On Saturday afternoon in Lincoln, the #14 Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-1, 3-1), defeated the #6 Missouri Tigers (7-1, 3-1), by the final score of 31-17. The win places the Cornhuskers in the driver's seat in their quest to capture the Big 12's north division. Nebraska RB Roy Helu Jr. set a single game school record with 307 yards and 3 TDs rushing on 28 carries (11 yards/carry).
"We played well on both sides of the football," said Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini, following the game. "We beat a pretty good football team today. We executed."
The Tigers got off to a terrible start, appearing unsure of themselves, and Nebraska countered with an extremely fast start, riding the emotional wave generated by their raucous crowd, and jumping out to a 24 point lead in the first quarter. Helu Jr. ripped off a pair of TD runs in the first quarter, on what appeared to be the same play, run first to the left on the first play from scrimmage for 66 yards, and later, to the right for 73 yards, and a score. The Cornhuskers also got a 40 yard TD on a play action pass from Taylor Martinez to Kyler Reed, who beat Carl Gettis on a post.
Meanwhile, Blaine Gabbert and the Tigers were struggling to move the football. In the second quarter, Missouri started moving the chains, and scored their lone TD of the first half when De'Vion Moore took a pitch around the left side on 4th and 1 from the Nebraska 33 yard line. Later in the second quarter, an obvious pass interference that wasn't called prevented Rolandis Woodland from converting on a deep sideline throw from Gabbert.
Missouri opened the 3rd quarter trailing 24-7. Zac Lee replaced the injured Martinez at QB for the Cornhuskers, and the Missouri defense held the Huskers to 7 points after the first quarter. With 7:30 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Blaine Gabbert found T.J. Moe on a crossing route on third and four from the Nebraska 23 yard line for the score to pull Missouri to within 24-14.
But Helu Jr. answered immediately, with his third TD run of the day, this one for 53 yards, to put Nebraska ahead 31-14.
Missouri came back with a yard drive, that culminated in a 23 yard FG by Grant Ressel. Missouri had a first and goal from the Nebraska one yard line, but a motion penalty on fourth down forced the Tigers to settle for three, which pulled the Tigers to within 14.
Early in the fourth quarter, Blaine Gabbert was targeted with an illegal head to head hit, but once again, the penalty was not called. Gabbert finished the day 18 for 42 passing (43%), for 199 yards and 1 TD. Gabbert was also the Tigers' leading ground gainer on the day, as he finished with a net of 74 yards rushing on 22 carries. He was sacked 6 times, and threw an interception.
Nebraska had the better of it in the fourth quarter, and held onto the ball for much of the final period to seal the win. And on the day, Nebraska had the better of it up front, on the line of scrimmage, on both sides of the football.
After the game, Missouri's junior TE, Michael Egnew, summed up the Tigers' play.
"We had a game plan," said Egnew. "We didn't execute it as well as we had hoped."
"We just didn't execute," echoed T.J. Moe.
Missouri didn't play well, and at times appeared disorganized, unprepared. Afterward, Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel talked about the loss.
"Obviously, we're really disappointed," began Coach Pinkel. "First of all, Nebraska played very, very well. They played a very good game. We made a lot of mistakes. That was really disappointing. You got to play better, if you're going to win a game like this. And, we just didn't do that. I've got to do a better job.................. We had our chances, but we didn't do things good enough to get back in it."
Score by Quarters 1 2 3 4 Total
Missouri 0 7 10 0 17
Nebraska 24 0 7 0 31