|Nick Povendo (69) & Cory Ross (4) celebrate a Husker touchdown|
Lincoln, Neb. ó The Nebraska football team relied on a stingy defensive performance and the steady play of junior running back Cory Ross to defeat Kansas, 14-8, Saturday night before a sell-out crowd of 77,637 at Memorial Stadium. With the win, the Huskers (3-1 overall and 1-0 in the Big 12 Conference) improved to 87-21-3 all-time vs. Kansas (2-4, 0-2) and extended their streak of consecutive victories against KU to 36.
Ross produced his third 100-yard rushing effort of 2004, leading the Huskers with 107 yards rushing on 19 carries and a touchdown. He also caught three passes for 37 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter that gave Nebraska the lead for good. The touchdown reception was the first of his career.
Junior wide receiver Ross Pilkington also turned in a notable performance, racking up 113 yards on eight receptions, both career high
Meanwhile, the Blackshirts did not allow a KU touchdown and held the Jayhawks to 305 yards and just 149 in the second half. Junior cornerback Fabian Washington recorded his third interception of the season, and the Husker defense totaled 11 pass breakups, including three each from Washington and junior safety Daniel Bullocks.
"I thought it was an incredible team effort on defense. Their play was chilling in so many respects," NU Coach Bill Callahan said. "To watch out team play defense and to watch our coaches coach, it was exceptional, and the defense obviously won the game for us. We rewarded them the game ball, and I can’t say enough about each individual on that side of the ball. It was unbelievable, great team defense. I was really, really pleased with that aspect of the game."
Trailing 8-7 midway through the third quarter, the Huskers took the lead for good on their second scoring drive of the game. NU quarterback Joe Dailey opened the drive with an 8-yard scramble to the Nebraska 31, and then hit Pilkington with a 37-yard pass. After Ross rushed up the middle for seven yards, Dailey found Pilkington again for a 7-yard gain for a first down at the Kansas 25. Later, with the Huskers facing third-and-six at the KU 14, Ross turned a short toss from Dailey into a 14-yard scoring reception, the first receiving touchdown of his career. Sandro DeAngelis’ PAT made it 14-8, Nebraska, with 4:12 left in the third quarter.
However, Nebraska never found an offensive rhythm, as its last drive of the third quarter ended with a fumble by Pilkington, and the Huskers’ first two drives of the fourth quarter ended with Dailey interceptions. KU’s Rodney Harris ran the second pick back 25 yards, and the KU offense took over at the NU 26.
Once again, the Blackshirts came up big. Daniel Bullocks broke up a pass intended for Gary Heaggans near the end zone on third-and-8. KU elected to go for it on fourth down, but Barmann threw an incomplete pass, ending the scoring threat.
The Husker offense, meanwhile, ended the game with 322 yards total offense but turned the ball over four times. Dailey was 16-for-24 through the air, throwing one touchdown and three interceptions. Dailey also rushed five times for two yards.
"There are going to be some growing pains with this offense," Callahan said. "But there were a lot of good plays out there, and a lot of good plays left out there. We’re not down on them (the offense). They continued to compete. I like out offense, we just need to improve."
Kansas capitalized on an NU miscue on the second play of the game to take a 2-0 lead. A bad pitch to Tierre Green from Dailey at the Nebraska 8-yard line rolled into the end zone. Dailey recovered and stepped out of the end zone, marking the first time since Oct. 30, 1999, at Kansas that an opponent had scored a safety against the Huskers.
The Huskers, meanwhile, failed to take advantage of a KU turnover in the final two minutes of the first quarter.
Washington intercepted an Adam Barmann pass intended for Mark Simmons at the KU 35. He returned the pick four yards to set up a first down for the Huskers at the Kansas 31-yard line. The Huskers faced a third-and-nine after a four-yard carry by Ross and a two-yard run by Jackson. But NU was penalized for a false start, and then opted to attempt a 45-yard field goal on fourth-and-seven. DeAngelis’ kick hit the crossbar.
The Jayhawks took over at their own 35 after DeAngelis’ miss. Barmann directed a 10-play, 54-yard scoring drive that ended with a 36-yard field goal by Beck with 10:47 remaining in the half. The drive was highlighted by a 23-yard pass from Barmann to Heaggans.
The Huskers were stopped at the Kansas 47 on their next offensive series, and Sam Koch booted a 51-yard punt to pin the Jayhawks at their own 2-yard line. The Blackshirts forced Kansas to punt from its own end zone, and then NU took over at the KU 47 and needed just five plays and 1:40 to produce the first touchdown of the game.
Dailey hit Mark LeFlore with a five-yard pass on the opening play of the drive before four consecutive running plays put the Huskers on the board. Ross carried three times for 35 yards, including as 18-yard touchdown run. After a DeAngelis PAT, NU led, 7-5, with 2:57 remaining in the second half.
Trailing 7-5, Kansas reclaimed its early lead with a 13-play, 51-yard drive that was capped by a 39-yard field goal by Johnny Beck with 6:59 remaining in the third quarter. The drive was highlighted by a 29-yard run by KU running back John Randle, marking the longest run against the Blackshirts in 2004.
Randle finished the game with 105 yards rushing on 23 carries, while Barmann completed 24 of 49 pass attempts for 200 yards.
Nebraska continues Big 12 Conference play Oct. 9 when it travels to Lubbock, Texas, to face Texas Tech. The 6 p.m. game will be televised live on TBS.