With their pride on the line, the Nebraska defense came out against the Missouri Tigers and basically shut them all but completely down. "We weren't going to give up anything." Starting middle linebacker, Barrett Ruud said after the game. "We were just so excited."
Ruud once again led the defense as he tallied 17 tackles on the game, but this time he had a lot of help, the team combining to sack quarterback Brad Smith 6 times, hurried him 9 other times and after last week's porous defense against the run, NU stifled the Tigers, allowing Smith and company just 51 yards on the day.
"It was just a great display of energy and emotion." Head coach Bill Callahan said. "They were determined, they were focused and they went out and played one of their best games."
After what QB, Allen Webb did to Nebraska last week in rushing, there was much speculation about what Nebraska could do to stop a QB that had over 2,000 yards rushing in his first 2 years with the Tigers.
Again, the defense answered resoundingly, taking Smith's ability to run completely out of the game, Smith running the ball 21 times, but netting only 25 for the game.
The defense will no doubt get much of the publicity, but possibly the most effective unit on the field in regards to putting points on the board wasn't the offense, rather the special teams. One of the key moments was a blocked punt by Sophomore free safety, Andrew Shanle, which was picked up by Junior linebacker, Adam Ickes and taken into the end zone. Later in the game, Missouri mishandled another punt, Andrew Shanle falling on that one, Nebraska subsequently scoring on the Misouri giveaway.
"Both of those scores against their punt team were huge." Callahan said. "Bill Busch is doing an excellent job with special teams and today certainly proved that point."
As good as the defense was, however, the offense had a few dry spells, especially in the passing game. Joe Dailey had just 4 completions out of 18 attempts, totaling 26 yards and on the day, the Huskers were just 0 of 14 in 3rd down conversions. "The timing just wasn't there." Callahan said of the passing game. "And, we have to continue to work hard at that element."
One aspect of the gamed that Nebraska didn't need to work on was running and Cory Ross apparently feeling no ill-effects of the turf toe that has hampered him the last few weeks. Up to the waning moments of the game, Ross had managed another 100 yards on the ground and right around 6 yards per carry. That total ballooned though when deep into the fourth period, Ross broke off an 86-yard touchdown gallop that effectively sealed the fate for the Tigers. "It was a long run and big gain at a crucial time when we were trying to seal the game and he certainly did if for us today." Callahan said.
With all the good that came out of this game, there was a somber note as starting tight end, Matt Herian was lost for the entire year. Suffering what was reported as a fractured leg or ankle when a Missouri player rolled up onto the back of his leg Herian's year appears to be done, Dusty Keiser now filling the role of NU's next starting tight end.
Nebraska now takes the outright lead in the Big XII North division and has two more division opponents left on the schedule. Iowa State coming up this weekend, kickoff in Ames slated at 1:00 p.m. CST and Colorado, Friday – November 26th and that game will kickoff at 11:00 a.m.
Nebraska Post-Game Notes (courtesy of NU Sports information)
4Nebraska improved to 5-3 with the victory over Missouri and took over the Big 12 North lead with a 3-2 conference record.
4Nebraska's win was its 25th in the last 26 meetings with Missouri and the Huskers' 14th straight victory over the Tigers in Lincoln.
4The victory was Nebraska's 36th straight victory on Homecoming, dating back to a 12-0 loss to Kansas State in 1968.
4Nebraska's blocked punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter marked the second straight week the Huskers have scored on an opponent punt attempt. Andrew Shanle blocked the Tiger punt and linebacker Adam Ickes scooped up the ball and returned it 16 yards for a touchdown to give Nebraska a 10-3 lead. Last week, Nebraska's Daniel Bullocks picked up a botched Kansas State punt attempt and returned it for a touchdown.
4Shanle's block of the Missouri punt marked the first time the Huskers have blocked a punt since Demorrio Williams blocked a punt last season against Iowa State in Lincoln.
4Shanle later recovered a fumbled Missouri punt attempt at the Missouri 15-yard line, and the Huskers scored one play later to take a 17-3 advantage.
4Ickes' blocked punt return for a touchdown marked the third straight Nebraska-Missouri game in Lincoln in which the Huskers have scored a non-offensive touchdown. In the Huskers' 42-24 win over Mizzou in 2000, Bobby Newcombe returned a punt 94 yards for a touchdown. In 2002, Nebraska's DeJuan Groce returned a punt 89 yards for a touchdown.
4Junior I-back Cory Ross rushed 19 times for a career-high 194 yards and two touchdowns against Missouri. Ross' career-best effort included a career-long 86-yard touchdown burst late in the fourth quarter to seal the Husker victory. It was the eighth-longest rushing touchdown in Nebraska history. His 194 yards surpassed his previous career-high of 169 yards on 27 carries set against Southern Miss earlier this season. His total was also the most by a Nebraska player since Jammal Lord ran for 234 yards against Texas on Nov. 2, 2002. Ross pushed his career rushing total to 1,572 yards to climb into 32nd place on the Nebraska career rushing list.
4Cory Ross' 86-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter continued a big play tradition for the Huskers against the Tigers. Nebraska has had at least one scrimmage play or return of 50 yards or more in each of the last nine meetings against Missouri, including plays of 85 yards or more in four of the last five meetings. In 2002, DeJuan Groce had an 89-yard punt return for a touchdown in a 24-13 Husker win. In 2001, Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch had a school-record 95-yard touchdown run in a 36-3 NU win. In 2000, Bobby Newcombe had a 94-yard punt return for a touchdown in a 42-24 win.
4Senior linebacker Barrett Ruud made 17 tackles in today's game, including eight in the first half. Today's game marked the sixth straight game Ruud has had double figures in tackles and the seventh time in eight games in 2004. Ruud now has 19 double-figure tackle games in his Husker career and pushed his career tackle total to 398 with today's effort. Ruud has 109 tackles this season and is just the fourth player in school history to record two seasons with 100 or more tackles, joining Lee Kunz, Jerry Murtaugh and Clete Pillen.
4Ruud had four tackles for loss against Missouri, pushing his career total to 46 tackles for loss, good for second on the Nebraska career tackles for loss chart. In today's game Ruud moved past Jim Skow and Trev Alberts into second place on the list. Ruud's 14 tackles for loss this season are just three shy of the top 10 on the Nebraska single-season list.
4The Nebraska defense limited Missouri to 51 rushing yards on 35 attempts in today's game, marking the seventh opponent in eight games that has rushed for 105 yards or less against the Husker defense. The Huskers finished the game with 19 tackles for loss for 47 yards lost, including four sacks for 30 yards lost. quarterback hurries.
4Missouri quarterback Brad Smith set the Nebraska opponent record for total-offense attempts with 77 on the day, surpassing the 74 total-offense attempts by Tim Rattay of Louisiana Tech on Aug. 29, 1998. Smith had 21 carries for 25 rushing yards and completed 24-of-56 passes for 277 yards with one interception. Smith's 302 total offense yards did not rank among the top 10 performances by an opponent.
4Junior free safety Josh Bullocks intercepted a fourth-quarter Brad Smith pass for his second interception of the season and the 13th of his Nebraska career. Bullocks' 13 career interceptions total is one behind Nebraska career leader Dana Stephenson who had 14 picks in his Husker career.
4Nebraska punter Sam Koch had a 65-yard punt in the third quarter of today's game, the longest of his Nebraska career. For the game, Koch averaged 39.5 yards on 10 punts and buried Missouri inside its own 20-yard line on five occasions.
4Junior cornerback Fabian Washington had a pass breakup in today's game, his team-leading 12th of the season. Washington's 12 breakups are tied for 10th on the single-season Nebraska breakup list. Washington now has 35 breakups in his career, fifth on the NU list, three behind Erwin Swiney.
4Nebraska senior place-kicker Sandro DeAngelis connected on a 41-yard field goal in the first quarter to give Nebraska a 3-0 advantage. The 41-yard field goal was the longest of DeAngelis' Nebraska career.
4The two teams combined for 20 punts in today's game, the most combined punts in a Nebraska game since Nebraska (10) and Oklahoma (10) combined for 20 punts in the Huskers' 20-10 win over the Sooners in Lincoln on Oct. 27, 2001. Nebraska punted 11 times against the Tigers, while Missouri attempted nine punts against the Huskers.