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Published Sunday
October 31, 2004

Game-winning scoop thrills walk-on Ickes

BY MITCH SHERMAN

 

WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER

SLIDE SHOW


»

Nebraska 24, Missouri 3

LINCOLN - You probably don't know much about Adam Ickes.

He's a reserve linebacker at Nebraska, a walk-on from Page, Neb., whose brother, Matt, preceded him at NU. The Ickes brothers went to Orchard High School, about a half-hour east of O'Neill in northern Nebraska.

Of the 6-foot-2 junior, Barrett Ruud said: "He's probably got the best mustache on the team."

And now Adam Ickes has scored a touchdown.

Ickes scooped up a punt blocked by Andrew Shanle and scooted 16 yards into the end zone Saturday. His touchdown, with 9:42 to play in the first half, was the game-winner. It put the Huskers up 10-3 and symbolized an afternoon of kicking-game domination that played a giant role in the 24-3 win over Missouri.

"I dream about it every Friday night," Ickes said. "Scoring a touchdown is a great feeling, not something I was expecting."

The Huskers capitalized on two Missouri punt plays, also recovering a fumble by MU punter Matt Hoenes late in the third quarter. Shanle fell on that one, and Nebraska I-back Cory Ross immediately scored on a 15-yard run to give the Huskers a 17-3 lead.

In addition, NU freshman Brandon Jackson nearly broke a kickoff return in the second quarter, going 40 yards to help establish a field-position edge for the rest of the half. And the Huskers held Missouri in check on special teams. The Tigers returned one punt and one kickoff for a total of 37 yards.

It was quite a turnaround from early this season, when Nebraska struggled mightily on special teams in two of its three nonconference games.

"All the coaches came together and really worked us on it," Ickes said. "They were pretty critical of us in practice."

Assistant Coach Bill Busch, the NU special teams coordinator, drew praise from Coach Bill Callahan after the victory.

"It's huge," Busch said of the special-teams edge, "because it deflates the other team."

The improved play began before Saturday.

Strong safety Daniel Bullocks scored on a botched Kansas State punt last week. But the Shanle block of Hoenes was the Huskers' first of the year. It came on a new play, installed last week in practice to capitalize on Shanle's speed.

The sophomore from St. Edward, Neb., showed that speed on several blitzes while filling in for the injured Josh Bullocks against Kansas State. It transferred Saturday to special teams.

"Andrew Shanle is one of the fastest guys I've ever seen," Ickes said.

Shanle bolted through a hole in the middle of the Tigers' line to cleanly take the football off the foot of Hoenes.

"He blocked it because he blocks them in practice," Busch said. "It was no magic. He does it every day."

Said Shanle: "Plays like that are something that we weren't getting early in the season. But we've talked about how much we needed it. We've needed to get the whole sideline more involved in being excited."

Shanle, Ickes and reserve linebacker Bo Ruud seem to epitomize Nebraska's effort on special teams. Each grew up near here, watching their older brothers play for the Huskers.

Ickes said he often talks with the younger Ruud about scoring on a play just like he did Saturday, when the ball bounces exactly the right way into his hands.

"We all just want to contribute, to get on the field and help in any way," Shanle said. "We're all happy to be doing what we're doing. The special teams play, we knew it was going to come together. Even if it's later in the season than we wanted, it happened."

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Copyright ©2004 Omaha World-Herald®. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, displayed or distributed for any purpose without permission from the Omaha World-Herald.




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