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With all the parts in place, Big Red Machine rolls
SEPTEMBER 26, 1998

by CHRIS DUFRESNE Los Angeles Times
AP PHOTO

DeAngelo Evans rushes for three touchdowns in Nebraska's 55-7 victory.

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Washington didn't need a game plan against Nebraska on Saturday. It didn't need directions to Memorial Stadium. It didn't need to stretch before the game.

Washington needed Hurricane Georges.

If ever a game deserved cancellation, it was this Category Two football blowout.

The good news for the Huskies emerging from TSN's No. 2 Nebraska's 55-7 victory before a crowd of 76,372 was that it marked the end of the series between the schools.

Washington, ranked No. 10 and allegedly representing all that is good about the Pac-10, might want to start scouting hotels for the Christmas Day Mele Kalikimaka Bowl.

How bad was it?

Washington gave up more first-half points, 35, than James Phelan's Huskies gave up the entire 1937 regular season, 33.

It was the worst defeat for Washington since a 52-0 loss at Alabama in 1975, the fifth game of Don James' regime.

Nebraska (4-0) attempted only nine passes in the game, rushing for 434 yards as Washington rushed for cover.

Nebraska totaled 527 yards, averaging 6.8 yards a play.

Tailback DeAngelo Evans, who missed all of last year because of an abdominal injury and the first three games of this season because of a knee injury, rushed for 146 yards in 13 carries -- a cool 11.2 yards-a-carry average -- and scored on first-half runs of 60, 14 and 19 yards.

Any questions about Nebraska being ready to defend its co-national title?

"We made a statement as a team," Evans said. "We can get better, but this is Nebraska. We're going to run the football at you, that's what we did today."

Washington quarterback Brock Huard, mentioned as a Heisman Trophy candidate entering the game, needs to scramble now to make Pac-10 honorable mention.

Huard misfired under a heavy rush in the first half, missing open receivers on key plays that might have kept Husky hopes alive.

Huard completed 18-of-32 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown. He was sacked three times, fumbled twice and was intercepted twice.

Washington, which fell to 2-1, had six turnovers.

"You just want to crawl in a hole," Huard said. "You can't believe this happened on national television. But there's no moaners or complainers on our team. You're not going to see anybody pointing fingers."

Showdown?

Before the game, much was made of Washington's boast of being the last school to defeat Nebraska in Lincoln, in 1991. Not mentioned much in the pregame babble was that the 1991 Washington Huskies were actually good, winning a share of the national title that year.

Nebraska, for the record, has won 45 consecutive games at Memorial Stadium since that oh-so-distant defeat to Washington.

Saturday marked the Cornhuskers' 18th consecutive victory and, looking ahead, only two upcoming opponents -- at Kansas State on November 14, perhaps Colorado in Lincoln on November 17 -- stand in the way of an undefeated Nebraska playing January 4 in the Fiesta Bowl for a fourth national title in the 1990s.

"I always said this team could be just as good or better than last year's," Nebraska center Josh Heskew said.

But not even Heskew could fathom scoring 55 points on Washington. "I'm kind of in awe myself," he said.

Hard to believe there were turning points in a game that was 35-0 before vendors set out their condiments, but let's give it a shot.

Washington deferred the opening kickoff, electing to give Nebraska the ball first, and had the Cornhuskers pinned second-and-20 at their 8.

Had Washington forced a punt, and scored on its first possession, perhaps it sets a different tone.

Instead, Nebraska quarterback Bobby Newcombe scrambled for 9 yards on second down and 13 more on third and 11 to pick up the first down.

The Cornhuskers didn't look back, capping an 82-yard drive on Newcombe's 3-yard scoring run.

Turning point two: Trailing, 21-0, early in the second quarter, Washington faced second-and-1 at the Nebraska two. After calling a timeout, Huskies coaches decided it might be neat to take a page from Nebraska and run the option around right end.

Huard, a lefthander mind you, took the snap, rolled right and pitched with his offhand to tailback Willie Hurst, who fumbled on impact with Cornhusker cornerback Erwin Swiney, who recovered the loose ball at the 10.

From there, Nebraska drove 90 yards in seven plays and made it 28-0 when Evans raced 19 yards for a touchdown with 10:59 left in the second quarter.

There were suggestions that Nebraska might be vulnerable after losing 12 starters from last year's 13-0 team and struggling at times in three early season victories.

But with Newcombe and Evans returning from injuries, the Cornhuskers look as invincible under first-year coach Frank Solich as any of Tom Osborne's three national championship teams.

"Honestly, a lot of the offense we did not use," Solich said.

Now there's a scary thought.