Lincoln - Nebraska looks to make it two straight victories to open the 2004 season this Saturday when the Huskers play host to defending Conference USA champion Southern Miss at Memorial Stadium. The game is set for an 11:10 a.m. kickoff with ABC Sports providing the contest to a regional audience.
The Huskers are coming off a convincing victory to open Bill Callahan’s Nebraska coaching career. The NU offense clicked on all cylinders in the first half Saturday night against Western Illinois, and the Huskers cruised to a 56-17 victory. The win was the 19th straight victory in a season opener for the Huskers and showed the versatility of Nebraska’s West Coast Offense. The Huskers tallied more than 580 yards of total offense and topped 200 yards in both rushing and passing for the first time in six years.
This week’s matchup with Southern Miss should present the Huskers with a much more difficult challenge. The Golden Eagles started slow last season, posting a 3-3 record through six games, including a 38-14 loss to Nebraska in Hattiesburg. Southern Miss rallied in the second half of the year, closing the regular season with six consecutive victories and rolling up a perfect 8-0 mark in Conference USA action. Coach Jeff Bower’s squad returns 17 starters from that team and will play its season opener on Saturday in Lincoln.
Saturday’s game will mark the 264th consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium on a full weekend of festivities in Lincoln. The Southern Miss contest will feature a patriotic theme in rememberance of the events of Sept. 11, 2001. In addition, 12 new members of the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame will be recognized at Saturday’s game.
Nebraska Makes Strong 2004 Debut
Quarterback Joe Dailey produced six touchdowns to tie the Nebraska single-game record and lead the Huskers to a 56-17 victory over Western Illinois in Coach Bill Callahan’s debut. In his first starting appearance, Dailey completed 15-of-30 pass attempts for 218 yards to go with four touchdowns. Dailey’s four passing scores were the most by a Nebraska quarterback since Eric Crouch had five against Iowa in 2000. Dailey also rushed four times for 28 yards and two more scores.
The Husker offense rolled up 581 total yards on the night, including 398 before halftime. Nebraska’s passing and running games both clicked in the West Coast Offense, as the Huskers tallied 363 rushing yards. Two NU players surpassed the 100-yard rushing mark for the game. Junior running back Cory Ross had 125 yards on 13 carries, while redshirt freshman Tierre Green rushed seven times for 112 yards and two touchdowns in the first game of his collegiate career. Junior tight end Matt Herian recorded seven receptions for 98 yards and two touchdowns, while senior receiver Willie Amos added two receptions for 54 yards and two touchdowns.
The victory marked Nebraska’s nation-leading 19th straight win in a season opener, and came before a crowd of 77,471, extending the Huskers’ sellout streak to an NCAA-record 263.
The Huskers needed just 1:53 to produce the first touchdown of the Callahan era. Nebraska drove 79 yards in six plays, scoring on a six-yard run by Dailey. On Nebraska’s second possession of the game, Dailey engineered an 85-yard scoring drive, completing 4-of-7 passes for 48 yards, including a 23-yard pass to Herian that gave the Huskers a first down at the Western Illinois 11. Three plays later, the duo connected again on a five-yard scoring strike. Nebraska erupted for 28 points in the second quarter. The Huskers went 53 yards in three plays in a drive that featured a 36-yard touchdown pass from Dailey to Amos. NU then produced two quick scores off Western Illinois turnovers forced by the Blackshirts. Fabian Washington intercepted a pass at the Leatherneck 34, and NU converted on another Dailey-to-Herian connection, this time from 22 yards out. Later, Daniel Bullocks intercepted another WIU pass and returned it 58 yards to the WIU 18. Amos scored on the game’s next play, hauling in an 18-yard pass from Dailey and sneaking into the front corner of the end zone.
Nebraska turned to its ground game for the remainder of the evening as both Ross and Green topped the century mark and Green crossed the goal line twice in the contest. True freshman I-back Brandon Jackson got into the act, rushing for 79 yards on 13 attempts.
The Husker defense also made its mark against Western Illinois. Nebraska recorded seven sacks on the night to key a rush defense that held the Leathernecks to minus-three yards rushing. The Blackshirts forced five turnovers, including four interceptions.
Recapping Game One: Nebraska 56, Western Illinois 17
Sophomore quarterback Joe Dailey made the most of his first career start. Dailey passed for 218 yards, including 213 yards and four touchdowns in the first half. His four touchdowns marked the first time a Husker has thrown for four touchdowns since Eric Crouch passed for five touchdowns against Iowa in 2000. Dailey also rushed for two two touchdowns, tying the school record with six total offensive touchdowns. Quarterback Gerry Gdowski accounted for six touchdowns in a 1989 win over Iowa State (4 rush, 2 pass), while I-back Calvin Jones rushed for six touchdowns at Kansas in 1991.
Dailey’s 218 passing yards are the most ever by a Husker in a season opener and marked the first time a Husker had thrown for more than 200 yards since 1999.
Freshman wide receiver Terrence Nunn started his first game in a Husker uniform to become the first NU offensive player since World War II to start the first game of their true freshman season. Cornerback Ralph Brown is the only other Husker position player to start the season opener of their true freshman season since World War II. Brown was in the starting lineup for the 1996 season opener against Michigan State and went on to make a school-record 52 career starts.
Nunn was one of eight Huskers to make their first career start on Saturday night. On offense, receiver Grant Mulkey, offensive tackle Seppo Evwaraye, center Kurt Mann and quarterback Joe Dailey made their first career starts. Defensive end Adam Carriker and Sam linebacker Stewart Bradley were first-time starters, and punter Sam Koch also made his debut as a starter. In addition to Nunn, three other true freshmen made their Husker debuts, including defensive back Cortney Grixby, running back Brandon Jackson and quarterback Ryan Goodman.
Junior tight end Matt Herian caught a seven-yard pass from Dailey on the game’s first play, part of a seven-catch, 98-yard night that included two touchdown grabs. His seven catches were a career-high and just one shy of the NU single-game record for receptions by a tight end. Herian now has nine touchdowns in 36 career catches.
Nebraska’s victory marked its 19th consecutive victory in a season opener, dating back to a 17-13 loss to Florida State to open the 1985 season. The Huskers have won all 19 games in that stretch by 10 points or more.
NU scored at the 13:07 mark in the first quarter. The touchdown 1:53 into the game marked Nebraska’s quickest score to open a season since the Huskers reached the end zone 48 seconds into the 1998 season opener against Louisiana Tech on a 46-yard touchdown pass from Bobby Newcombe to Sheldon Jackson.
Head Coach Bill Callahan is the fourth consecutive Husker head coach to record a victory in his Nebraska debut. Nebraska head coaches are 19-7-1 all-time in their Nebraska coaching debuts.
Nebraska’s 42 first-half points were its most in an opening half since also posting 42 in the first half against Iowa State on Oct. 6, 2001. The last time Nebraska scored more than 42 points in the first half when it took a 52-0 lead into the locker room against Baylor on Oct. 21, 2000.
Junior cornerback Fabian Washington picked off a second-quarter pass, giving him nine career interceptions. Washington’s nine career interceptions place him in a tie for ninth on the Nebraska career interceptions list.
Junior strong safety Daniel Bullocks picked off a second-quarter Leatherneck pass and returned it 58 yards to the WIU 18-yard line. Bullocks’ pick was his third career interception, all in the past five games. His 58-yard return is the longest INT return by a Husker since Joe Walker returned an interception 65 yards at Iowa State in 1998.
Senior linebacker Ira Cooper and redshirt freshman Corey McKeon added interceptions for the Huskers, while Jay Moore recovered a fumble, giving Nebraska five takeways. The Blackshirts have recorded five or more turnovers in four games since the start of the 2003 season after not having a five-takeaway day in the previous 43 games.
Senior receiver Wilie Amos had his first two career receptions, and found the end zone on both catches. A converted defensive back, Amos had a 36-yard TD catch on the first play of the second quarter and an 18-yarder later in the same quarter. His touchdowns were not the first of his career, as he reached the end zone on a 20-yard interception return against Kansas State in 2001.
Nebraska topped 200 yards in both rushing and passing in the victory. Previously, the last time Nebraska topped 200 yards in both rushing and passing was in a 38-7 victory over UAB on Sept. 5, 1998. In that contest, the first start of Eric Crouch’s career, Nebraska rushed for 236 yards and passed for 208 yards.
Nebraska averaged 9.5 yards per play in the first half, including 18 rushing attempts for 185 yards (10.1 yards per rush). Nebraska finished the game averaging 8.3 yards per play and 9.3 yards on 39 rushing attempts.
Junior I-back Cory Ross carried 13 times for 125 yards, the second-highest total of his career. Ross has now rushed for 100 yards or more in four of Nebraska’s last five games dating back to last season.
Redshirt freshman I-back Tierre Green rushed seven times for 112 yards and two touchdowns in his first career game. Green and Ross’ double 100-yard effort marks the first time a pair of Huskers have rushed for more than 100 yards in the same game since David Horne and Jammal Lord accomplished the feat at Missouri last season. Nebraska’s 363 rushing yards were its most since rushing for 383 yards against Texas A&M in 2002.
Scouting Southern Miss
Southern Miss will play its season opener Saturday when it takes on the Huskers in Memorial Stadium for the second time. Coming into the contest, the Golden Eagles will be looking to solidify their defense as USM has just four returning starters on that side of the ball. To make up for the lack of experience on defense, Coach Jeff Bower has the luxury of returning 10 starters on the offensive side.
Leading the way for the offense will be quarterback Dustin Almond. The junior signal-caller passed for more than 1,800 yards last year with 13 touchdowns and just seven interceptions while helping USM to a 9-4 record, including six straight wins to end the regular season. Almond had a tough outing against the Huskers, as he connected on just 4-of-24 pass attempts while being picked off twice. Damian Carter came in to relieve Almond and completed 14-of-17 attempts for 211 yards and one touchdown.
When Almond puts it in the air, he choose from several familiar faces as USM returns its top three receivers from last year – Marvin Young, DaRon Lawrence and Antwon Courington – who each topped the 500-yard receiving mark. Young led the receiving corps with a team-high 41 catches for 703 yards and seven touchdowns.
In the backfield, USM will have its top three rushers back in the lineup. Anthony Thomas and Tim Blackwell combined for more than 1,000 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns last season, as the Golden Eagles won their fourth Conference USA title in eight years.
Defensively, the Golden Eagles’ experience is more limited, as only four starters return. Leading the charge will be linebacker Michael Boley, who was second on the team last year with 151 tackles and earned first-team all-conference honors. A 2004 consensus preseason All-American, Boley had 11 sacks and tied for the C-USA lead with 23 tackles for loss last year. USM’s other returning starters on defense are linebacker Antoine Cash, and defensive linemen Chad Ruffin and Eric Scott.
Southern Miss Coach Jeff Bower
Southern Miss Coach Jeff Bower begins his 14th season guiding the Golden Eagle program. Bower owns an 89-62-1 (.589) career record and ranks second in USM history for wins. He has guided Southern Miss to four Conference USA titles and seven bowl games, including four bowl victories. Bower has helped the Golden Eagles to at least seven wins in seven of the past eight seasons and eight times overall during his tenure.
Bower has been associated with the USM program for more than 25 years as a player, assistant coach and head coach. Bower helped the Golden Eagles to a 20-12-1 record over three seasons as a quarterback and was the team captain and team MVP as a senior in 1975. He was a graduate assistant for two years (1976-77) before spending 1978 to 1981 as an assistant coach and 1988 and 1989 as assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at USM.
Nebraska-Southern Miss Series: Nebraska leads, 2-0
Saturday’s game will be the third in the series between the Huskers and Golden Eagles, and the second consecutive year the teams have faced off. Last season, the Huskers rolled past the Golden Eagles, 38-14, at the Rock in Hattiesburg, Miss. Nebraska produced several big plays on both sides of the ball as it improved to 2-0 in the series. Nebraska was outgained 319-265 in total offense despite producing three scoring plays of at least 40 yards. It was the Blackshirts that pushed NU over the top, as the Huskers collected five turnovers to set up the offense.
Getting a big-time defensive effort has been a must for the Huskers when they face USM. In the teams’ first meeting in 1999, the Golden Eagles stymied Nebraska’s offensive attack, as NU was able to produce just 185 yards total offense. It was only one of two times since the start of 1999 that Nebraska has not gained at least 200 yards total offense. Nebraska offset the Golden Eagles’ defensive effort with an even better one. The Blackshirts produced five sacks and six turnovers, two of which led to defensive touchdowns in the 20-13 victory.
Nebraska Head Coach Bill Callahan
Coach Bill Callahan (Illinois Benedictine, 1978) is the 27th head coach in Nebraska history, after being named to the post on Jan. 9, 2004. Callahan took control of the NU program after two seasons as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders. He guided Oakland to the AFC Championship and Super Bowl XXXVII in his rookie season as a head coach in 2002, and compiled a 17-18 overall record as the Raiders' head man.
Callahan is one of five coaches to take a collegiate head coaching job after previously guiding a team to a Super Bowl appearance. Army Head Coach Bobby Ross is also active in the college ranks, while George Allen, Forrest Gregg and Bill Walsh previously led teams to the Super Bowl and returned to the college game.
The 47-year-old Callahan has spent the past nine years in the National Football League, beginning his pro coaching career with the Philadelphia Eagles from 1995 to 1997. He served as an assistant with the Raiders for four seasons from 1998 to 2001, before taking over the top job in Oakland in 2002.
Callahan has extensive experience at the collegiate level. Before moving into the professional ranks, Callahan served as the offensive line coach at Wisconsin for five seasons and also had assistant coaching stints at Illinois, Northern Arizona and Southern Illinois. Overall, Callahan is in his 27th year in the coaching profession. In addition to his nine years in the National Football League and 15 previous seasons as a collegiate assistant, Callahan was an assistant coach for two seasons in the Illinois prep ranks in 1978 and 1979.
A native of Chicago, Callahan earned his bachelor's degree from Illinois Benedictine in 1978. He was an NAIA honorable-mention All-America selection as a quarterback in each of his final two seasons.
Callahan Poised to Continue Success of First-Year Husker Coaches
The Nebraska football program has a history of success under first-year head coaches. Bill Callahan is the 27th coach in the 115-year history of the program, but just the fourth head coach since the start of the 1962 season. With his 56-17 victory over Western Illinois, Callahan became the fourth straight Nebraska head coach to open his career with a victory. The win gave first-year Husker head coaches a 19-7-1 all-time record in their coaching debuts on the Nebraska sideline.
Each of Nebraska's past three head coaches used a win in their season opener to build momentum for a nine-win season in their first Husker campaign. Bob Devaney posted a 9-2 record and led NU to the Gotham Bowl in 1962, following six consecutive losing seasons; Tom Osborne guided the Huskers to a 9-2-1 record and a Cotton Bowl bid in 1973; and Frank Solich's first squad in 1998 finished 9-4 and played in the Holiday Bowl.
Huskers' Championship Staff Has Diverse Background, Tradition of Recruiting Excellence
Nebraska's coaching staff includes men who spent the 2003 campaign in six collegiate conferences, including the Big 12 (Scott Downing, Turner Gill), Big Ten (Kevin Cosgrove, Phil Elmassian), SEC (John Blake), Mountain West (Bill Busch), Western Athletic (Dennis Wagner) and Big East (Dave Kennedy). In addition to Callahan, Randy Jordan and Jay Norvell also joined the NU staff after coaching in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders last season.
Callahan's Nebraska coaching staff features four coaches who have either played or coached in the Super Bowl. Callahan and Norvell coached in Super Bowl XXXVII with Oakland, and running backs coach Randy Jordan was a player on that team. John Blake was part of the Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl championship teams in both 1993 and 1995.
In addition to the NFL success of the coaches, Callahan's staff has a history of winning championships at the collegiate level. Members of the Nebraska coaching staff have been part of teams that have captured league titles in each of the following conferences–Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big Ten, Mid-American, Mountain West, Pac-10 and Western Athletic.
The staff has recruiting ties in nearly every part of the United States. ESPN recruiting analyst Tom Lemming compiled a list of the 10 best recruiters in college history in 2001. Callahan was included on the list although he had been out of the college ranks for six years at that time. Husker Associate A.D. Tim Cassidy was on Lemming's Top 10 recruiters (current college coaches) in 1999, and Kevin Cosgrove and Turner Gill were listed as "other big-time recruiting names."
West Coast Offense Fits Nicely in Heartland
Nebraska fans who may have been nervous about seeing a new offense in Lincoln had their fears calmed quickly in Saturday’s 56-17 win over Western Illinois. The Huskers took just 1:53 to reach the end zone on the first drive of the game, mixing the run and the pass. By the end of the first quarter the stat sheet exhibited the efficiency, potency and versatility of Nebraska’s West Coast Offense.
- 13 first downs
- 13 rushing attempts for 110 yards
- 13 passing attempts for 105 yards
- 215 total offensive yards, the most by Nebraska in an opening quarter since the Huskers piled up 224 yards in the opening quarter of a 41-31 victory over Texas Tech in 2001 (NU led 21-13 after first quarter)
The offensive masterpiece continued in the second quarter, as Nebraska rolled up 398 yards before halftime. The Huskers finished the game with 581 yards of total offense, their most since posting 595 total yards in a 38-14 victory over McNeese State in 2002. The Huskers’ 56-point output was the most by a Nebraska team in 41 games, dating back to a 66-17 victory over Northwestern in the 2000 Alamo Bowl.
Since taking over the Nebraska program in January, Bill Callahan has preached about the balance the West Coast Offense can provide. Although Nebraska passed for 213 yards in the first half, the Huskers finished the game with 363 rushing yards and had three backs with more than 75 yards on the ground.
Dailey Makes Strong Opening Statement as Husker Quarterback
Sophomore Joe Dailey has been the man under the microscope as Nebraska’s starting quarterback. The pressure of starting his first game did not seem to faze Dailey on Saturday, as the New Jersey native showed the poise of a veteran in leading a first-half offensive onslaught. Dailey scorched the Leatherneck defense for 218 passing yards and four touchdowns on the night, with all four of his passing scores and 213 yards through the air before halftime.
Callahan was impressed by the performance of his young quarterback in his first career start.
"I think he learned some invaluable lessons and until you get under the gun as a quarterback in this system you just don’t know. He came out very focused tonight. His preparation was very thorough. I thought he managed the system very well and I will tell you that there aren’t very many quarterbacks in the National Football League that can handle what he handled here tonight mentally."
The numbers and accomplishments back up Callahan’s statement. Among the 6-0, 205-pound Dailey’s many accomplishments on Saturday night were....
Dailey’s 218 passing yards marked the first time a Husker had passed for more than 200 yards since Eric Crouch threw for 204 yards at Texas on Oct. 23, 1999. Dailey threw for 213 yards in the first half, the most by a Husker player before halftime since Scott Frost threw for 220 yards against Kansas in 1996. Frost had 254 yards passing in the game and the Huskers threw for 273 yards as a team in that contest.
Dailey passed for four touchdowns, marking the first time a Husker has thrown for four touchdowns since Eric Crouch passed for five touchdowns against Iowa in 2000.
Dailey added two rushing touchdowns, giving him six total touchdowns on the night. His six total offense touchdowns tied a Nebraska school record, joining quarterback Gerry Gdowski who accounted for six touchdowns in a 1989 win over Iowa State (4 rush, 2 pass), and I-back Calvin Jones rushed for six touchdowns at Kansas in 1991.
The 218 passing yards were the most ever by a Husker in a season opener, bettering the 168 by Jerry Tagge against Wake Forest in 1970 and Bobby Newcombe against Louisiana Tech in 1998.
The numbers posted by Dailey also stacked up well against the numbers posted by recent Husker quarterbacks in their first career starts.
2004, Joe Dailey vs. Western Illinois, Nebraska won 56-17
Passing–15-30-4, 218 yards, 4 TD
Rushing–4 carries, 28 yards, 2 TD
2002, Jammal Lord vs. Arizona State, Nebraska won 48-10
Passing–5-13-0, 33 yards, 1 TD
Rushing–17 carries, 103 yards
1998, Eric Crouch vs. UAB, Nebraska won 38-7
Passing–11-17-0, 127 yards, 1 TD
Rushing–7 carries, 69 yards, 2 TD
1998, Bobby Newcombe vs. Louisiana Tech, Nebraska won 56-27
Passing–9-10-0, 168 yards, 1 TD
Rushing–12 carries, 12 yards, 2 TD
1996, Scott Frost vs. Michigan State, Nebraska won 55-14
Passing–5-12-0, 74 yard, 1 TD
Rushing–10 carries, 58 yards, 1 TD
1992, Tommie Frazier at Missouri, Nebraska won 34-24
Passing–9-20-0, 157 yards
Rushing–14 carries, 77 yards, 3 TD
1981, Turner Gill vs. Colorado, Nebraska won 59-0
Passing–9-14-0, 178 yards, 4 TD
Rushing–6 carries, 46 yards
Tight End Herian Perfect Fit in West Coast Offense
Junior tight end Matt Herian made a strong impression during his first two seasons, becoming known as a big-play threat while earning first-team All-Big 12 honors. The 6-5, 240-pound Herian hauled in seven touchdown catches in his first two seasons and figured to be one of the main beneficiaries of Nebraska’s new offensive attack.
Western Illinois defensive coordinator Vince Okruch witnessed a pair of Herian touchdowns in the past two seasons as Colorado’s defensive coordinator. Herian’s ability scared Okruch entering Saturday’s game.
"I think he’s the best tight end in the country. It doesn’t always look like he’s running that fast, but then he’ll just run past people. He can run as fast as any safety in the country."
Herian did nothing to change Okruch’s opinion in Saturday’s 56-17 victory. The junior caught a career-high seven passes for 98 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Six of Herian’s catches came before halftime and his seven receptions tied for the second-most ever by a Nebraska tight end. The seven receptions are the most by any Husker in six seasons and the most by a NU tight end since Johnny Mitchell had seven catches vs. Oklahoma in 1991. Only Dennis Morrison’s eight-reception effort against Colorado in 1966 topped Herian’s seven receptions.
Herian and wide receiver Willie Amos each had two touchdown receptions on Saturday, marking the first time a pair of Husker receivers caught two touchdowns in the same game since Tracey Wistrom (3) and Matt Davison (2) accomplished the feat against Iowa in 2000.
Nebraska I-Back Committee Buries Leathernecks
Junior I-back Cory Ross is the featured back in Nebraska’s offensive attack, but he has plenty of capable help at the position as evidenced by the Huskers’ ground production against Western Illinois.
Nebraska churned out 363 rushing yards against Western Illinois its most since rushing for 383 yards in a 38-31 win at Texas A&M in 2001. Ross and redshirt freshman Tierre Green each topped 100 yards on the ground, while true freshman Brandon Jackson added 79 yards in his Husker debut.
The performances of Ross and Green marked the 70th time in school history that Nebraska has had a pair of 100-yard rushers in the same game, most recently Jammal Lord and David Horne at Missouri in 2002.
Ross had 125 yards on just 13 carries to average 9.6 yards per carry. The 125-yard effort was the second-best output of Ross’ career and his fourth 100-yard game in the past five games dating back to last season. In his last five games Ross has 561 rushing yards (112.2 ypg) on 107 carries.
Green made the most of his seven carries with 112 yards (16.0 ypc). He scored on a 28-yard run in the second quarter and closed the scoring with a 34-yard fourth quarter touchdown. Green’s 112 yards are believed to be the most rushing yards by a Husker in a varsity debut since Tony Davis ran for 147 yards in the 1973 season opener against UCLA.
Jackson combined with Green to carry the bulk of Nebraska’s second-half rushing load. Jackson carried 13 times for 79 yards, an average of 6.1 yards per carry. Jackson’s 79 yards are the most by a Husker true freshman since David Horne rushed for 122 yards against Kansas in 2002, and is believed to be the most by a Husker true freshman in a season opener since at least 1973.
The committee of I-backs combined for 316 yards on 33 carries, an average of 9.6 yards per attempt.
2004 Blackshirts Exhibit Same Ball-Hawking Ability
Nebraska’s Blackshirt defense has a well-deserved reputation as traditionally being one of the nation’s most dominant defenses. Last season, the hallmark of the Husker defense was forcing turnovers, as the Blackshirts took the ball away from the opposition 47 times on the season, the second-best total in the country. The takeaways helped Nebraska to a nation-best +1.77 turnover margin in 2003.
The 47 takeaways last season tied the Nebraska school record, also set in 1972, while Nebraska’s 32 interceptions set a school record. Last season continued a long trend of Nebraska being among the nation’s best in the turnover department. Over the past 30 years, Nebraska has had a positive turnover margin in 27 of those seasons and was even in another season.
The Blackshirts got off to the same type of disruptive start in 2004. Nebraska forced five Western Illinois turnovers in a 56-17 victory, including four interceptions. Nebraska scored 14 points off the five Leatherneck turnovers, and the Blackshirts’ five takeaways marked the second straight year Nebraska has forced five turnovers in the season opener. The Husker defense has now caused five or more turnovers four times in the past 14 games after not having a five-takeaway game in the previous 43 games.
Defense Strong in Season Opener
The majority of discussion following Nebraska’s season-opening victory centered on the impressive debut of the Huskers’ West Coast Offense. However, the Blackshirt defense also produced a stout effort against the Leathernecks, including...
The Huskers picked off four passes and forced five total turnovers in the victory.
Nebraska held Western Illinois to minus-three yards rushing, marking the 19th time in school history the Huskers have held an opponent to negative rushing yards. The last time Nebraska had held an opponent to negative rushing yards was against Troy State on Sept. 1, 2001, when the Trojans had minus-25 yards rushing.
Nebraska collected seven sacks for 43 yards, including two sacks each for senior cornerback Lornell McPherson and sophomore defensive end Adam Carriker. The Huskers posted 14 tackles for loss on the night.
Junior cornerback Fabian Washington continued his move up the Nebraska career interceptions list with a second-quarter pick, the ninth of his career. Washington is in a tie for ninth place on the Nebraska career chart, just two behind teammate Josh Bullocks who is tied for third on the career list with 11 interceptions.
Strong safety Daniel Bullocks picked off a Leatherneck pass in the second quarter and returned it 58 yards to set up a Nebraska touchdown. The pick was the third of Daniel Bullocks’ career and his third in the past five games dating back to last season.
Senior linebacker Ira Cooper made the most of his second career start, recording a team-high 12 tackles. He also nabbed his first career interception near the end of the second quarter and returned the pick 51 yards.
Ruud Earning a Permanent Place in Cornhusker Tradition
Nebraska senior Mike linebacker Barrett Ruud has enjoyed a memorable first three seasons in the Husker program and his senior season figures to add to the memories. The 6-2, 240-pound Lincoln native had a record-setting 2003 campaign when he racked up 149 tackles, the most ever in a season by a Husker defender. Ruud had 78 unassisted tackles among his total, the second most in a season in Nebraska history, trailing only 2003 teammate Demorrio Williams who racked up 83 unassisted tackles.
Ruud entered his senior year just 53 tackles behind Nebraska career tackle leader Jerry Murtaugh, who collected 342 tackles from 1968 to 1970. During his record-setting 2003 season, Ruud raced past his father, Tom, on the Nebraska career tackles list.Tom Ruud finished his Husker career (1972-74) with 202 career tackles, including a team-leading 104 tackles in 1974. Barrett Ruud got his senior campaign off to a solid start with 10 tackles against Western Illinois, pushing his career total to 299 tackles, just one shy of the 300-tackle barrier.
The father-son Ruud combination owns several Husker defensive milestones.
- Tom and Barrett Ruud are the only father-son combination to both lead Nebraska in tackles in a single season.
- The Ruud's are the only family combination to both rank in the top 25 on Nebraska's career tackles list.
- Barrett and Tom Ruud have a combined 501 career tackles.
During fall camp, Barrett Ruud was elected as one of four team captains for the 2004 season, allowing the Butkus Award candidate to join his father in the fraternity of Husker captains. The Ruuds are the first father-son duo to serve as captains during their respective Husker careers.
The family connections continue beyond the father-son relationship for the Ruud family. In addition to Tom and Barrett Ruud, several other family members have made their mark at Nebraska. Barrett's great-grandfather, Clarence Swanson, was an all-conference selection during his Nebraska career (1918-21), while two of Barrett's uncles, Bob Martin (1973-75) and John Ruud (1978-79) also played for Nebraska. Both Swanson and Martin also served as Husker team captains. This fall, the Ruud family connection grows, as Barrett's younger brother, Bo, is a redshirt freshman Sam linebacker saw the first action of his career against Western Illinois.
Secondary to None
The Nebraska defensive backfield returned three starters for the 2004 season–free safety Josh Bullocks, strong safety Daniel Bullocks and cornerback Fabian Washington. Also back is fifth-year senior Lornell McPherson who had played in 38 games and made nine starts entering his senior season.
The secondary earned significant recognition for its talents. The Sporting News listed the unit as the top defensive backfield in the nation, while Lindy's ranks the unit second and Athlon Sports tabs the NU secondary sixth. Josh Bullocks earned first-team All-America honors last season when he intercepted a school-record 10 passes. This summer, Bullocks was named to nearly every first-team All-America list and is a leading contender for the Thorpe Award and the first annual Lott Trophy, presented to the nation’s top safety. Washington was a third-team All-Big 12 pick last season and is listed as the No. 1 corner in the conference and No. 6 cornerback in the country by The Sporting News heading into the 2004 season.
Numbers back up the preseason hype. As a group the Bullocks' brothers, McPherson and Washington have played in 119 career games at Nebraska with a combined 65 starts. They have also combined to intercept 29 passes, led by Josh Bullocks' 11 picks, and break up 47 passes, including 23 by Washington. McPherson is the only senior among the group, while the others are in their junior seasons.
The Blackshirts have a history of outstanding defensive backs, but never before has a Nebraska defense featured a secondary with a chance to make such a significant dent in the school record book.
Josh Bullocks is tied for third on the Nebraska career interception list with 11 picks, three behind career leader Dana Stephenson and just one pick behind Bret Clark, who is second with 12 interceptions. Washington's nine career interceptions are tied for ninth, while McPherson has the top 10 in his sights with six career picks, including four in 2003.
The 1969 Husker team featured a threesome that completed their careers with 33 interceptions (Stephenson, 14; Bill Kosch, 10; Jim Anderson, 9), while Kosch, Anderson and Joe Blahak were all members of the 1970 and 1971 national championship teams and completed their careers with a combined 29 interceptions. Josh Bullocks, Washington and McPherson need eight more combined interceptions to become the top trio of teammates in career interceptions.
The 20 combined interceptions of Josh Bullocks and Fabian Washington are Nebraska's most since teammates Mike and Ralph Brown also combined for 20 career interceptions from 1996 to 1999. Stephenson and Kosch were teammates on the 1969 team and finished their careers with a combined 24 picks.
2004 Husker Schedule Full of Challenges|
Nebraska faces a daunting schedule in 2004, as it looks for its 35th nine-win season in the last 36 years and its NCAA-record 36th consecutive bowl trip. Overall, the Huskers will face seven teams that participated in bowl games in 2003, including five Big 12 foes that appeared in the postseason a year ago. Western Illinois opened a solid non-conference schedule that includes a Division I-AA quarterfinalist from 2003, and a pair of 2003 bowl teams.
The Huskers complete a three-game contract with Southern Miss when the Golden Eagles travel to Lincoln on Saturday. The Huskers won 38-14 last season in Hattiesburg, but the Eagles rebounded to post a perfect league record and win the Conference USA title, before playing in the Liberty Bowl. A trip to Pittsburgh will complete the 2004 non-conference schedule. Nebraska will visit Heinz Field on Sept. 18 to take on the Panthers, who played in the Continental Tire Bowl last fall. Pittsburgh is scheduled to travel to Lincoln on Sept. 17, 2005.
Nebraska will open Big 12 Conference action against Kansas (Tangerine Bowl) on Oct. 2 in Lincoln. Other conference home games include Baylor (Oct. 16), Missouri (Oct. 30, Independence Bowl) and Colorado (Nov. 26). The Huskers face a difficult league road slate, traveling to Texas Tech (Oct. 9, Houston Bowl), defending league champion Kansas State (Oct. 23, Fiesta Bowl), Iowa State (Nov. 6) and 2003 South Division champ Oklahoma (Nov. 13, Sugar Bowl). Texas Tech, Baylor and Oklahoma rotated onto the Huskers' schedule this fall, while Nebraska will not face Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State this season.
Seven of Nebraska's 2004 opponents won eight or more games last season, including Western Illinois, Southern Miss, Pittsburgh, Texas Tech, Kansas State, Missouri and Oklahoma.
Scanning the Polls
Nebraska was unranked entering the season for the second consecutive year. The Huskers received enough points in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll to rank 26th and were 27th in points in the Associated Press listing. This marks just the second time since 1969 that Nebraska has began the season unranked in the Associated Press Poll (also 2003).
Nebraska remained unranked in the AP poll after Saturday’s victory, again receiving enough points for teh 26th position in the listing. Nebraska was 26th among teams receiving votes in the Aug. 29 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. Three teams on the Husker schedule are nationally ranked, including No. 2/2 (AP/Coaches) Oklahoma, No. 13/12 Kansas State and No. 19/17 Missouri. Texas is the fourth Big 12 team in the preseason rankings, as the Longhorns check in at No. 7/8.
Huskers Continue Nation’s Best Win Streak in Season Openers
Nebraska continued a long run of dominance in season openers with Saturday night’s 56-17 win over Western Illinois. The Huskers have been victorious in their last 19 season openers since a 17-13 setback against Florida State in 1985 at Memorial Stadium. Nebraska’s 19-game win streak in season openers tops the nation, followed by Florida State and Kansas State with 15 each and Florida with 14. FSU and Florida both open their 2004 seasons this weekend.
Nebraska has won each of those 19 games by at least 10 points, and owns an 84-26-5 all-time record in season openers. Since 1973, the Huskers are 27-4-1 in season openers, including 22-2 at Memorial Stadium, with losses to only Florida State in 1985 and Washington State in 1977. In all-time home openers, Nebraska is 93-17-5, including 65-14-3 at Memorial Stadium. The Huskers are 29-2 in their last 31 home openers.
Construction at Memorial Stadium to Continue
Throughout 2004 Nebraska is in the midst of a major building and stadium improvement project on the north end of Memorial Stadium. The $50 million project includes an addition of more than 6,000 seats to Memorial Stadium, which will raise Nebraska’s average crowd to 80,000 fans per game.
The project also includes the Tom and Nancy Osborne Athletic Complex, which will include a new locker room for the Husker football program. The building will include new football offices, a new strength complex, new training room, water therapy pools and administrative offices. The improvement project also features a new indoor workout facility, giving the Huskers two full-sized indoor practice areas adjacent to two outdoor grass fields. The project will not be completed until the 2006 season, leading to a few changes for Husker fans and opponents this fall.
The demolition of the north fieldhouse has forced the relocation of opposing teams to East Stadium. Husker opponents will locker in the south end of the East Stadium. The opponent will travel under East Stadium and enter the field from the northeast corner, but will exit the field on the southeast corner near their locker room. Nebraska will continue to enter the playing field from the southwest corner for the next two seasons, before moving to the North Stadium for the 2006 season.
Husker fans will also see minor changes in their game-day routine. Gate 14 on the northeast corner of the stadium has been combined with Gate 15. Fans previously using that entrance will now use Gate 15.
Husker Personnel, Injury Update
Several Husker newcomers have made their mark during fall camp and six Husker first-timers made their debut last Saturday against Western Illinois. Offensively, five first-timers saw action for Nebraska, including starting wideout Terrence Nunn, who became the first Husker offensive player to start the first game of his true freshman season since World War II. Other Husker offensive newcomers who saw action against Western Illinois included freshman quarterback Ryan Goodman, freshman I-back Brandon Jackson and junior college transfers Shamus McKoy (WR) and Cornealius Thomas (OT). Defensively, true freshman Cortney Grixby made his Husker debut at cornerback against Western Illinois.
Nebraska entered the 2004 season in relatively good physical condition. Sophomore quarterback Jordan Adams, a transfer from Grossmont (Calif.) College, had his spleen removed on Friday, Aug. 27 and has been ruled out of action for the early part of the season.
NCAA Record 263 Consecutive Sellouts
Nebraska boasts an incredible NCAA-record 263 consecutive sellouts at Memorial Stadium. The sellout streak dates back to Hall of Fame Coach Bob Devaney's first year in 1962 (vs. Missouri on Nov. 3). Notre Dame is second in all-time consecutive sellouts with 173, 90 fewer than Nebraska.
The Huskers are 234-29 during the 263 sellouts. The mark includes a 38-20 record against ranked teams. Nebraska is 5-0 in the five milestone sellouts during that period (50th, 100th, 150th, 200th and 250th sellouts), including a 24-7 win over No. 2 Colorado on Oct. 29, 1994 (No. 200) and a 44-13 victory over Utah State on Sept. 7, 2002 (No. 250).
The fan support at Memorial Stadium has led to a dominant home field advantage for the Huskers in Lincoln. Nebraska has won at least six home games in each of the past 17 seasons and is a remarkable 146-13 at Memorial Stadium since 1981, with eight of those losses coming against teams that finished the season ranked in the top eight of the Associated Press Poll.
Nebraska will play host to six home games in 2004, which should bring the sellout streak to 268 games by season's end.
Memorial Stadium Magic
Nebraska’s record home sellout streak is testament to the Huskers playing in front of the nation’s best college football fans. On the field, Nebraska has rewarded the loyalty of the Husker Nation with incredible success at Memorial Stadium through the years.
Nebraska had a nation-leading 26-game home winning streak end with a loss to Texas in November, 2002. The loss ended the third-longest home winning streak in school history and Nebraska’s third home win streak of 20 games or more since 1980, including a school-record 47-game home winning streak from 1991 to 1998.
The Huskers finished 6-1 at home in 2003, and have now won at least six home games in each of the past 17 seasons. Nebraska is 102-6 at home the last 16 years, including a pair of losses to teams that went on to win shares of the national championship–Colorado in 1990 and Washington in 1991.
The Huskers are 469-125-20 (.780, 614 games, 115 years) in Lincoln, 344-102-13 (.764, 459 games, 82 years) in Memorial Stadium (since 1923). The 2002 season marked the first time Nebraska has lost two home games (Texas, Colorado) in a season since 1980.
Since 1986 (18 seasons), NU is 113-8 in Lincoln, with losses to Colorado (twice), Washington, Oklahoma (twice), Texas (twice) and Kansas State. Nebraska has not been shut out at home since a 12-0 loss to Kansas State in 1968 (229 games). NU has posted 40 unbeaten and untied home seasons. Husker faithful set a new attendance record in Memorial Stadium in 2002 against Texas with 78,268 fans.
Nebraska Tops Elite Programs in Consistency
Nebraska ranks third among Division I-A schools in all-time football victories with 782 wins. The Huskers have the nation’s best record since 1962, posting a 416-88-5 record in the last 42 seasons. In that period, Nebraska has easily been the most consistent program in the nation. That is evident when comparing the Huskers’ record to the other nine programs among the top 10 in all-time victories.
The Huskers have had just three seasons since 1962 with eight or fewer victories. Eight of the other nine schools in the top 10 have had at least 15 seasons with eight or fewer wins in that span. Nebraska’s last losing season occurred in 1961. Michigan has not had a losing record since 1967, but the other eight schools on the all-time top 10 wins list have all had losing seasons since 1988, including six programs with losing campaigns in the past seven seasons.
Huskers Own An Unprecedented Winning Tradition
Nebraska, the nation's third-winningest program all time (fourth by percentage), boasts a 782-311-40 record in 1,133 games (.708) in 115 years of football. In the last 36 years, NU is tops, posting a record of 348-70-5 for an .829 winning percentage (423 games), an average of nearly 10 wins per year.
NU has won 10-or-more games 24 times since 1962, has gone undefeated and untied through the regular season seven times, played in 13 national title games (for at least one of the teams) and won the championship five times. Since the first Nebraska season in 1890, Husker teams have won 11 or more games 12 times, including seven of the last 11 years. NU has won 12 or more games seven times, and 13 games three times (1971, 1994 and 1997).
Nebraska (702), Michigan (705), Alabama (728) and Notre Dame (736) were the only four programs to win 700 games in the 1900s. NU became the first Division I team to win 100 or more games in consecutive decades, ranking first in the 1980s (103-20-0, .837) and second in the 1990s (108-16-1, .890) and posted a nation’s best 309-56-5 record in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
Huskers To Bid for NCAA-Record 36th Consecutive Bowl Appearance in 2004 Campaign
Nebraska’s visit to the 2003 Mastercard Alamo Bowl marked the Huskers’ 35th consecutive bowl game, the nation's longest current streak and an all-time NCAA record. Michigan’s streak of consecutive bowl appearances reached 29 last year, the second-longest streak in NCAA history. Nebraska's 42 overall bowl appearances is tied for fourth best with USC, trailing Alabama's 51, Tennessee’s 44 and Texas’ 43.
Nebraska played the first of its 42 bowls in the Rose Bowl, when No. 7 Nebraska lost to No. 2 Stanford, 21-13, following the 1940 season. NU's 35 consecutive bowls began with a 45-6 win over Georgia in the 1969 Sun Bowl. The Huskers are 21-21 all-time in bowl games.
NU Owns 42 Consecutive Winning Regular Seasons
The Huskers' 10-3 record in 2003 marked Nebraska's 42nd consecutive winning regular season and its 41st winning season in the last 42 years. Nebraska saw its streak of 40 consecutive winning seasons end with a 7-7 mark in 2002. Nebraska’s streak of 40 consecutive winning seasons fell two years short of Notre Dame’s NCAA-record run of 42 straight winning campaigns from 1889 to 1932.
The Huskers boast 42 consecutive winning regular seasons and 42 straight years with a .500 or better finish. Nebraska’s 42 straight non-losing seasons is tied for second all-time in NCAA Division I-A, with Notre Dame's 42 (1889-1932), trailing only Penn State’s 49 (1939-87). Since Nebraska’s 42-year .500-or-better streak began, the Huskers have averaged nearly 10 wins per season with a 416-85-5 record (.827).
Nine Wins a Regular Occurrence for Huskers
Nebraska’s amazing run of nine-win seasons came to an end at 33 consecutive years in 2002. The streak is even more remarkable when considering that Texas and Miami now share the lead for most consecutive nine-win seasons with six apiece. Texas’ current run of six consecutive nine-win seasons is the longest in its proud history. Miami reeled off 10 straight nine-win campaigns spanning the 1980s and 1990s and Florida State had a 14-year streak that ended in 2000.
However, among a group of other long-time powers, including Notre Dame, Penn State, Oklahoma, Michigan and Ohio State, the longest streak of nine-win seasons is eight years by both Oklahoma and Ohio State.
Nebraska has won nine-or-more games in 39 of the past 42 seasons. Only back-to-back 6-4 records in 1967 and 1968, and a 7-7 mark in 2002, have fallen short of the nine-win plateau.
All-Americans Call Nebraska Home
Free safety Josh Bullocks and punter Kyle Larson are the latest players to add their names to Nebraska's prestigious list of All-Americans, receiving honors in 2003. Larson was named a first-team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association, while Bullocks was tabbed by The Sporting News.
Larson and Bullocks' All-America selections added to Nebraska’s long list of All-Americans, beginning with tackle Vic Halligan in 1914. The Huskers have had at least one All-American in all but two (1991, 1998) of the past 34 years. Overall, Nebraska has seen 92 different players earn first-team All-America honors from at least one recognized source with 14 winning double honors for a total of 106 first-team awards. Nebraska had its most All-Americans in one season when six Huskers earned first-team honors in the 1971 national championship campaign. The offensive line is Nebraska’s most honored position, with 26 players earning 31 first-team All-America certificates.
Huskers a Fixture in National Polls
Nebraska was unranked in the preseason 2004 Associated Press poll, but is a regular visitor to the national polls. Including the Sept. 5 AP poll, Nebraska has been ranked in 538 of 555 AP polls since 1969 (all but one week in 1977, two weeks in 1981, the final 11 weeks of 2002; the 2003 preseason poll; and the first two polls of 2004). Additionally, Nebraska has been ranked in the AP top 10 for at least one week in each of the last 34 seasons and 40 of the last 41 years.
The Huskers saw an AP Poll record streak of 348 consecutive weeks in the poll end after a 2002 loss at Iowa State. Nebraska appeared in every weekly poll from Oct. 17, 1981, to Sept. 22, 2002.
Nebraska A Regular Supplier to NFL
Nebraska had five players selected in the 2004 NFL Draft, led by Demorrio Williams who was a fourth-round selection of the Atlanta Falcons. In addition to Williams, Jammal Lord (Houston), Josh Sewell (Denver), Trevor Johnson (New York Jets) and Ryon Bingham (San Diego) had their names called during the 2004 draft. Six other Huskers signed free-agent contracts with NFL teams after the draft.
The Huskers had a total of 49 former players on NFL rosters at the start of 2004 training camps. In all, 23 teams had at least one former Husker on their 2004 training camp rosters, with San Diego and Houston with five former Huskers each, while Green Bay and Kansas City each had four former Nebraska players on their roster. Kansas City Chiefs All-Pro offensive guard Will Shields and Oakland Raiders defensive tackle John Parrella are Nebraska's most experienced NFL veterans, both entering their 12th season in the league in 2004.
Huskers Continue Nebraska Tradition of Award-Winning Excellence in Classroom
The Husker football program has a tradition of winning that can be matched by few in college football. Off the field, Nebraska has established a tradition of academic excellence that is matched by no one.
Huskers Continue to Lead Nation in Academic Honors
Nebraska continues to lead the nation in CoSIDA Academic All-Americans for all sports and all teams with 217; in first-team winners for all sports with 109; and also leads the nation in football academic honor winners with 59 first-team certificates and 81 football all-teams certificates. The 217 overall honorees is 61 better than second-place Notre Dame, while the 59 football honorees is 21 more than second-place Notre Dame's 38.
The Husker football program also leads the nation with nine NCAA Today's Top Eight Award winners, 31 NCAA postgraduate scholarship winners, including Judd Davies in 2004 and 20 National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Scholar-Athletes, most recently Chris Kelsay in 2002.
Kriewald, Cooper Playing 2004 Season as Graduate Students
Two members of Nebraska's 20-player senior class will compete in their senior seasons as graduate students. Fullback Steve Kriewald picked up his degree in construction management this May. Linebacker Ira Cooper graduated with his degree in sociology at the close of summer school in August. In addition to Kriewald and Cooper, nine Huskers are on track to finish their undergraduate work in December. Another eight are scheduled to graduate in May of 2005, putting 19 of 20 Husker seniors on track to earn their degrees by next spring.
4.0 GPAs not Uncommon to Husker Football Team
Three Husker players carry a perfect 4.0 cumulative grade-point average into the fall semester. Senior linebacker Chad Sievers (business administration) has completed his first eight semesters of college without a blemish on his report card. In addition to Sievers, sophomore offensive lineman Kurt Mann and sophomore fullback Dane Todd have each completed four semesters of college with perfect 4.0 grade-point averages.
During the spring 2004 semester, a total of seven players had 4.0 grade-point averages. Joining the three players listed above were quarterback Garth Glissman, defensive lineman Nathan Krug, safety Brandon Rigoni and safety Blake Tiedtke. A total of nine players had perfect 4.0 semesters in the fall of 2003.
Huskers Top Big 12 in Graduation Rates
Nebraska has led the Big 12 in graduation rates four times since the conference was formed eight years ago. In addition, Nebraska’s Exhausted Eligibility Graduation Rate increased for the fifth consecutive year and is currently a Big 12-leading 91 percent. The Exhausted Eligibility Rate surveys the graduation of scholarship student-athletes who entered the University of Nebraska from 1988 through 1997 and exhausted their athletic eligibility at Nebraska.
Nebraska’s football averages are higher than the national average and are higher than the general student population at UNL as well. Nebraska’s one-class average for football students entering school in 1997 is 72 percent, which is ahead of UNL's 59 percent for all students. Nebraska was one of 30 schools honored by the American Football Coaches Association, when the school received the 2004 Academic Achievement Award in late June. Nebraska was recognized for graduating 70 percent or more of its football student-athletes from the freshman class of 1998-99, as its graduation rate was 77 percent.
Two members of this year’s senior class (Steve Kriewald, Ira Cooper) have already earned their degree with nine more set to pick up their diplomas in December.