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Published Sunday, September 10, 2006

Nice and Easy

Huskers roll to 56-7 win over Nicholls State

By Dale Miller

LINCOLN -- Nebraska kept things vanilla on offense for most of the day Saturday against NCAA Div. I-AA Nicholls State.

But a big scoop of vanilla can still be satisfying even on a rainy day.

The Huskers rolled up 498 yards in total offense while coasting to a 56-7 win in front of 84,076 at Memorial Stadium.

Quarterback Zac Taylor completed 19 of 23 passes, including 12 in a row in the first half, for 202 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. Marlon Lucky led the ground game with 103 yards and a touchdown.

"This was a good game for our team today," Nebraska coach Bill Callahan said. "I'm really proud of our players and coaches and the way they focused and prepared throughout the week.

"We came off to a very fast start. I was extremely pleased with the way we began the game. It's an objective of ours to go out and play well in that first quarter, and I thought we certainly accomplished that objective."

The No. 21-rated Huskers (2-0) did their best impression of an Arena League team in the first half. They scored often and rarely needed more than 50 yards to do it.

NU converted on four first-half drives that averaged 47 yards and took 11 plays to score on three of them.

"I'm proud of our offense," Callahan said. "I thought we played efficiently today. We got a lot of good work in today. A lot of young players played, got on the field and saw a lot of time, and I'm really proud of the way we protected the football."

The Huskers stuck to the ground on 10 of the 11 plays on their first drive that culminated in Cody Glenn's 1-yard touchdown run with 8 minutes, 2 seconds left in the first quarter. Glenn added a 7-yard TD for the final score of the game and was the only one of the seven Huskers who scored to get into the end zone twice.

"We wanted to start fast, we wanted to start effectively and we wanted ball security today," offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said. "We started big. We made plays when we got open."

The passing game got unleashed starting with Nebraska's second drive, and the mix-and-match of run and pass kept the Colonels' defense on its heels the rest of the day.

Dane Todd scored his first career touchdown on a 1-yard pass from Taylor with 28 seconds left in the first quarter, and Matt Herian added a 19-yard grab to make it 21-0 with 12:54 remaining in the half.

"We ran the ball but we wanted to mix it up and throw it, too," Norvell said. "Zac threw the ball well inthe rain. We practice (throwing) with a wet ball and the guys laugh about it."

Taylor said the steady rain did pose some difficulties.

"It was tough," he said. "We wanted to get some throws in there. The first 15 plays we were going to pound the ball."

Callahan agreed: "I thought Zac was very efficient. We just wanted to grind it out. This type of game was played in some conditions that we might possibly play in the later part of the year, so it was a good weather game for us.

"With a bad weather day, handling the ball, throwing it, protecting, running the ball and having the great ball security we had, I came away really pleased from that."

A missed 37-yard field goal by Jordan Congdon ended Nebraska's only non-scoring drive of the first half. After another short appearance by the Blackshirts, the Huskers capped off one more short-field drive with a 1-yard Lucky run 23 seconds before the half to take a 28-0 lead.

Nebraska's one long scoring play came in the third quarter when Maurice Purify hauled in a 42-yard Taylor pass.

Purify's 61 receiving yards led the Huskers, who had 10 different players make receptions. Frantz Hardy added a 14-yard TD reception in the third quarter.

"We're fortunate to be able to do that," wide receivers coach Ted Gilmore said. "We spread the ball around. Last week (10) different guys touched the ball. ...It's nice that (opponents) can't zero in on one guy. When you spread the ball around, it makes the (receivers') job easier and my job easier."

While Nebraska's offense camped out in Nicholls State territory, the NU defense only allowed the Colonels to cross midfield on three of their 13 possessions and run a total of 50 plays.

Broderick Cole's 1-yard run broke the shutout bid with 13:33 left in the game and was set up by Grant Thorne's 49-yard rumble.

"Other than the big play (by Thorne), I was happy with how we played," Husker linebacker Stewart Bradley said. "We gave them some yards because of our mistakes."

Nicholls State only attempted three passes in the game with all falling incomplete. The Colonels gained 187 yards on the ground.

"Defensively, the only down side is that when you play an option team you're not going to get a lot of work in terms of the ball being thrown," Callahan said. "There were only three pass attempts, so we didn't get a chance or an opportunity to evaluate pass coverage because of the style of the attack we were defending."

One thing the blowout did allow Nebraska to do was get plenty of players into the game. That never hurts, especially heading into a showdown against USC.

"It's amazing how fresh I feel," Bradley said. "I used to feel like a 70-year-old man after games last year."

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2006 Husker Schedule
Sep 02 Louisiana Tech
Sep 09 Nicholls State
Sep 16 @ USC
Sep 23 Troy
Sep 30 Kansas
Oct 07 @ Iowa State
Oct 14 @ Kansas State
Oct 21 Texas
Oct 28 @ Oklahoma State
Nov 04 Missouri (Homecoming)
Nov 11 @ Texas A&M;
Nov 24 Colorado

The Last Word

"The key is our o-line play. Kurt Mann will not play this weekend....and possibly not for the rest of the season. Not a good thing. This is going to hurt us." - Jarvis Redwine in the Huskers Forum.
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