Huskers Tame Wildcats for Win No. 800
Manhattan, Kan. - The No. 21 Nebraska football team controlled Kansas State from start to finish with a strong Blackshirt defense and a powerful running game on its way to a 21-3 win over the Wildcats at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan on Saturday night.
With the victory, Nebraska improved to 6-1 on the season and 3-0 in the Big 12 Conference, while dropping Kansas State to 4-3 overall and 1-2 in the league. The win made the Huskers bowl eligible for the 37th time in the past 38 seasons, while Nebraska also became just the fourth program in history to reach the 800-win plateau, joining Michigan, Notre Dame and Texas. The Huskers will face the Longhorns on Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.
The Huskers, who ended a four-game losing streak in Manhattan to the Wildcats, set the tone on the game's opening drive by marching 80 yards on nine plays to take a 7-0 lead. It was the fourth consecutive game that Nebraska scored on the opening drive, but the first opening drive to end on a touchdown pass from a holder to a reserve tight end.
Brandon Jackson carried the load for the Huskers on the first possession, rushing for 57 yards including a career-long 48-yard burst to put Nebraska inside the KSU 20. But the NU drive stalled after the long run by Jackson, who had 91 yards rushing in the first half alone.
Sophomore place-kicker Jordan Congdon came on for a 34-yard field goal, but the Huskers faked the attempt and holder Jake Wesch connected with wide open tight end Hunter Teafatiller for a 17-yard touchdown pass to give NU the lead with 11:06 left in the first quarter.
The two defenses controlled play for the next 15 minutes until the Huskers found paydirt again. Nebraska's 10-play, 80-yard drive featured 25 more yards on the ground from Jackson and a 24-yard scamper by quarterback Zac Taylor to set up his three-yard touchdown pass to tight end Josh Mueller. The touchdown gave the Huskers a 14-0 lead with a 11:02 left in the first half.
The Blackshirts continued to dominate the rest of the half, sending the Huskers to the locker room with a 14-0 lead. The Huskers allowed just one snap by the Wildcats on NU's half of the field in the first half, and that came with just one second left when Jeff Snodgrass missed a 54-yard field goal attempt for KSU as time expired.
"Overall the disruption phase of our football game was outstanding," Nebraska Coach Bill Callahan said. "I think in these last few ballgames we have come around better in all phases of the game. Up front, we put good pressure on the quarterback and had good coverage in the secondary. When your defense can go on the road and make your opponent one-dimension, that says a lot."
Nebraska found the end zone again early in the third quarter to solidify its already firm grasp on the game. The Blackshirts held KSU to a first down on its opening drive of the second half and a three-and-out on the Wildcats' second drive to give Taylor and the offense possession with 9:40 left in the third quarter.
Taylor connected with Maurice Purify for 32 yards on the opening play of the drive to put the Huskers quickly into KSU territory at the 40. On the next play, Marlon Lucky took it to the house with a 40-yard touchdown run to give Nebraska 21-0 lead with 8:55 remaining in the third quarter.
The Wildcats ended the Blackshirts' bid for a shutout on the ensuing drive, as KSU put together its most successful drive of the evening. Kansas State marched 60 yards to the NU 20, before the Blackshirts notched back-to-back sacks on KSU freshman quarterback Josh Freeman to push the Wildcats back to the NU 36.
Snodgrass came on to connect on a 53-yard field goal to put the Wildcats on the board. But that is all Kansas State could muster against a rugged group of Blackshirts.
Senior linebacker Stewart Bradley led Nebraska's defense with 10 tackles, including eight solos and one of NU's 10 tackles for loss on the night. Cornerback Andre Jones added another solid effort with seven tackles, including six solos.
Defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh may have wreaked the most havoc for the Huskers defensively. The 6-4, 315-pound sophomore from Portland, Ore., notched three unassisted tackles, with two tackles for loss including one 14-yard sack. He added his first career interception in the fourth quarter. Freshman defensive back Rickey Thenarse also recorded his first career interception on KSU's final offensive play of the game.
The Blackshirts held Kansas State to just 22 rushing yards, with 38 yards coming on a run on a fake punt by the Wildcats in the first quarter. Freshman running back Leon Patton who rushed for more than 100 yards last week in a win over Oklahoma State, managed just 13 yards on 12 carries, while the Huskers sacked Freeman four times for 35 yards on the night.
"I was very happy with our pressure on the night," Nebraska Defensive Coordinator Kevin Cosgrove said. "We did not want them to run the football and we accomplished that."
Freeman did complete 23-of-47 passes for 272 yards to go along with his two interceptions, as KSU managed 294 yards of total offense.
While the Blackshirts forced Kansas State into one-dimensional football, the Husker offense achieved balance with 190 yards rushing and 166 yards passing on the night to put up 356 total yards against a Wildcat defense that entered the game ranked third in the Big 12 in total defense.
Jackson led NU's ground game with 16 carries for 92 yards, while Lucky added 71 yards on 12 totes. Taylor completed 12-of-21 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown, while Purify led the NU receiving corps with four catches for 73 yards.
Special teams played a major role in the game for both teams. Along with Nebraska's 17-yard touchdown pass on a fake field goal on the game's opening drive, Kansas State picked up 38 yards on a Daniel Gonzalez run on a fake punt from inside its own end zone in the first quarter.
The big special teams play was set up by a spectacular punt from NU punter Dan Titchener, who buried the Wildcats inside their own 2 on a coffin corner punt. It was the first of many field-position controlling punts on the night by Titchener, who pinned KSU inside its own 20 on four occasions, including two inside the 10.
The Huskers return to Lincoln to battle defending Big 12 and national champion Texas at Memorial Stadium on Saturday at 11 a.m. The game will be televised nationally by ABC.
Scoring (Nebraska 21, Kansas 3)
First Quarter (NU 7, KSU 0)
NU - Hunter Teafatiller 17 pass from Jake Wesch (Jordan Congdon kick), 11:06, NU 7-0
Second Quarter (NU 14, KSU 0)
NU - Josh Mueller 3 pass from Zac Taylor (Congdon kick), 11:02, NU 14-0
Third Quarter (NU 21, KSU 3)
NU - Marlon Lucky 40 run (Congdon kick), 8:55, NU 21-0
KSU - Jeff Snodgrass 53 field goal, 4:44, NU 21-3
Fourth Quarter (NU 21, KSU 3)