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Published Sunday, September 5, 2004

Mann has solid start at center


By Kevin Schuster
sports.desk@theindependent.com

LINCOLN ��Kurt Mann isn't a fan of this new college football rule: Officials calling out numbers on a penalty.

He could have blended into the huddle after Nebraska quarterback Joe Dailey had a 65-yard touchdown pass to Willie Amos nullified by Mann's holding penalty on the third Husker possession. But referee John Laurie let 77,471 Memorial Stadium fans know that offense No. 64 committed the infraction.

"I thought that was a bad deal," Mann said. "It wouldn't have been bad if we hadn't scored on it."

Was Mann guilty as charged?

"I am not going to comment on that one," Mann said.

Mann, a 2002 Grand Island Senior High graduate, had many memories better than that yellow flag from his first collegiate start.

There were the 581 total and 363 rushing yards Nebraska gained in a 56-17 victory over Western Illinois during coach Bill Callahan's first game on the Husker sidelines.

"It was definitely an experience to see us move the ball like that and the points we put up," Mann said.

Nebraska found the end zone on six of its opening eight possessions. The Huskers rolled up 398 yards and 21 first downs in the first half.

Sure, Nebraska committed six turnovers. But don't blame any on Mann's snapping.

"There were no problems with the center to quarterback exchange," Nebraska offensive line coach Dennis Wagner said.

Mann became the Huskers' center of attention after Richie Incognito was indefinitely suspended from the team last week. Callahan was pleased with the 21-year-old Mann's performance.

"Kurt, I thought, played very well," Callahan said. "To his credit, he's worked very hard and he came in in a tough situation and he's an inexperienced guy. But now, he's got experience -- he has no more excuses. He's going to have to play and probably play again, so he's a guy that we're going to have to rely on."

Mann was surprised Nebraska had 145 more rushing yards (363) than passing (218).

Senior left tackle Mike Erickson didn't share that sediment, though.

"We knew coming in that we were still going to run the ball, like good old Nebraska," Erickson said. "We just had to get hats on hats up front and let the backs do their jobs."

Junior right offensive tackle Seppo Evwaraye joined Mann as a first-time starter on the offensive line. Nebraska junior I-back Cory Ross, who rushed for a game-high 125 yards, gave the revamped line high marks.

"I got to give them an A," Ross said. "The unit did a great job. That's what we wanted out of them."

Still, there are areas where improvement is needed before Saturday's home game against Southern Mississippi.

"The kids executed well," Wagner said. "I thought the tempo and pace slowed down in the second half. It's going to be a learning experience all year. There are plenty of things we need to improve on to beat Southern Miss."


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