Lincoln – Zac Taylor threw for 208 yards and two touchdowns, while Brandon Jackson rushed for 111 yards and a score, as Nebraska made its claim for the Big 12 North Division title with an impressive 34-20 victory over No. 25 Missouri Saturday.
The Huskers (7-3, 4-2 Big 12) built a 27-6 halftime lead and moved into sole possession of first place in the North Division in a battle between the division’s top two teams. With Saturday’s win, the Huskers can clinch a berth in next month’s Big 12 title game in Kansas City with either a win at Texas A&M next Saturday or against Colorado on Nov. 24.
Taylor completed 13-of-21 passes for 208 yard and two first-half scores, including a 7-yard strike to Maurice Purify and a 17-yard pass to tight end Hunter Teafatiller.
Jackson paced a balanced Husker rushing attack, as he reached the 100-yard plateau for the third time this season. The junior I-back toted the ball a career-high 32 times for 111 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown to give the Huskers a 34-13 lead with 14:36 remaining.
The Huskers, playing in front of a Memorial Stadium record crowd of 85,197 and an ABC regional television audience, seized the momentum by out-scoring MU 10-0 in the first quarter before scoring a season-high 17 points in the second quarter to bolt to a 21-point halftime lead.
While Nebraska’s offense was putting points on the board, the Blackshirts were opportunistic on defense. NU forced three turnovers, including a pair of Chase Daniel interceptions that the Huskers converted into touchdowns. Bo Ruud led the charge with a team-high seven tackles, a 13-yard sack in the fourth quarter to stop a drive, an interception and a fumble return that sealed the victory.
While the Blackshirts stifled the Tiger offense throughout the first half, Jackson and Maurice Purify continued to ignite Nebraska offensively. Jackson had 22 yards rushing and 47 yards receiving in the first quarter to set up Jordan Congdon's 40-yard field goal that put the Huskers on the board with 4:53 left in the period.
After a Blackshirt stop, Nebraska brought out some razzle-dazzle to increase its lead to 10-0. Wide receiver Terrence Nunn picked up 18 yards on an end-around, before hauling in a touchdown pass on another end-around pass from fellow wide receiver Maurice Purify.
Purify, whose 28-yard strike to Nunn was his first career touchdown pass, became the third non-quarterback to complete a touchdown pass for the Huskers this season. The pass gave NU, which has out-scored its opponents 96-10 in the first quarter this season, a 10-point lead.
Purify had a hand in Nebraska's next touchdown as well. After defensive end Adam Carriker notched his first career interception to help the Huskers close the first quarter, Purify made a spectacular grab on a seven-yard pass from Taylor to put the Huskers up 17-0 with 13:44 left in the second quarter.
Missouri scratched the scoreboard on Jeff Wolfert's 26-yard field goal with 9:58 left in the first half. MU's first score was set up by a 49-yard reception by Danario Alexander.
Carriker then had a hand in another defensive stop to extend NU's lead to 24-3. After a pair of big plays pushed Missouri to midfield, Carriker deflected a Daniel pass that was intercepted and returned 40 yards by Ruud to the MU 17-yard line.
On the next play, Taylor hit tight end Hunter Teafatiller on a 17-yard touchdown pass with 5:04 left in the half. The touchdown pass was Taylor's second of the day and 20th of the season, tying the Nebraska single-season record held by Vince Ferragamo in 1976. It was also Teafatiller's third catch of the season and all three have gone for scores.
Wolfert cut the Nebraska lead to three touchdowns as time expired in the first half with his 54-yard field goal. It was the longest field goal by an opponent in Memorial Stadium history and the third-longest ever against the Huskers.
Nebraska took the opening kickoff of the second half and drove into Missouri territory, but was thwarted when Taylor’s fourth-and-1 pass at the MU 38 bounced off the hands of tight end J.B. Phillips. Missouri then capitalized on the change of possession, going 62 yards in 10 plays, capped by a Chase Daniel pass to Martin Rucker to pull Missouri within 27-13.
Nebraska quickly responded by marching 85 yards on 13 plays, as Taylor kept the drive alive with three key third-down conversions. Facing third-and-11 at its own 32, Taylor completed a 26-yard pass to Marlon Lucky to get the ball in Tiger territory. Three plays later, Taylor’s seven-yard completion to Nunn kept the scoring drive alive. Facing third and 14 at the MU 36, Taylor found a leaping Nate Swift for a spectacular 34-yard catch to the Tiger 2 on the opening play of the fourth quarter. Jackson made it 34-13 one play later, with a two-yard scoring run.
Facing a three-touchdown deficit, the Tigers were forced to score quickly, but the Blackshirts made Missouri chew up over eight minutes on an 18-play drive. MU pulled within 34-20 on Daniel’s 19-yard pass to tight end Chase Coffman with 6:20 remaining.
After holding the Huskers without a first down for the only time all game, Missouri had an opportunity to pull within one score in the final minutes. Missouri got to the NU 28, but Ruud sacked Daniel for 13 yards on third down before Jay Moore forced an incompletion to turn the ball over on downs.
Missouri had one final opportunity with 2:35 remaining after a Jackson fumble, but the Blackshirts held firm. Ruud forced a Daniel fumble and returned it to the MU 43 before the Huskers ran out the clock.
The Huskers will travel to Texas A&M next Saturday to take on the Aggies in College Station. The kickoff time for the game has not been determined, but it will be televised on either ABC (2:30 p.m. or 7 p.m.) or FSN (6 p.m.).
Scoring (Nebraska 34, Missouri 20)
First Quarter (NU 10, MU 0)
NU - Jordan Congdon 40 field goal, 4:53, NU 3-0
NU - Terrence Nunn 28 pass from Maurice Purify (Congdon kick), 1:30, NU 10-0
Second Quarter (NU 27, MU 6)
NU - Purify 7 pass from Zac Taylor (Congdon kick), 13:44, NU 17-0
MU - Jeff Wolfert 26 field goal, 9:58, NU 17-3
NU - Hunter Teafatiller 17 pass from Taylor (Congdon kick), 5:04, NU 24-3
NU - Congdon 33 field goal, 1:18, NU 27-3
MU - Wolfert 54 field goal, 0:06, NU 27-6
Third Quarter (NU 27, MU 13)
MU - Martin Rucker 6 pass from Chase Daniel (Wolfert kick), 5:46, NU 27-13
Fourth Quarter (NU 34, MU 20)
NU - Brandon Jackson 2 run (Congdon kick), 14:36, NU 34-13
MU- Chase Coffman 19 pass from Daniel (Wolfert kick), 8:10, NU 34-20