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Sunday, October 18, 1998

photo: fb
Independent/Gerik Parmele
Nebraska Quarterback Bobby Newcombe breaks away from Andrew LeClair (left) and Michael Allen during a first half run.
Returning to form, Huskers trounce Kansas


Story last updated at 12:00 a.m. on Sunday, October 18, 1998
By Kevin Schuster
The Independent

LINCOLN -- Running problems. What running problems?

The Kansas defense was the temporary solution to Nebraska's struggling ground game Saturday night. The Huskers rushed for 466 yards during a 41-0 Big 12 Conference victory at Memorial Stadium.

There was nothing fancy about the Huskers offense, which posted 545 total yards and 28 first downs. Nebraska unleashed a power rushing attack at Kansas. The Jayhawk defense was powerless against it.

"We did run quite a few power-type plays at them," Nebraska coach Frank Solich said. "It ended up being an easy game to call. This was a really big win for us.

"After last week's loss, this game was monumental in terms of making sure we played hard by getting some points on the board, running the football and getting some things done defensively."

No. 8 Nebraska (6-1 overall, 2-1 in the Big 12) almost ran for more yards in the first half against Kansas (195) than it did during a struggle against Oklahoma State and a loss at Texas A&M (a combined 214).

Of course, a solid rushing effort was to be expected as Nebraska beat Kansas (2-5, 0-5) for the 30th straight time. The Jayhawks rank 99th nationally in rushing defense. They allow a Big 12-worst 219 yards a game.

"We knew we were going to have to win the game running between the tackles," Nebraska center Josh Heskew said. "We went back to basic Nebraska football and that is what made us successful. Tonight, we did not throw near as many passes as we did against Texas A&M. We changed things up a little bit, and we did a good job of it."

The 93rd meeting between Kansas and Nebraska would have been a complete blowout if it wasn't for two Husker turnovers.

Nebraska, a 37-point favorite, scored on three of four first-half possessions. Correll Buckhalter, who rushed for 133 yards and three touchdowns, found the end zone on a 32-yard run for the Huskers' sixth offensive play to make it 7-0 with 10:45 left in the first quarter.

"We moved the ball on that first drive for a score and that motivated us to score more often during the game," Nebraska quarterback Bobby Newcombe said. "That first drive was the most important of the game. The previous two games, we weren't able to move the ball at all. Tonight, we went out and put some points up right away."

Kris Brown's 27-yard field goal put Nebraska up 10-0 with 4:00 left in the first. The Huskers' most impressive first-half drive (12 plays, 73 yards that consumed 6:43) was capped by Newcombe's 1-yard run with 13 seconds left before halftime.

"We played really good perimeter defense, but they hurt us up the middle," Kansas coach Terry Allen said. "I would venture to say they had 350 to 400 yards between the tackles."

Kansas, which was plagued by an interception and three punts in the first 30 minutes, nearly took the momentum into the locker room. Jamie Harris recovered a Newcombe fumble on fourth down. However, a Kansas offside penalty gave Nebraska a second chance, which Newcombe turned into six points.

photo: fb
Independent/Gerik Parmele
Kansas linebacker Tim Bowers (16) tries to grab an apparent fumble by Nebraska running back Joel Makovicka (on ground) near the goal line in the second quarter. The ball was ruled dead before the fumble and Nebraska scored on the next play.
"We had some chances to make some things happen, and we didn't do that and things got away from us," Allen said. "We had our opportunities. Obviously, NU is a very good football team. They took over and kind of rammed it down our throats."

The lone time Kansas kept Nebraska off the scoreboard in the first half came when Dion Rayford recovered a Buckhalter fumble with 10:26 left in the second quarter.

While Kansas' defense struggled to stop Nebraska, the Blackshirts had no problem putting the clamps on an offense that ranked 20th in the nation in scoring.

The Jayhawks were limited to 220 yards (121 passing, 99 rushing) and 11 first downs.

KU quarterback Zac Wegner completed just 8 of 25 passes, including one interception.

"I don't know what to say about tonight," Wegner said. "It's frustrating for me. They're one of the nation's best defenses. I don't think they're any worse than last year's defense, and they won a national championship."

Nebraska defenders were proud to get their first shutout this season, especially after the recent battles they've encountered.

"These last couple of games we haven't been playing the kind of defense we think we should," rush end Chad Kelsay said. "To get a shut out, it makes our defense feel really good. Now, we have something we can start building on."

A shutout is something Solich didn't foresee.

"Kansas can score very quickly on you, and they have thrown the ball extremely well against everyone they've played," Solich said. "Coming into this game, I didn't see us shutting them down the way we did. They have a lot of offensive weapons. But when we're playing well and on the same page, we can be pretty tough defensively."

Nebraska added to its first-half lead with more smash-mouth football.

Buckhalter scored twice during a sloppy third quarter that featured four punts and three turnovers.

The sophomore I-back broke the 100-yard barrier on a 6-yard option TD run with 10:51 left in the third. Buckhalter added a 3-yard scoring run with 3:58 to go for a 31-0 Nebraska cushion.

"Our game plan coming in was to try and run right at them, and I think our lineman really took it to heart," Nebraska fullback Joel Makovicka said. "They wanted to beat the guys right across them, so they came in really fired up. We all came in fired up.

"After the loss, we wanted to come out and execute better," he said. "Tonight, we did do that. Anytime you get a win and you do it playing really physical football, you enjoy it that much more."

The Huskers ground assault was punctuated by a 12-play, 95-yard run-only fourth-quarter drive. Fullback Billy Legate's first career touchdown gave Nebraska a 41-point lead midway through the final period.

So for one game anyway, Nebraska's offensive woes were a thing of the past.

"We're capable of getting on people and moving people around up front," Solich said. "We've had some trouble this year getting everyone to do the right thing on the same play. But we made a lot of progress today and stayed with our blocks downfield."


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