Huskers run all over Tech
BY STEVEN M. SIPPLE / Lincoln Journal Star
Nebraska quarterback Zac Taylor can remember much tougher days on the football field than Saturday.
“We were just kind of doing whatever we wanted,” Taylor said of the Huskers’ West Coast offense. “Those type of games are really fun.”
Unless, of course, you’re a defender chasing streaking Nebraska receivers — and there were plenty of them Saturday.
Taylor completed passes to nine different players as 20th-ranked Nebraska began the 2006 season with a 49-10 dismantling of Louisiana Tech before 85,181 at newly-expanded Memorial Stadium. Photos | Blog
A senior from Norman, Okla., Taylor finished 22-for-33 passing for 287 yards and three touchdowns, with one interception.
So expansive was the Huskers’ passing attack that four tight ends made touchdown grabs.
So sound was the offensive line that Taylor wasn’t sacked and faced minimal pressure.
After stumbling from the gate offensively, Nebraska scored on four straight possessions during a span that started late in the first quarter and ended early in the third, pushing the Huskers’ lead to 28-10. The Huskers never trailed and were in control throughout most of the afternoon while winning their 21st consecutive opener.
With four I-backs sharing playing time, as expected, Nebraska pounded out 252 rushing yards. Cody Glenn led all rushers with 88 yards on 13 carries, and Marlon Lucky — who started the game — reeled off 79 yards on 13 attempts. Both scored touchdowns.
“That’s the plan, to be balanced,” Taylor said. “We ran the ball to the point where we got them locked down. They were thinking ‘run,’ and we went with play-action and hit (Matt) Herian deep and things like that.
“It’s great to have the potential to mix things up.”
Herian, a senior tight end, making his first game appearance since breaking his leg in October 2004, began the scoring with a 13-yard reception with 1:54 left in the first quarter. He ended with three receptions for 61 yards.
Nebraska wound up with 584 yards of total offense, its most since accumulating 595 in a 2002 triumph over Division I-AA McNeese State.
Turns out, Nebraska’s off-season emphasis on improving its rushing game paid off, at least on this day. Last season the Huskers finished 107th nationally in rushing with an average of 96.0 yards per game.
Nebraska head coach Bill Callahan said the Huskers on Saturday often featured “heavy” personnel sets, meaning plenty of tight ends on the field at once.
“We had two-, three- and four-tight end sets during the course of the game,” Callahan said. “I felt we could blend in some play-action with that.”
Louisiana Tech, with only two defensive starters returning from last year’s 7-4 squad, seemed confused. Taylor at one point fired completions on 12 of 13 attempts.
The Bulldogs played a 3-4 defense much of the time with a lot of man-to-man pressure.
“We just took advantage of coverages they were running, and there was great play-calling,” Taylor said.
Nebraska’s offensive line received ample criticism last season as Taylor was sacked 38 times.
“Looking at films from last year, we thought their offensive line was going to be a weakness and something we could really exploit,” said Louisiana Tech defensive lineman Ben McGilton.
However, Nebraska “made adjustments to what we did,” he said. “They were definitely the strongest. When they get their hands on you, it’s tough to get them off.”
Nebraska used seven- and eight-man protection schemes to “lessen the exposure on the quarterback,” Callahan said. In other words, the Huskers are trying to keep Taylor healthy.
His performance Saturday was “very solid,” Callahan said.
“His reads were on time, and I thought his third-down execution was excellent,” Callahan said. “That’s what really stood out in my mind.”
Indeed, Nebraska was 11-for-16 on third-down conversions.
Of course, it helps when receivers are running wide open.
Reach Steven M. Sipple at 473-7440 or firstname.lastname@example.org.