LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska has finalized its 2004 football schedule by adding a home game in September. Western Illinois will come to Lincoln to play Nebraska on Sept. 4, 2004 in the Huskers' season opener. Nebraska Athletic Director Steve Pederson finalized the contract with Western Illinois' Director of Athletics Dr. Tim M. Van Alstine on Tuesday, Feb. 10. This season, all Division I-A schools are again limited to an 11-game schedule after being allowed to play a 12-game schedule in 2002 and 2003. Nebraska has never had more than two non-conference games on its schedule for 2004.
Nebraska will open with the I-AA Leathernecks, who have made the Division I-AA playoffs in three of the last five seasons under Head Coach Don Patterson. In 2003, Western Illinois posted a 9-4 record, defeating I-A Eastern Michigan, 34-12, and was ranked No. 1 in I-AA before losing on the road to eventual Division I-A national champion LSU, 35-7. WIU was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs last year in a one-point loss to eventual national runner-up Colgate (28-27). The Leathernecks won the Gateway Conference in 2000 and 2002 and rank among the top 15 I-AA programs in winning percentage over the last five years. Western Illinois has played at least one I-A opponent in each of the last 11 seasons, compiling a 5-8 record during that span, and has compiled four I-A wins in the last five years. The Leathernecks' most recent game against a Big 12 team was a 50-20 loss to Missouri at the beginning of the 2000 season.
In other non-conference action for 2004, Nebraska will host Southern Mississippi on Sept. 11 and will play at Pittsburgh on Sept. 18. Nebraska's home conference games begin on Oct. 2 with Kansas, followed by Baylor (Oct. 16), Missouri (Oct. 30) and Colorado (Nov. 26). NU will play at Texas Tech, Kansas State, Iowa State and Oklahoma. Nebraska will have open dates on Sept. 25 and Nov. 20.
First-year Nebraska head coach Bill Callahan said Western Illinois will be a good opener for the Huskers.
"Everything I know about Western Illinois and Coach Don Patterson, leads me to believe that they will be a good challenge for our team on opening day," Callahan said. "They are well coached and are accustomed to playing a tough schedule. We are looking forward to the matchup."
"We are excited to complete the 2004 schedule," Nebraska Athletic Director Steve Pederson said. "We are playing a fine football team. Given the fact that Western Illinois has played at the very top level of Division I-AA and competed against schools like defending champion LSU, I think this will be a great way to kick off the 2004 season."
2004 Nebraska Football Schedule
Sept. 4........... Western Illinois
Sept. 11......... Southern Mississippi
Sept. 18.......... at Pittsburgh
Oct. 2............ Kansas*
Oct. 9............. at Texas Tech*
Oct. 16........... Baylor*
Oct. 23........... at Kansas State*
Oct. 30........... Missouri*
Nov. 6............ at Iowa State*
Nov. 13.......... at Oklahoma*
Nov. 26/27...... Colorado*
* Big 12 Conference Games