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Published Sunday
September 19, 2004

Uplifted by fan mail, Dailey delivers






Nebraska 24, Pittsburgh 17

PITTSBURGH - When Joe Dailey played behind embattled quarterback Jammal Lord last year, he learned that fans can be fickle.

When Dailey had his own share of struggles last week, he learned something else. Bundles of mail arrived for Dailey last week, and, surprisingly enough, none of it was ticking. They were from fans telling the sophomore quarterback to hang in there, even after the seven interceptions, even after the late fumble last week in the loss to Southern Miss.

"I appreciated it," Dailey said. "It means everything to me. I know everybody has my back, everybody supports me."

Dailey returned the favor with a first-half performance against Pittsburgh that was nearly flawless. He threw sharp passes, some of which were dropped. He hit Ross Pilkington with a 6-yard touchdown pass, then ran untouched for a 17-yard touchdown.

By halftime, he was 10 of 15 for 128 yards. And he had no interceptions.

"I think he was extremely focused coming into this game," NU Coach Bill Callahan said. "He's going to be a good quarterback. It takes time. Under the circumstances today when you've got to go on the road and play in this system . . . I thought he did a heck of a job."

Dailey's final numbers tapered off, and he did throw a late interception. While some wondered if Callahan got conservative in the second half, with a 24-17 lead, the coach countered by calling it a "smart approach" considering the conditions and the fact that the field was choppy after absorbing nearly six inches of rain.

Dailey finished 11 of 22 for 142 yards. He threw just seven passes in the second half, and one of them was picked off. It came at a crucial time, with 4:53 to play, and led to a Pitt touchdown that made the game a knee-knocker.

On a second-down rollout pass, Dailey threw into triple coverage, and it was intercepted by H.B. Blades. Dailey trotted back to the sidelines to prepare himself for the next drive.

"If there's one thing I learned today, it's all about the fight," Dailey said. "You can't stop fighting."

Dailey took his share of shots Saturday. He was sacked twice and was belted by one of his own linemen late in the game. On the last drive, as the Huskers tried to eat away at the clock, Dailey scrambled and was accidentally flattened by Brandon Koch.

He was sore after the game but smiled about it.

"Joe looked great," Pilkington said. "He bounced back huge from last week, and that's tough for a young quarterback to do."

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