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Published Sunday, September 12, 1999

Blackshirts dominate again

Last modified at 12:31 a.m. on Sunday, September 12, 1999

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   By Dale Miller
The Independent

LINCOLN -- The Nebraska defense is 2-for-2.

For the second straight week, the Blackshirts met their goal of holding their opponent off the scoreboard.

One week after Iowa only managed one score on a blocked punt, NU shut out California 45-0 at Memorial Stadium Saturday.

"Every time we go out we try to dominate the other team and shut them out," defensive lineman Steve Warren said. "However, Cal played hard, came off the ball well the whole game and gave a great effort. This was a big confidence builder for us."

Senior Will linebacker Eric Johnson said he isn't surprised at the defense's success in the first two games of the season.

"We worked hard all summer," he said. "It is a great thing to pitch a shutout. That is the goal for us every time we step out on the field as Blackshirts. If you don't score, you can't win."

In the first two games, the defense has given up 314 yards of total offense, 97 yards rushing and 16 first downs while causing six turnovers, including three against Cal.

The strong defensive effort helped the NU offense start most of its drives with good field position.

"It is great to keep the (NU) offense on the field," said Johnson, who had one of the Huskers' five sacks against Cal. "We want to give them good field position so they have more motivation to put that bad boy in there for a score."

Nebraska coach Frank Solich said the Blackshirts have played well, but they haven't faced their toughest tests of the season yet.

"I don't really know where Iowa is at as an offensive team yet," he said. "We'll find out as the season goes on. Cal has an inexperienced offensive line and two quarterbacks who aren't real experienced in their system.

"I don't want to take anything away from the performance of the defense. They've done all we've asked and all that is possible for them to do.

"They will get tested down the road much more than they have these first two games," he said. "They know there will be times when it's not so easy, and they're looking forward to those times. They enjoy challenges."

California coach Tom Holmoe was impressed with the NU defense.

"I would just like to take my hat off to Nebraska," he said. "We had a couple of opportunities to put the ball in the endzone, but our mistakes cost us.

"Carlos Polk is one of the best middle linebackers that I have seen in a while. He plays side to side very well. Mike Brown is also one of the better defensive players that I have seen."

Cornerback Ralph Brown, who had one of two NU interceptions, said the defense won't be overconfident after its success to open the season.

"We don't have a false sense of dominance," he said. "We do have confidence in ourselves. We want to prove that we can play with anybody."

Cal did have some offensive success early. The Bears gained 73 yards in the first quarter but only got 72 yards the rest of the game.

"I think they just caught us off-guard (in the first quarter)," Warren said. "We were expecting them to pass, but they kept running. Any team is going to get some yards every now and then."

Johnson said: "We made adjustments after we saw their blocking schemes. We have great coaches who make quick adjustments after they see things happen."

For the first time since 1997's games against Texas Tech, Kansas and Oklahoma, the Blackshirts have held two straight opponents to less than 200 yards of total offense.

A solid rush from the defensive line kept the Cal quarterbacks from having much time to set up. That was a big reason the Bears completed only 8 of 26 passes for 105 yards.

"The front line did a great job and had a great rush," rover Mike Brown said. "They had a ton of sacks and pressure."

Ralph Brown said that relentless push up front paid off as the game wore on.

"You could see it in their eyes they were frustrated," he said. "It showed that our defense was doing its job. When the offense gets frustrated, it is hard to execute plays."

But the Blackshirts did get some help in posting the shutout. Cal kicker Ignacio Brache had two field goal attempts bounce off the left upright of the south endzone goal post.

"We got the shutout because they missed the field goals," Mike Brown said. "But you always need luck in football."

Johnson was happy that both kicks clanged off the goal post.

"It was a real relief when he missed," he said. "I was glad that it gave us a chance to keep that zero up there (on the scoreboard)."

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