for a touchdown.
- Missouri quarterback Brad Smith rushed 28 times for 246 yards marking just the fifth 200-yard rushing game ever against Nebraska. It was a quarterback rushing record against the Huskers and the second-highest rushing mark overall, trailing only the 247 rushing yards by Billy Sims at Oklahoma in 1979. Smith’s 480 total offense yards were also the second-most by an opposing player in Nebraska history, trailing only Louisiana Tech’s Tim Rattay, who finished with 568 total yards, including 590 passing and minus 22 rushing on Aug. 29, 1998.
- Nebraska senior punter Sam Koch punted seven times for an average of 48.1 yards, with a long of 55 yards. Koch had five of his punts downed inside the Tiger 20, and has now pinned opponent’s inside the 20-yard line on 20 of 36 punts this season.
- Nebraska freshman place-kicker Jordan Congdon kicked three extra points and a 32-yard field goal in the loss. Congdon is now tied for ninth on the NU single-season list with 12 field goals and needs just two more to tie the Husker freshman record of 14 held by David Dyches (2003) and Josh Brown (1999).
- Nebraska sophomore cornerback Cortney Grixby had the first interception of his career on the final play of the first half.
- Freshman running back Marlon Lucky had two kickoff returns for 56 yards, including a career-best 38-yarder in the third quarter.
Huskers Look to Extend Win Streak in Lincoln vs. OU
While Nebraska trails in the all-time series between the schools (41-37-3), the Huskers hold a 21-17-2 edge in Lincoln, including a 19-16-2 advantage at Memorial Stadium. Nebraska has won each of the past six meetings between the two schools in Lincoln.
- Oklahoma’s last victory in Lincoln was in 1987, when the second-ranked Sooners knocked off No. 1 Nebraska, 17-7.
- Nebraska extended its winning streak over OU in Lincoln to six when the No. 3 Huskers defeated second-ranked Oklahoma, 20-10 in 2001.
Nebraska, Sooners Renew Historic Series
This week’s meeting marks the second straight year Nebraska and Oklahoma have met on the gridiron, but the school’s first meeting in Lincoln since a 20-10 Husker victory in 2001. That game pitted the nation’s No. 2 (Oklahoma) and No. 3 (Nebraska) teams according to the Associated Press, continuing a series filled with matchups between highly ranked teams.
Nebraska and Oklahoma will both enter Saturday’s matchup unranked in the national polls, ending a long streak of ranked meetings in this series.
- The 2005 matchup ends a streak of 40 straight meetings in which at least one of the teams has entered the game ranked in a national poll.
- In that same stretch, at least one team had been ranked in the top five entering the game in 32 of 40 meetings, including nine games with both teams among the nation’s top five.
- Since the start of the Associated Press Poll in 1936, the NU-OU game has had at least one ranked team 57 times in 67 contests and the series has featured at least one top 10 team 46 times.
Defense Dominates in NU-OU Series
Both Nebraska and Oklahoma feature outstanding defenses in the 2005 season, and Saturday’s matchup could continue the tradition of defensive struggles when the two teams meet. The Sooners enter Saturday’s matchup ranked 17th nationally and second in the Big 12 in total defense, allowing just 300.7 yards per game. Oklahoma is particularly tough against the run, holding opponents to 76.9 yards per game to rank third nationally. Nebraska is not far behind on defense, surrendering 322.6 yards per game to rank fifth in the Big 12 and 25th nationally. The Huskers are also among the nation’s top run defenses, ranking ninth in that category.
The two schools both have traditions of boasting outstanding defenses and that has been evident when the two have matched up.
- In the past 17 meetings between the two schools, the winning team has held the opposition to single digits 10 times and to 14 points or fewer in 14 of the 17 games.
- Since 1984, the two teams have combined for less than 40 points in 11 of the 17 matchups between the two teams.
- Oklahoma has managed more than 21 points against Nebraska just five times in the past 17 meetings between the schools. The Sooners are averaging 7.6 points per game in their last five visits to Memorial Stadium.
Blackshirts Look to Get Back on Track vs. OU
Nebraska’s Blackshirt defense has ranked among the nation’s best units throughout the fall, but must rebound after a tough outing at Missouri. Despite surrendering season highs in yards (523) and points (41) in the loss at Missouri, the 2005 Blackshirts have been the key to NU’s 5-2 start.
Through seven games, the Husker defense has made its mark in the record book, while ranking among the nation’s statistical leaders in several categories. In week one, the defense tied school records for sacks and tackles for loss, and against Wake Forest, the Blackshirts scored three touchdowns of their own, setting a school record for defensive touchdowns.
The success of defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove’s unit has come despite having to replace three players who were selected in the top 40 picks of the 2005 NFL Draft, in addition to a pair of four-year lettermen.
Highlights for the 2005 Blackshirts include:
- Nebraska leads the nation in sacks (38) and tackles for loss (81), and has recorded at least four sacks in each of the first seven games. Eleven different defenders have recorded a sack this season.
- Junior defensive end Adam Carriker leads the Blackshirts with seven sacks for 66 yards, while sophomore linebacker Corey McKeon has six, freshman defensive Barry Turner has five sacks and two other defenders have four sacks. Last season, Nebraska finished the year with a total of 25 sacks in 11 games, with team leader Benard Thomas recording four sacks.
- In the opener against Maine, Nebraska tied school records with 11 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. The Huskers previously had 11 sacks in a 1989 victory over Oregon State, while the previous 18 TFL effort came against Iowa State in 1969.
- The defense has scored four touchdowns, all in a five-quarter stretch spanning the fourth quarter of the Maine game and the Wake Forest contest. The scores came on interception returns by linebackers Bo Ruud (27 yards vs. Maine), Corey McKeon (38 yards vs. Wake Forest) and Stewart Bradley (43 yards vs. Wake Forest), in addition to a 30-yard fumble return for a touchdown by strong safety Daniel Bullocks against Wake Forest.
- Nebraska set a school record with three defensive touchdowns against Wake Forest, and the two defensive scores in the first quarter also marked the first time a Blackshirt defense scored two TDs in a single quarter. The two interception returns for touchdowns tied a school record set on four previous occasions, most recently vs. Texas A&M in 2003.
- Before the Wake Forest game, the last time Nebraska scored consecutive touchdowns on defense was on Oct. 19, 1963, when the Huskers had consecutive scores on interception returns in a 28-6 victory over Kansas State. In that game, Ron Michka returned an interception 16 yards for a score in the second quarter, and Larry Tomlinson had a 34-yard interception return in the third quarter.
- Nebraska has three interception returns for touchdowns, just two off the single-season record of five interceptions for touchdowns set in 1971 and 1995. Overall, Nebraska has four defensive touchdowns, after not posting a defensive touchdown last season.
- In addition to the four touchdowns, the Blackshirt defense has given the offense the ball inside the opponent’s 15-yard line twice this season, including fumble returns against Texas Tech and Missouri that resulted in touchdowns.
- Nebraska is allowing 17.9 points per game, to rank 17th nationally in scoring defense and second in the Big 12. Nebraska allowed zero first-quarter points and just six first-half points in the season’s first four games. NU had a 10-quarter stretch of not allowing a touchdown (Wake Forest, Pitt, first half of ISU game).
- On the strength of the school-record 11 sacks, Nebraska held Maine to minus-six yards rushing to mark the second straight year the Husker defense has held its opponent to negative rushing yards in the opener. The Huskers have held four of seven opponents to less than 60 yards rushing and rank ninth nationally in rushing defense.
Scouting the Oklahoma Sooners
The Oklahoma Sooners enter Saturday’s contest with a 4-3 record but are tied for second in the Big 12 South Division with a 3-1 league mark. The Sooners barely escaped their second conference setback last week against the upstart Baylor Bears. OU needed two overtimes to fend off the Bears, 37-30, as BU rallied in the final minute to tie the score at 27 after holding the Sooners to just three second-half points.
After losing 10 players to the NFL Draft last year, Oklahoma’s strength has been in its defensive unit which again ranks among the best in the nation. Behind linebackers Rufus Alexander and Zach Latimer and defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek, the Sooners rank third nationally by yielding just 76.8 rushing yards per game. The group has combined for 28 sacks to rank third in the conference, and is 17th nationally in total defense by allowing just 300.2 yards per contest.
Alexander leads the team with 58 tackles, including 10 tackles for loss, six pass breakups and six quarterback hurries. Latimer is second on the squad with 51 tackles while Dvoracek leads the squad with 11 tackles for loss and eight quarterback hurries to go with his 26 stops.
Despite missing much of the last four games with injury, sophomore running back Adrian Peterson is one of the top young rushers in the nation and leads the OU offense. The runner-up for the 2004 Heisman Trophy, Peterson has gained a team-best 398 yards on the ground and surpassed the 2,000-yard mark for his career earlier this season. Peterson is not the only 2,000-yard rusher on the squad, as senior running back Kejuan Jones, who also has been slowed by injury this season, has accumulated 2,199 rushing yards over the past four seasons.
When the Sooners look to put the ball in the air, redshirt freshman quarterback Rhett Bomar has faced some growing pains while guiding the passing attack. Bomar has completed 52.0 percent of his pass attempts but has connected on just four touchdown passes while tossing seven interceptions. He started to show progress last week in the overtime victory against Baylor as he hit on 24-of-42 attempts through the air for 269 yards including the game-winning score.
Oklahoma’s special teams have struggled at times as the Sooners rank 90th nationally in punt return average at 6.7 yards per return while the kickoff return game has netted just 19.4 yards per return to rank 93rd. The Sooners’ punt unit has helped set up the defense by pinning opponents deep in their own territory as Oklahoma ranks 15th in the nation with 38.1 yards per punt. Place-kicker Garrett Hartley ranks 10th in the country with 1.7 field goals per game and ranks ninth in the conference with 7.7 points per game.
Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops
Coach Bob Stoops is in his seventh season guiding the Sooners and owns an impressive 71-15 career record for an .826 winning percentage. He has helped OU to at least 11 wins in each of the past five seasons and to six straight bowl games, including four BCS bowls.
Oklahoma won the 2000 national title with a perfect 13-0 record in just Stoops’ second season on the sideline. He was named the AP National Coach of the Year that season and has been the Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year twice (2000, 2003). Stoops has also helped Oklahoma to four Big 12 South titles and three Big 12 crowns.
Stoops began his coaching career at his alma mater, Iowa, in 1983. He spent five seasons on the Hawkeyes’ sideline, including Iowa’s 1985 Rose Bowl season when current Husker offensive coordinator Jay Norvell was an All-Big Ten defensive back for the Hawkeyes. Stoops then spent one season at Kent State before moving to Manhattan, Kan., for seven seasons (1989 to 1995) and then three seasons at Florida before taking over the Sooner program.
Nebraska-Oklahoma Series...82nd All-Time Meeting...Oklahoma Leads 41-37-3
The Huskers and Sooners are meeting for the 82nd time in series history and sixth time since the formation of the Big 12 Conference. Oklahoma owns the overall series lead at 41-37-3, while the Huskers have taken a 3-2 advantage as Big 12 opponents. In Lincoln, Nebraska owns a 19-16-2 advantage over Oklahoma, including winning the past six matchups at Memorial Stadium.
Last season, the Huskers barely avoided their first shutout since 1996 as the Sooners rolled to a 30-3 victory. I-back Cory Ross rushed 30 times for 130 yards in the contest, the only time the Sooners allowed a 100-yard rusher all season.