Nebraska gets defensive, nips KU 14-8

To the naked eye, it would have seemed to be déjà vu, all over again as the Huskers went to the last second, a hail-mary by the opposing team and Nebraska escapes with the win. Turnovers, penalties, a lot that anyone could see plenty of reason to complain about, but for the coaches, it wasn't a time to complain, because despite all the offensive problems Nebraska had, the defense pulled the game out. That was the theme as Nebraska beat Kansas 14-8.

If someone would have told you before the game that Nebraska would score just 14 points on the day, you'd probably assume that they would have lost as they hosted Kansas Saturday night.

If someone would have told that you also that Kansas would have had the ball for almost 10 minutes longer than NU and snapped a total of 82 plays from center, you'd assume that Nebraska would have lost by a lot.

TFLS.jpg - 51790 Bytes
Jay Moore, Barrett Ruud and 
Chad Sievers team up for 1 of
Nebraska's 9 tackles for losses on
the game. Sievers and Moore were
4th and 5th in tackles respectively
against Kansas, Sievers with 7 &
Moore finishing the night with 6.
They didn't and it was because of a defense that while it gave up the yards and was out on the field an awful long time, the Jayhawks still couldn't get the ball into the end zone for a score. "I can't tell you how proud of the way they played tonight." Head coach, Bill Callahan said of the defensive performance. "It was inspiring to watch our guys fly around the field and make the plays that they made tonight."

"They obviously won the game for us."

Obviously meaning that the offense never did find its groove on the day, starting off the game rather dubiously, a bad quarterback/center exchange resulting in Joe Dailey being tackled in the end-zone for a safety, the first score of the game.

That set the tone for the game as Dailey threw 3 interceptions, boosting his season total now to 11 and Nebraska added 4 more fumbles, one of which was lost to the opposition. For Callahan, what the offense is or isn't doing doesn't surprise him as it is what he's expected. "I'm not disappointed in the offense, not at all." He said. "Like I said, there's going to be some growing pains and you just have to take the good with the bad. There's some good plays on film, we just didn't make enough of them."

One of the brighter spots on offense was wide receiver, Ross Pilkington, who caught 8 balls for 113 yards, both career single-game highs. Pilkington actually accounted for no less than half of Nebraska's entire output passing the ball on the game, something that wasn't necessarily by intent. "It's really the defenses we are seeing right now." Pilkington said of why he's seen so many opportunities the last two games. "We have plays built in for all the receivers and it's just working out that way. It's nothing planned I don't think. It's just going with the flow of the game."

That's actually something that hasn't been a constant with this offense, in that "the flow" simply hasn't been there. Against Kansas, Nebraska didn't have a single drive that consisted of more than 8 plays and only 2 that actually reached that mark. The lack of any kind of rhythm was frustrating for coaches and players alike. "We didn't get out of the hole." Callahan said. "We got backed up a few times and we didn't get an opportunity to dig ourselves out. We didn't make those plays."

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Ross celebrates after 1
of his 2 scores. Ross ran
for over 100 yards, his 3rd
in the 4 games of the
season.

"It is frustrating." Running back, Cory Ross said. "But, if you watch the game, it's just the little mistakes that mess us up and draw us back. All we can do is work on it, but it's just the little stuff that hurts."

Ross tallied over 100 yards on the game, his third in four games. This is also his second straight time hitting the century mark against the Jayhawks, tallying 108 yards against KU last year.

Individual accolades for the offense aside, however, the scope of the success was as Callahan stated, clearly pointed towards the defensive side, led by who else but middle linebacker, Barrett Ruud.

Ruud had 15 tackles on the evening, the 15th time in his career that he's notched double-digits in that area. The one tackle that received the most post-game attention and might have made the biggest impact late in the game, however, was when KU faked a punt with just over 3 minutes left in the contest. It was 4th and 14 and the punter, Kyle Tucker tried to run right, but Ruud tackled him out of bounds before Tucker could even get five yards.

Ruud stated of his successful thwarting of the trickery that it was not only nothing special, but had he not made that play, he might not stick around to break the tackle record which he's now just 7 tackles away from tying. "If I can't tackle a punter, I'd just walk out of the stadium right there." Ruud said. "I wouldn't come back either."

"That was a shot that you have a punter running straight up and down and kind of looking at you not knowing

ruud, huston takcleS.jpg - 56179 Bytes
Barrett Ruud and Kellen Huston
team up for a tackle on RB, John
Randle. Ruud set a season-high
with 15 tackles, while Huston
totaled 5. Huston also had 2 pass
break-ups and one QB hurry.
what to do-that's about as good a shot as you are going to get."

Linebacker, Stewart Bradley added double-digit tackles as well, Bradley's 12 a career high.

Overall, Nebraska allowed 305 yards, 105 of that rushing, the first team to gain 100 yards on the ground against the NU defense since Kansas State last year. Running back, John Randle's 105 yards was the first individual to have 100+ yards on the Huskers since that game as well, KSU running back, Darren Sproles tallying 140 in the game.

Much of the focus of this game will be centered back behind center, Joe Dailey's performance no doubt having put him back into the hot-seat as it were based on another multi-interception game, two out of the three picks coming via badly thrown balls.

As Dailey has been want to do, he put the blame squarely where he thought it should be. "It's on me." He said. "My performance wasn't up to par. I made a few mistakes that shouldn't have happened, but all that will be settled, I can promise you that."

Unlike the last game against Pittsburgh, however, Dailey couldn't cite the defense trying to trick him with disguised coverages as he said that what they did on defense is exactly what he thought he would see. "We prepared for everything." He said. "We watched last year's film and this year's film, so we covered every different scenario."

"These guys didn't do too much."

Dailey's 183 yards puts him at 745 on the season. At his current average (186.2 yards per game), Dailey would have the third highest season-total for passing in a season, behind only David Humm (2,074 in 1972) and Vince Ferragamo (2,071 in 1976).

If you can sum up the entirety of this game, Callahan thought that what you've seen isn't a surprise to him or even disappointing. It's actually what he's expected thus far. "I'm still optimistic." He said. "We are going to keep pounding the rock and trying to find ways to move the football and get them better week in and week out."

"They're still in transition. They made some plays today that I was pleased with, but there are some other plays that we have to work on."

Nebraska will get back to practice tomorrow, have their usual Monday off and resume their practices as they prepare for their next game, a road contest in Lubbock to face Texas Tech.

The Red Raiders will be coming off a game that ended closer than possibly most might have thought going into the contest, the number two ranked Oklahoma Sooners besting Tech, 28-13.

That game will also be at night, set to kick off at 6:00 p.m. central time and will be aired on TBS.

Statistics

Photos by, Tim Tushla


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