QB's explosion keys Husker victoryBy Terry Douglass / The Independent
SEATTLE - The matchup between the Nebraska running game and the Washington defense looked to be the classic case of the unstoppable force against the immovable object.
But as it turned out, the No. 7-ranked Cornhuskers kindly pushed that immovable object up and down the field to post a 27-14 victory over second-ranked Washington Saturday before a crowd of 74, 023 at Husky Stadium.
All three starting members of the Husker backfield nearly enjoyed 100-plus-yard rushing days. Ahman Green ran for 129 yards on 29 carries, fullback Joel Makovicka rumbled for 129 yards on 12 tries and quarterback Scott Frost netted 97 yards in 18 attempts. Frost was over the 100-yard mark before being taking some losses late in the game.
"Offensively, I thought we did a great job of banging them off the ball," Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne said. "Our backs ran hard and I thought Ahman Green played well. Joel Makovicka had a great ballgame and Scott Frost played a great football game."
Osborne said Nebraska's performance was just a case of sticking with what's been working for his team in the past.
"I think a lot had been made of their rushing defense - and I think it's good - but you've got to remember they played a couple of teams that make a living throwing the football," Osborne said. "We spend a lot of time running the ball. We're very physical and we practice that way. We told our players that it was going to be critical offensively that we run the football."
The Husker running attack showed its dominance right out of the gate. After Washington's Randy Jones missed on a 33-yard field goal try, NU marched the ball right down the field, without using a forward pass for a touchdown.
The big play came on Frost's first carry of the game as he faked the handoff to his fullback up the middle, pulled the ball and then followed Green through the hole for a 34-yard scoring run. Kris Brown's point-after kick gave NU a 7-0 lead with 7:28 left in the first period and capped a six-play, 80-yard drive that lasted 2:28.
Frost, who had been booed by some members of Nebraska's crowd in a Sept. 13 game against Central Florida, struck again later in the quarter. On a quarterback draw, which originally looked to be going nowhere, Frost eluded one Husky tackler in the backfield and sprinted 30 yards to the end zone for a TD and a 14-0 Cornhusker advantage with 1:15 remaining in the first quarter.
Osborne said both of Frost's TD runs came on plays that Nebraska hadn't run in its first two games.
"We held a lot of things back against our first two opponents," Osborne said. "A week ago, about the fourth quarter, we weren't sure whether we'd be able to hold them or not. But there were a few things we had worked on with Washington in mind that we didn't have to show and some of those things worked.
"I think on the first one, several people went after the trap and he just broke off tackle and ran. The other one was really a good run. I think he eluded a few people and may a great run. The second run was a quarterback draw. It wasn't a big deal, but it was something that Central Florida hurt us with last week a little bit and we decided we liked the looks of that, so we put it in."
After stalling for one drive earlier in the second quarter, Nebraska again found the end zone with 7:20 left before halftime. This time it was Green scoring a 4-yard TD on an option play. Frost's 14-yard pass to freshman Matt Davison on a third-and-6 play kept the drive alive.
Green said he knew he would have to raise his level of play against the Huskies.
"I had to run tougher because this is a tough defense," Green said. "That was the plan - truck it right up the field going right up against their defense. That's what we practiced for and that's what we accomplished.
"We saw that was a little weakness of theirs in terms of filling the gap against the fullback," Green said. "That was something that coach Osborne, (NU running backs coach Frank) Solich and the offense line just focused on and we pounded it to them in the first half."
Washington head coach Jim Lambright said Nebraska's attack caught his team by surprise.
"The changes they made in formations we charted were totally different," Lambright said. "They went totally away from what they did in the past. They changed a whole lot of their offensive tendencies completely. But that aside, you still have to win the line of scrimmage."
Huard left after completing 4 of 8 passes for 29 yards. His replacement, Marques Tuiasosopo, filled in admirably. The true freshman backup finished the day 12 of 22 throwing for 270 yards and two TDs.
"When the new guy came in, the coaches told us that this guy wasn't maybe quite as accurate of a passer, but he can still throw the ball and he's going to cause some problems running," Husker senior defensive tackle Jason Peter said. "With Huard back there, we still had to keep contain because he's not a real mobile quarterback and he's just looking to find his receiver."
Said Osborne: "The thing that takes a little luster off is Huard getting hurt. "He's a great player. I thought their freshman quarterback came in and played awfully well."
Tuiasosopo got Washington on the scoreboard just before halftime as he directed UW on a 62-yard march that took just four plays. Tuiasosopo hit tight end Cameron Cleeland for a 12-yard scoring strike that cut Nebraska's lead to 21-7 at halftime.
Despite being without his usual sidekick, Huard, Pathon was a thorn in the Nebraska defense's side all day. The senior split end caught five passes for 195 yards - his third consecutive 100-yard receiving performance.
"Defensively, we did a good job except for the deep ball," Osborne said. "We had problems with that last week. I think we've got the athletes to do better. We had people there, we just didn't react to the ball."
But then came what might have been the turning point of the game. Trailing 21-14 and having apparently slowed NU's offense in the second half, Washington attempted an on-side kick that sailed out of bounds, giving the Huskers possession at the Husky 47.
"It was a chance to regain momentum," Lambright said. "We knew there was a real good chance to get the momentum. We had been waiting for the opportunity and in this sort of game, you take a chance for an on-side kick. It's worth it."
Nebraska took advantage of the short field, marching to the Washington 3, before settling for a 20-yard field goal from Brown to give the Huskers a 24-14 lead with 12:45 to play.
That would be all the cushion the Nebraska defense would need as it kept UW off the board the rest of the way. The Huskies finished the day with 342 total yards, but were held to just 43 yards on the ground. Washington running back Rashaan Shehee carried 11 times for just 32 yards after averaging more than 100 yards in his first two outings.
The play that finally slammed the door on the Huskies was delivered by Makovicka. Bottled up inside its own 5, the Huskers offense called on the 5-foot-11, 235-pound fullback and watched him ramble up the gut for 43 yards.
"Coach showed a lot of confidence in giving it to the fullback down that deep," Makovicka said. "And I think it showed a lot of character in our offense, being down, pinned-back at our 5-yard line with the hostile crowd and we have to move the ball to win the game."
Makovicka's effort helped NU score its final points of the game as Brown later drilled a 31-yard field goal for the 27-14 margin with 2:25 left.
Osborne, whose team lost 29-14 in its last trip to Washington back in 1992, said he was pleased with the victory.
"I think Washington has an excellent football team," Osborne said. "I think they're a team that could certainly go all the way, although I don't know because it's so early in the year. We were awfully impressed with them coming into this game and were real fortunate to come out of here with a win."
More on the Game|
Husker football is back on the map Terry Douglass says the mystique has returned
Silencing the critics Frost masters Husky defense early
Line clears way for backs Offensive front key in running past Huskies
Game Notes: Streaks, stumbles and great performances
|To the Huskers Archive||Top of Page|