(Lincoln, Nebraska - September 9, 1996) - If one were to just look at the scorecard from the Nebraska Cornhuskers season opener against Michigan State it would appear that the Spartans ended up in third place in the game.
The Husker offense scored four touchdowns, the defense and special teams scored three, the Spartans managed just two in the Huskers 55-14 rout.
"If you have a good defensive football team you usually score on defense." said Husker defensive coordinator Charlie McBride. "...of course anytime that you can help out the offense is great."
It was the defense that got things started for the Huskers in the first quarter. After a couple of stalled drives for both teams, rover Mike Minter intercepted a Todd Schultz pass at the MSU 22 yard line. Two players later Scott Frost surged over from 11 yards out for the first score of the game.
The Husker offense struggled through the rest of the first quarter and early in the second. Sophomore Kris Brown was the next to light the scoreboard with a 35 yard field goal with just under 12 minutes left in the quarter. Then came the special teams time to shine.
Michigan State was forced to punt on their next series. Husker coaches called for the team to try and block the punt, but they forgot one thing...actually one player. "We had our guys set up to block the punt but only had 10 players on the field." The disadvantage didn't seem to bother Mike Fullman. He fielded the Paul Ediger punt at the Husker 38 yard line, broke past two defenders, turned right avoiding four more would be tacklers, then broke down the sideline 62 yards for the touchdown. "When you catch a punt you always try to get past the first guy because he's always the most dangerous" said Fullman. "Then you just hope your guys pick up the blocks and they did."
Fullman's performance had added significance since it wasn't clear a few weeks ago if he would ever play football again since he was suffering from a severe groin injury. "I really thought maybe his career was over (a few weeks back)." said Husker coach Tom Osborne. "This kind of injury has been career ending for three or four players here recently."
The Spartans tried to gain control back later in the second period only to find the Husker defense waiting for them. Husker rover Mike Minter grabbed his second interception of the day and hustled the ball 84 yards untouched for the score.
"Right before that play, they used the exact same route." said Minter "(linebacker) John Hesse came over and said their quarterback was keying on the receiver so I just broke on the ball and just took off."
A Kris Brown 24 yard field goal wrapped up the first half scoring for a 27-0 Husker lead.
In the third period it was again the defense that stepped up. With the Spartans facing fourth down deep in their own territory, Husker Eric Warfield burst through the coverage and blocked an Edinger punt attempt giving the offense 16 yards to go for the score. I-Back Ahman Green took the honors three plays later with a one yard run.
The Spartans finally got on the board midway through the third period. The key play in the Spartan drive was a 48 yard pass from Ornstein to Octavis Long.
As the quarter wound down, Husker quarterback Scott Frost showed he could get things done through the air as well when he connected with Brendan Holbein on a 35 yard scoring toss. with 1:32 left.
The Spartans took the ball back after the kickoff and may have figured that was the end of the Husker scoring in the third...they were wrong.
Ornstein faded back for a pass inside their own 10 yard line and tossed the ball out on a screen pass. Husker rush end Grant Wistrom stuck up his hand, blocked the pass and cradled it in his arms, running nine yards in for the score.
"I always thought that if I ever scored a touchdown I would throw the ball about 40 rows into the stands," said Wistrom "but then I thought we might not have a head coach anymore because Tom Osborne would have a heart attack so I thought better."
The Husker reserves took over in the fourth period adding a 30 yard touchdown pass from Matt Turman to Kenny Cheatam.
"I thought Michigan State, with a game on us and having played so well, had a good chance to beat us." said Osborne "It was a good start against what I thought was a good football team."
Despite the apparent brilliance of the blackshirts performance, McBride seemed hesitant to claim any accolades.
"If I to grade them I'd a B-plus or an A-minus for their effort." said McBride "The only reason I have the minus in their is that I thought we had a little lapse there at the beginning of the second half. But I think, even with the players we put in at the end I think their effort was fantastic and that's what you have to have to win. I think our players realize that. They know its going to be a tough year and they're not always going to be like this."