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Despite 57-0 rout over Missouri, Cornhuskers lament shortcomings

(c) 1995 Copyright The News and Observer Publishing Co.
(c) 1995 Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. (Oct 15, 1995 - 20:12 EDT) -- You would have thought Nebraska had lost by the words coming from center Aaron Graham. The team's senior captain was practically glum after a 57-0 rout of Missouri.

Wait a minute. The defense records its first shutout of the season for the No. 2 Cornhuskers and Graham is talking gloom and doom?

"That's crazy, isn't it, if you think about the yardage and the rest," he said. "But it's one of those things where if we were clicking on all cylinders and doing the things we are capable of doing, it could have been a lot better than it was."

What was missing for Graham and the rest of the offense was the big play. There were no 50- or 60-yard runs against the Tigers; the longest play for the potent Husker offense was a 40-yard reverse by Riley Washington late in the third quarter.

Then there were Nebraska's six fumbles, none of them lost. And no 100-yard rushers for the first time this season. And five punts, the most by Nebraska this season.

"We were not a well-oiled machine," receivers coach Ron Brown said Sunday. "Fifty-seven points is a lot no matter who you play, but we look at execution. We put the ball on the ground six times even though we got them all back."

Brown said Nebraska didn't block as well against a Tigers defense ranked fifth in the Big Eight (336.2 yards per game). The Huskers finished with 475 total yards, well below their 656.2 average.

"It wasn't clicking all the time," Brown said. "Part of that was our excellent field position and how well their defense played. They were good. But we also weren't in synch."

The time is now. The Cornhuskers (6-0, 2-0 Big Eight), who have not played a ranked opponent this season, get four in the next five games starting with No. 8 Kansas State (6-0, 2-0) on Saturday.

"I don't think they will have any trouble getting up for us," Brown said. "Their defense is very experienced and has played well for several seasons. I think their defense is what has gotten them back into the picture on a national level and in the conference."

Also ahead are No. 7 Kansas, No. 9 Colorado and the regular-season finale against No. 15 Oklahoma.

Slipping out of the picture are the Tigers (2-4, 0-2), who managed just 122 total yards against Nebraska on Saturday. Missouri, which lost 30-0 at Kansas State on Oct. 7, has not scored in 10 quarters.

The back-to-back shutouts were the first since 1966 and the 57-0 deficit was the worst in Larry Smith's 19 years as a head coach.

"It can become a mental thing," Smith said. "Once we crack that goal, it will get the monkey off our back."

Missouri returns home Saturday to play Oklahoma State (1-5, 0-2), which played Kansas State tough before losing 23-17 Saturday.