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Blackshirts, Special Teams Lead NU to Win

By NU Athletic Communications
Andrew Shanle blocked a punt and recovered a second fumbled punt attempt to help the Huskers roll to a 24-3 win over Missouri.
Andrew Shanle blocked a punt and recovered a second fumbled punt attempt to help the Huskers roll to a 24-3 win over Missouri.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Lincoln - The Blackshirts flexed their muscles and the Husker special teams came up with two huge plays to fuel the Nebraska football team to a 24-3 victory over Missouri in front of 77,616 fans and a FSN national television audience at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

Playing in front of the NCAA-record 267th consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium, the Huskers extended their Homecoming winning streak to 36 straight wins with a victory over the Tigers.  Nebraska also took over sole possession of first place in the Big 12 North Division standings by improving to 3-2 in the Big 12 and 5-3 overall.  Missouri, which entered the game tied with the Huskers atop the North standings, slipped to 2-3 in the league and 4-4 overall.

The Huskers defeated Missouri for the 25th time in the last 26 meetings, including 14 straight games against the Tigers in Lincoln.  NU also reclaimed the Victory Bell after falling to the Tigers in Columbia, 41-24, last season.

Nebraska's Blackshirt defense kept Missouri quarterback Brad Smith and the rest of the Tigers in check throughout the afternoon, limiting MU to just three long field goal attempts on the day.  The Tigers converted just one of those three field goal attempts, and also hurt themselves with a pair major mistakes in their punting game.

"Overall it was a great performance by our team," Nebraska Head Coach Bill Callahan said. "Both those scores against their punt team were huge."

Cory Ross provided the offensive highlights for the Huskers by erupting for a career-high 194 yards and two touchdowns on just 19 carries.  Ross' career-best effort included a career-long 86-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter to seal the Husker victory.  It was the eighth-longest scoring run in school history.  Ross added a 15-yard scoring run in the third quarter to give the Huskers some breathing room. 

The Huskers struck on the opening drive by marching 52 yards in 10 plays capped by Sandro DeAngelis’ career-long 41-yard field goal to give NU a quick 3-0 lead.

Missouri’s attempt to answer Nebraska’s opening score sailed wide right on the Tigers’ second drive of the day when Joe Tantarelli missed a 42-yard field goal with just over five minutes remaining in the first quarter.

Nebraska’s 3-0 lead held up for the first quarter, but Missouri struck quickly in the second quarter. MU’s Brandon Massey blocked a Sam Koch punt to give MU the ball at NU’s 26-yard line with nine seconds left in the first quarter. The Tigers tied the score on a 39-yard field goal by Tantarelli 14:46 into the second period.

The Huskers then answered with a special teams gem of their own, as Andrew Shanle broke through the middle of the line and blocked a Matt Hoenes punt. The ball bounced right into the hands of Adam Ickes who sprinted 16 yards untouched for his first career touchdown to give NU a 10-3 lead with 9:42 left in the first half.

Missouri threatened to cut into NU’s lead on the opening drive of the second half, marching to the Huskers’ 15-yard line, before the Blackshirts defense stiffened. On third down, MU quarterback Brad Smith was whistled for intentional grounding to set up a 44-yard field goal attempt by Adam Crossett that sailed wide right.

Both defenses dominated the rest of the third quarter until another botched MU punt attempt put the Huskers up by two touchdowns. The snap went through the hands of Hoenes, who recovered to swing and miss on a punt attempt while on the run. Shanle jumped on the loose ball to give NU possession at the Tigers’ 15-yard line.

Ross scored on a 15-yard run on Nebraska’s next play from scrimmage to give the Huskers a 17-3 lead with 1:34 remaining in the third quarter.

Ross' big day sparked a Nebraska rushing attack that rolled for 209 yards, while the NU offense managed 235 total yards.  Missouri produced 328 total yards, but never found its way into the end zone.

"I'm really proud of the way all of our guys played," Callahan said.  "You have to look at everybody.  I mean Sam Koch, our punter, was a major factor in today's game.  Time after time he put Missouri in poor field position with some great punts."

Koch's performance included a career-long 65-yard punt to flip the field on the Tigers.  For the game, Koch averaged 39.5 yards on 10 punts, including five punts that buried Missouri inside its own 20-yard line. 

Nebraska returns to action next Saturday when the Huskers travel to Ames, Iowa, to tangle with Iowa State.  Kickoff is set for 1 p.m., an no  television coverage of the game is planned.

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