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Huskers Complete Non-Conference Schedule Against Division I-AA Power McNeese State
Courtesy: NU Media Relations
09/30/2002
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Nebraska (3-2, 0-1) vs.
McNeese State (4-0)

DATE: Saturday, Oct. 5, 2002
TIME: 11:30 a.m. Central
SITE: Lincoln, Neb.
STADIUM: Memorial Stadium?251st Consecutive Sellout;
STADIUM CAPACITY: 73,918
FIELD: Tom Osborne Field, Lincoln, Nebraska;
SURFACE: FieldTurf (1999)
NEBRASKA RADIO: 57-station Pinnacle Sports Network (Jim Rose-Play-by-Play; Color-Adrian Fiala; Gary Sharp-Sideline)
INTERNET: Live webcast on HuskersNside.com via Huskers.com
HDTV: Available on HDNet on DirecTV channel 199 for those with HDTV set, receiver and dish
RELEASE IN PDF (click here)

After a pair of difficult road tests, Nebraska (3-2) returns to Memorial Stadium this Saturday for a non-conference matchup with McNeese State. The Cowboys enter the 11:30 a.m. game with a 4-0 record and a No. 2 national ranking in Division I-AA. The game will not be televised, but is available on the internet at Huskers.com, via HuskersNside subscription.

The Huskers dropped out of both major polls this week following a 36-14 loss at Iowa State in their Big 12 Conference opener. The loss halted Nebraska?s remarkable streak of being ranked in the Associated Press poll at a record 348 weeks. The loss at Iowa State also marked the first time since 1974 NU has suffered a setback in its league opener and coupled with a loss at Penn State two weeks earlier represented the first time since 1976 NU has dropped back-to-back regular-season games.

McNeese State is one of the top programs in Division I-AA and enters Saturday?s game with a 4-0 record and a No. 2 national ranking. The Cowboys are coming off a 38-13 victory over Western Kentucky on Saturday night. The meeting with Nebraska is McNeese State?s second against a Division I-A foe this season. The Cowboys won at Louisiana-Monroe, 24-19, on Sept. 21.

Saturday?s contest will complete the non-conference portion of Nebraska?s 2002 schedule. Nebraska opened the season with three consecutive non-conference home games, picking up victories against Arizona State, Troy State and Utah State. The Huskers suffered their first regular-season non-conference loss since 1996 with a 40-7 loss at Penn State on Sept. 14. A win over McNeese State would mark the 11th straight season in which Nebraska has gone undefeated at home in non-conference action.

Huskers Drop Conference Opener at Iowa State
Nebraska suffered its second straight loss with a 36-14 setback at Iowa State in the Huskers? Big 12 Conference opener. The loss dropped Nebraska to 3-2 on the season and 0-1 in Big 12 action, the first loss in a league opener for the Huskers since 1974.

The Huskers? day got off to a tough start when they fumbled the ball on their own side of the field on their first possession. Iowa State marched downfield and converted with a 23-yard field goal to take a 3-0 advantage midway through the first quarter. Nebraska?s second fumble of the first quarter once again put the Husker defense in a tough position. The Cyclones started on Nebraska?s 44 and used a 10-play drive to reach the end zone and jump to a 10-0 advantage.

Nebraska took just a single play to respond and cut into the Cyclone lead. Jammal Lord connected with freshman Ross Pilkington for a 90-yard touchdown pass off play action. Iowa State?s offense continued to have success and answered NU?s challenge, capping a 13-play drive with a 35-yard field goal to its their lead to 13-7 midway through the second quarter.

The Cyclones continued to have success against a weary Blackshirt defense, driving 57 yards in nine plays to take a 19-7 advantage late in the first half. The Husker defense kept Iowa State off the scoreboard near the close of the first half, when true freshman Fabian Washington picked off his second pass of the afternoon in the end zone, keeping the halftime deficit at 12 points.

Iowa State again controlled the clock to start the second half, moving 80 yards in 11 plays to surge to a 26-7 advantage. Nebraska?s strong special teams got the Huskers back into the game late in the third quarter. After a strong stand by the NU defense, Aaron Terpening and Demorrio Williams teamed up for a blocked punt, setting Nebraska up on the Cyclone 2-yard line. Fullback Judd Davies plunged in one play later to cut the ISU lead to 26-14.

Nebraska entered the fourth quarter with the ball and momentum, but Cyclone linebacker Brandon Brown intercepted a Lord pass, NU?s third turnover of the day, and returned it 29 yards to the 8-yard line. Quarterback Seneca Wallace ran in from seven yards out two plays later to give the Cyclones a comfortable 33-14 advantage. ISU added a late field goal for the final margin.

The Huskers committed five turnovers in the game, leading to 17 Cyclone points and ISU controlled the football, holding a 15-minute advantage in time of possession.

Recapping Game Five...Iowa State 36, Nebraska 14

  • The 90-yard touchdown pass from Jammal Lord to Ross Pilkington was Nebraska?s longest pass play since a 95-yard touchdown pass from Fred Duda to Freeman White against Colorado on Oct. 23, 1965. The play ranks as the third-longest pass completion in school history.
  • Junior punter Kyle Larson continued to perform at an All-American level. Larson punted five times against Iowa State, averaging 47.2 yards per punt and pinning the Cyclones inside their own 20 on two occasions. Larson ranks third nationally in punting, averaging 47.2 yards per punt and has keyed Nebraska?s No. 3 national ranking in net punting.
  • True freshman cornerback Fabian Washington made his presence known against Iowa State. Washington had a hand in forcing all three of Iowa State?s turnovers on the day, with two interceptions and a fumble caused. Washington?s two-interception day marked Nebraska?s third such game this season and gave him three picks on the year. Washington added four tackles and a pass breakup in the game.
  • Junior defensive tackle Patrick Kabongo was a stalwart on the NU defensive front, having a hand in a career-high and Nebraska season-best 15 tackles. Kabongo had three tackles for losses of three yards.
  • Senior rush end Chris Kelsay continued his strong play, recording seven tackles, including three TFL for five yards. Kelsay also had a pair of quarterback hurries on the afternoon and leads the team with 14 hurries in 2002.
  • Nebraska senior rover Aaron Terpening and junior linebacker Demorrio Williams teamed up to block a third-quarter ISU punt. Nebraska started from the Cyclone 2-yard line after the blocked punt and converted for a touchdown on a two-yard run by Judd Davies. The blocked punt was Nebraska?s third of the season and the second of the year for Williams. Nebraska has converted all three blocked punts into touchdowns. Both of the previoius blocked punts were against Arizona State, with one returned for a touchdown and the other setting Nebraska up inside the 10-yard line.
  • The loss marked the first time Nebraska had suffered back-to-back losses in regular-season games since 1976, when NU lost at Iowa State and to Oklahoma in Lincoln.
  • Iowa State?s victory snapped the Huskers? nine-game winning streak in the series and marked just the Cyclones second win in the last 25 meetings between the two schools.
  • Nebraska had its streak of successful conference openers snapped at 27 games. The Huskers had not lost a league opener since a 21-10 setback against Missouri in Lincoln to open the 1974 Big Eight campaign.

Nebraska Head Coach Frank Solich
Coach Frank Solich (Nebraska, 1966) is in his fifth season at the helm of the Husker program with a 45-11 school and career record (.804). With 11 wins in 2001, Solich moved into a tie for fourth on the all-time Division I list for victories in the first four seasons as a head coach. He will officially qualify to rank among his peers after this season with five years as a head coach, and with an .804 winning percentage, would rank third among active coaches in Division I-A.

Coach Solich became just the third first-year Nebraska head coach to record nine wins in his first season at the helm, joining a pair of Hall of Fame Coaches?Tom Osborne (9-2-1 in 1973) and Bob Devaney (9-2 in 1962). Solich posted a 9-4 record in his first season, despite being hit heavy with injuries. He posted the best record of any Husker second-year coach as his team posted a 12-1 record in 1999, leading NU to a Big 12 championship and No. 2 (coaches poll) and No. 3 (AP poll) final national rankings. Solich?s 21 wins in his first two years at NU bettered Devaney?s previous school record of 19 and ranked in a tie for third all time among Division I coaches in their first two years at the helm. He went 10-2 in 2000 and his 31 wins in three years bettered both Osborne and Devaney?s 28 wins in their first three years. His 42 wins in four years is also a school best.

Solich is the only Husker coach to have won 12 games in either of his first two seasons. Devaney won nine games in his first year, 10 his second year, nine in his third and 10 in his fourth, while Osborne won nine, nine, 10 and nine, respectively. Devaney won his first conference title his second year, while Osborne tied for his first title in his third year at the helm. Solich was named the 1999 Big 12 Coach of the Year by his league peers and the AP after winning the league championship in 1999, and was named coach of the year by the conference coaches a second time in 2001.

Solich has continued Nebraska's winning tradition the Husker way?by identification of athletic talent regardless of position or recruiting rank; with successful recruitment nationwide of the country's best student-athletes; developing local talent and utilizing the envious Husker walk-on program; and by providing the best athletic facilities and support available for the student-athletes.

Although defensive coordinator Charlie McBride retired after the 1999 season, the rest of Coach Osborne's staff is intact. Solich replaced himself with recruiting specialist and running backs coach Dave Gillespie, who was the recruiting coordinator at Nebraska when the Huskers signed the athletes who won back-to-back national championships in 1994 and 1995, and hired former Husker Jeff Jamrog away from New Mexico State to replace McBride in January of 2000. Counting Solich, five members of the Husker coaching staff played for Nebraska. Solich is one of 17 current Division I-A football coaches who played for and now coach their alma mater.

Solich was named Nebraska?s 26th head coach on Dec. 10, 1997, after serving as an NU assistant for 19 years. He played fullback for Hall of Fame Coach Bob Devaney, lettering in 1963-64-65. Solich was the first Husker running back to rush for 200 yards in a game and remains the only fullback to accomplish that feat. He also lettered for the NU baseball team in 1965. After serving as a local high school football coach for 14 years, Solich took over the NU freshman program and posted a 19-1 record from 1979 to 1982. He was elevated to NU?s running backs coach after four seasons, a position he held for 15 years (1983-97). He was promoted to assistant head coach in 1991 and head coach following the 1997 season. Solich earned his bachelor?s and master?s degrees from NU in 1966 and 1972, respectively.

Darlington Owns 300 Wins at Nebraska
Nebraska secondary coach George Darlington has been a part of the Husker coaching staff since 1973, Tom Osborne?s first season as head coach. Darlington was a part of all 255 of Osborne?s victories at Nebraska and has been a part of 45 Husker victories with Frank Solich at the helm?good for a total of 300 victories as a member of the NU coaching staff. The long-time NU coach was presented the game ball and a plaque on the field by Solich at the conclusion of the Husker win over Utah State.

"You can travel all across the country and it would be hard to find another coach that has reached that accomplishment," Solich said. "That is an amazing feat that George has accomplished. He is a great coach that has recruited a number of great athletes."

Solich was on the mark regarding Darlington?s accomplishment. Research indicates that Darlington is the first Division I-A assistant to be a part of 300 victories at the same school. Husker offensive line coach Milt Tenopir who joined Osborne?s staff after one season is not far behind Darlington with 291 wins as a Husker assistant. Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, a member of Joe Paterno?s staff for 31 seasons retired following the 1999 season after being a part of 293 Nittany Lion victories.

Coaches? Game Day Assignments
Following the lead of Tom Osborne, Coach Solich is his own offensive coordinator, calling the plays from the sideline. Craig Bohl, who tutors the linebackers and is in his third season as defensive coordinator is also on the sideline, along with receivers coach Ron Brown, quarterbacks coach Turner Gill, defensive line coach Jeff Jamrog and kickers/offensive line coach Dan Young. Assisting from above in the press box are rush ends coach Nelson Barnes, defensive backs coach George Darlington, running backs coach Dave Gillespie and offensive line coach Milt Tenopir.

Huskers Continue Non-Conference Success in 2002
Nebraska completes its 2002 non-conference schedule with Saturday?s game against McNeese State. A victory would give Nebraska a 4-1 record in its non-conference schedule and mark the 21st straight season Nebraska has lost one game or fewer in non-league action. The Huskers are 17-1 in non-conference games under Head Coach Frank Solich and have not lost a non-conference game at home under his direction. In fact, Nebraska?s last non-conference home came in 1991 at the hands of fourth-ranked Washington. Since that loss, Nebraska has reeled off 30 straight non-conference home victories, including wins over Arizona State, Troy State and Utah State to open the 2002 campaign.

Extra Special Teams
Like his predecessors Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne, NU Head Coach Frank Solich has stressed the importance of the Husker special teams. Entering the 2002 campaign, Solich has mentioned on numerous occasions that this year?s kicking and coverage units had the potential to be very "special." The Husker special teams played a key role in NU?s three wins to open the season and will be a key in rebouding from back-to-back losses.

In Nebraska?s season opener, the Huskers blocked two punts, one of which was returned for a touchdown, keying a 48-10 win over Arizona State. The punt return unit stole the show against Troy State. Senior DeJuan Groce tied an NCAA record with two punt return touchdowns in NU?s 31-16 victory. The Huskers enjoyed a 20-yard advantage in average field position against Utah State due in large part to specialty units.

Here?s a quick look at Nebraska?s special teams dominance in 2002.

  • Punt Returns...Nebraska is averaging 20.3 yards on 15 punt returns this season. Groce has returned 12 punts for 262 yards, for a 21.8 average, good for second in the nation. Groce?s two punt return touchdowns vs. Troy State not only set a school record, but matched the NCAA record. His 83-yard TD was the fifth-longest punt return in school history and his 155 yards on two returns were just 15 yards shy of the school record for punt return yardage in a game. Groce is sixth at Nebraska in career punt return yards.
  • Place-kicking...Senior place-kicker Josh Brown is 4-4 on field goals in 2002 and perfect in 16 PAT attempts. Brown hit on field goals of 40 and 42 yards against Arizona State, marking the first time in his career he has made a pair of 40+-yard field goals in the same game and had a season-best 44-yarder vs. Utah State. Brown?s performance on kickoff duties should not be left unnoticed. Nineteen of his 28 kickoffs this season (3-3 vs. ISU) have ended in touchbacks. Brown was named Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week for his work in the season opener against Arizona State.
  • Punting...NU?s Kyle Larson continues to prove that he is among the nation?s top punters. Larson averaged better than 47 yards on five punts at Iowa State and ranks third in the nation in punting with a 47.19-yard average on the season. He has also pinned the opposition inside the 20 eight times, including twice at Iowa State. Larson averaged 57.3 yards on four punts against Utah State, just off a school record. Larson, a Ray Guy Award candidate, has been NU?s nominee for Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week each of the past three weeks. Nebraska ranks third in the nation in net punting at 42.54 yards per attempt.
  • Blocked Kicks...NU has had a history of being one of the nation?s best kick blocking units. The Huskers have exhibited the same ability this season, blocking three punts in the first five games. Demorrio Williams and Lannie Hopkins each blocked a punt in the second half of Nebraska? victory over Arizona State, marking the first time since a 1999 win over Kansas State that the Huskers have had two blocked punts in the same game. Williams? blocked punt was returned six yards for a score by senior linebacker Scott Shanle. The last time NU had returned a blocked punt for a TD was at Kansas State in 2000 (Keyuo Craver). NU added its third punt block of the year at Iowa State, when Williams and senior Aaron Terpening teamed to block a third-quarter Cyclone punt, setting the Husker offense up for a touchdown.
  • Kickoff Returns...Junior Josh Davis finished 14th nationally in kickoff return average a year ago at 27.0 yards per return. This season Davis is averaging 21.75 yards per return, including a season-long 42-yarder vs. Utah State and a 41-yard return at Iowa State. Davis now ranks fourth at Nebraska in career kickoff return yardage.
  • Kick Coverage...Nebraska has allowed opponents to average just 16.0 yards on kickoff returns and only 8.6 yards on 14 punt returns this season.

Huskers Scoring in All Three Facets of Game
Nebraska has reached the end zone 19 times this season, with the offense, defense and special teams all getting into the act. Of Nebraska?s touchdowns, four have been non-offensive scores, two in each of the Huskers? first two games this season.

In the season opener against ASU, Nebraska scored via a blocked punt return and an interception return. DeJuan Groce supplied two special teams touchdowns against Troy State, returning punts 83 and 72 yards for scores, setting a school and Big 12 record and tying an NCAA record. The special teams set up a two-yard NU scoring drive at Iowa State when the Huskers blocked their third punt of the season.

The first two games this season marked the first time Nebraska has recorded two or more non-offensive scores in consecutive games since the 1996 season. In that year, NU returned an interception (Ralph Brown) and a kickoff (Kenny Cheatham) for a TD at Oklahoma and the following week vs. Missouri returned a blocked punt for a score (Terrell Farley) and recorded a safety when the Tigers fumbled the ball out of the end zone.

The Huskers have now scored by defense or special teams in six of their last 12 games dating back to last season. Seven members of the 2002 team have scored non-offensive TDs in their career led by Groce?s four scores, all punt returns. Groce also became the first Husker to score two non-offensive touchdowns in a game since Julius Jackson had an interception return and a fumble return for TDs against Southern Mississippi in 1999.

Huskers Hope to Get Back on Track in Turnover Margin
In addition to special teams excellence, the Husker coaching staff regularly preaches the importance of a positive turnover margin. The Huskers were a +1 in that department in each of the first three games this season, but a combined minus-5 in turnover margin in the past two games has played a key role in Nebraska?s losses at Penn State and Iowa State.

NU returned an interception for a touchdown against Arizona State, while the Nebraska offense did not commit a turnover. In the Troy State contest, the Huskers forced three first-quarter turnovers and committed two turnovers in the game. NU upped its season interception total to six with three picks against Utah State, while the NU offense committed a pair of turnovers.

The victory over Arizona State marked the first time since 1974 (Oregon) that Nebraska did not have a turnover in its season opener. That statistic is even more impressive considering the Huskers had a new starter at quarterback in Jammal Lord and were also breaking in three starters on the offensive front.

Lord to Pilkington TD Connection Continues Nebraska Big Play History
Nebraska?s 90-yard touchdown pass from Jammal Lord to Ross Pilkington in the second quarter at Iowa State ranked as the third-longest pass play in Husker history. The connection was the longest pass play by Nebraska since a school-record 95-yard TD pass from Fred Duda to Freeman White in 1965.

The 90-yard touchdown was the ninth play from scrimmage of 90 yards or more in NU school history and also marked the second straight year Nebraska has had a 90-plus yard play from scrimmage. Last season Heisman winner Eric Crouch broke open Nebraska?s win at Missouri with a school-record 95-yard TD run. The Huskers have had a scoring play of 90 yards or more in three straight seasons and four of five years under Frank Solich. Bobby Newcombe returned a punt 94 yards for a touchdown against Missouri in 2000, while Joe Walker brought a kickoff back 99 yards for a score in the 1998 season opener against Louisiana Tech, Solich?s first game as NU head coach.

Groce Anchors Husker Secondary; Stars on Husker Special Teams
In recent years, Nebraska has a history of having an experienced cornerback on one side of the field, with a newcomer manning the other corner. In 1996, true freshman Ralph Brown started opposite senior Michael Booker. Brown then served as a mentor for both Erwin Swiney and Keyuo Craver later in his career. Two seasons ago, Craver anchored one corner while DeJuan Groce learned the ropes as a starter at right cornerback. This season, it is Groce?s turn to handle the leadership role, as Pat Ricketts has taken over the left corner role.

Groce has shown why he is an All-America candidate and listed on the Jim Thorpe Award watch list. Groce had a pass breakup and intercepted two passes against Troy State, helping the Husker defense hold the Trojans to just 11 of 29 in the passing department. He backed up that performance with two more interceptions and a breakup against Utah State.

Groce now has 35 career PBU to rank fourth on the NU career list and is the Huskers? single-season PBU record-holder with 17 in 2000. He has eight career interceptions, including four this season, just off the Husker top 10 season list and three from the school season record of seven, held by three players. Groce?s eight career interceptions are also just off the career top 10 list. Dana Stephenson holds the NU career mark with 14 picks from 1967 to 1969. Groce ranks fourth nationally in interceptions per game at 0.80 and is one of only eight players to have four or more interceptions this season.

Groce is also an electrifying force on Husker special teams. Against Troy State, he set a school record and tied an NCAA mark with two punt return touchdowns. Groce averages 16.3 yards per punt return in his career and is averaging 21.8 yards on 12 returns this season to rank second in the nation. In his career, Groce ranks sixth on the NU punt return yardage list and is in position to finish his career in second place on the chart, behind only 1972 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers.

Senior Rush End Kelsay Leading Blackshirt Front Seven
Senior rush end Chris Kelsay was a preseason All-Big 12 pick by the league?s media. In addition to his first-team all-league notice by the conference media, Kelsay was a first-team All-Big 12 pick by The Sporting News, which listed him as the nation?s No. 5 defensive end. Kelsay, a senior from Auburn, Neb., is also on preseason watch lists for the Rotary Lombardi Award and the Bronko Nagurski Award.

The 6-5, 260-pound Kelsay is anchoring the Husker defensive front in 2002. Through five games, Kelsay has nine tackles for losses totaling 46 yards, including a team-leading 4.5 sacks for 38 yards. Kelsay also leads the Huskers with 14 QB hurries, including four against Utah State and Penn State. Kelsay recorded 1.5 sacks for 17 yards and four quarterback hurries against Arizona State and added his second career two-sack game against Utah State. Kelsay has also batted down two opposing passes, all while NU?s opponents have regularly double-teamed the senior captain.

Kelsay now has 10.5 sacks and 29 tackles for loss in his Husker career. Kelsay recorded 52 total tackles as a junior, including a team-best 17 tackles for losses totaling 58 yards and five sacks.

Diedrick Continuing Husker Running Back Legacy
Senior I-back Dahrran Diedrick is the latest in a long line of outstanding Husker running backs. Diedrick was the Big 12?s leading rusher in 2001 with 1,299 yards and was a first-team All-Big 12 preseason pick in 2002 by the league?s media.

Last month, Diedrick was one of 42 players named to the preseason watch list for the Doak Walker Award, given annually to the nation's top running back. Diedrick was also named first-team preseason All-Big 12 by Football News and Athlon, which also listed him as a second-team preseason All-America pick. The Scarborough, Ontario, Canada native was also listed by Lindy?s and The Sporting News as one of the nation?s top 10 running backs entering the season.

Diedrick reached a milestone against Utah State when he became the 21st Husker to rush for 2,000 career yards. Diedrick finished the game with a season-high 93 yards on 16 carries. Diedrick moved into the top 20 on NU?s career rushing list at Penn State and now has 2,148 career yards to rank 19th in school history. He has rushed for 334 yards and two touchdowns this season and needs just 57 yards to crack NU?s top 15.

Diedrick, who scored 15 touchdowns last year, rushed for 100 or more yards in seven of his 11 regular-season appearances and scored two or more TDs in five games. If Diedrick were to reach 1,000 yards this season he would move into sixth place on NU?s career rushing list.

Thomas Among Nebraska?s Career Receiving Leaders
Senior split end Wilson Thomas is being relied on as a go-to-player in the Husker offensive attack this season. The 6-6 Thomas leads Nebraska with 15 receptions, including two touchdowns this season. He opened the season with a nine-yard TD against Arizona State, one of his three catches against the Sun Devils, and had four grabs against Troy State. Thomas grabbed his second TD of the year against Utah State on a 23-yard connection with Jammal Lord. He caught an NU season-high five passes for 49 yards against Iowa State.

The Iowa State game marked the 12th time in his career that Thomas has caught three or more passes in a game, including three games in 2002. Thomas had three or more grabs nine times last season, including six each against Oklahoma and Kansas State. He capped the 2001 regular season with a career-best 109 receiving yards against Colorado, including a career-long 78-yard reception, the longest non-scoring pass in NU school history.

Thomas has 53 career receptions and is closing fast on the Husker career top 10, just eight catches shy of a tie for ninth place on the list. With 756 career receiving yards, Thomas ranks 21st on the NU charts and is 244 yards short of becoming just the 12th Husker in school history to reach 1,000 career receiving yards.

Thomas? 37 receptions last year were the most by any Husker since All-American Irving Fryar caught 40 balls in 1983, and the sixth-most ever by a Husker. Thomas? 616 receiving yards ranked as the fifth-best single-season total in school history and was a record for Husker split ends.

Thomas has spent his past two offseasons playing for Coach Barry Collier?s Husker basketball team. Last season Thomas averaged 4.6 points and 3.8 rebounds in 16 games, including a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds against Missouri in Lincoln.

Other Huskers on Preseason Watch Lists for National Awards
Groce, Kelsay and Diedrick lead a strong group of Huskers who are candidates for major national awards. Husker linebackers Scott Shanle and Barrett Ruud are two of the 67 preseason candidates for the Butkus Award.

Ruud was Nebraska?s leading tackler in the season opener with eight stops against Arizona State and has 26 tackles on the season, despite playing with injuries ranging from a broken hand to a bruised shin and an injured knee.

Shanle, the only returning starter in NU?s linebacking corps, has also made a big impact. He returned a blocked punt for a touchdown to give NU a 24-3 advantage in the third quarter against Arizona State and was NU?s leading tackler with seven stops against Utah State. He has 22 tackles in 2002.

Senior center John Garrison has been named to the preseason watch list for the Outland Trophy and the Rimington Award, given annually to the nation's top center. The award is named in honor of former Husker Dave Rimington, a two-time Outland Trophy winner. Garrison is the leader of a re-tooled offensive line that features three first-year starters.

Junior punter Kyle Larson continues to prove he is one of the nation?s best, averaging 47.2 yards on 26 punts this season to rank third in the nation in punting average. Larson boomed four punts for a 57.3-yard average vs. Utah State, just off the single-game school record. Larson is one of 34 punters on the Ray Guy preseason watch list. For a full listing of Husker players on preseason watch lists, please see the left column on page 6.

Poll Position
Nebraska fell out of the top 25 in both polls after the loss at Iowa State, ending a streak of 348 straight weeks in the Associated Press Poll. Nebraska had been ranked in every AP weekly poll since October of 1981.

Although the Huskers have fallen from the top 25, the remaining Big 12 schedule presents Nebraska with an opportunity to re-enter the rankings this season. In addition to playing road games at nationally ranked Penn State and Iowa State to date, the Huskers have three games remaining against teams ranked in this week?s polls?Texas A&M, Texas and Kansas State.

Nebraska continues to receive votes in both polls, with 10 points in the AP poll and six from the coaches. Five Big 12 teams are ranked this week, including Texas (2 AP/2 Coaches), Oklahoma (3/3), Kansas State (13/16), Iowa State (15/18) and Texas A&M (23/23). Along with Nebraska, Colorado also received votes in both polls this week. Non-conference opponent Penn State is ranked 20th and 21st in this week?s poll, while 4-1 Arizona State is receiving votes in both polls.

Nebraska opened the 2002 season ranked in the Associated Press preseason top 25 for the 33rd consecutive season. The Huskers were ranked No. 10 in this year?s AP preseason listing, the 10th consecutive season Nebraska has opened in the Top 10. The Huskers were ranked eighth in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches preseason poll.

Nebraska?s AP preseason ranking was its lowest since opening at No. 11 in 1992, but marked the fifth straight season under Solich that NU was in the preseason top 10. Under Solich, Nebraska?s loftiest preseason ranking came in 2000, when the Huskers were listed first in both AP and coaches polls.

Three Seniors Serving as 2002 Team Captains
Three seniors were elected team captains by their teammates before the start of the season?center John Garrison, rush end Chris Kelsay and cornerback DeJuan Groce.

Kelsay is the second member of his family to serve as a Nebraska football captain, joining his brother, Chad, a captain on Solich?s first team in 1998. The Kelsays are the fifth brother combination in school history to serve as team captains, joining Mike (1983) and Andy Keeler (1988), Erik (1991) and Zach Wiegert (1994), Christian (1995) and Jason Peter (1997) and Grant (1997) and Tracey Wistrom (2001). The 2002 campaign marks the first season Nebraska has had only three captains since the 1987 campaign. The Huskers had five captains a year ago and six in 2000.

Nebraska Personnel/Injury Update
Nebraska has not been hit with major injuries since the early portion of the season when the Huskers lost a pair of defensive linemen to season-ending injuries. Senior nose tackle Jason Lohr went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in Nebraska's final scrimmage on Aug. 16. Lohr, who underwent surgery on Aug. 23, is lost for the year after missing the final 10 games of last season with an LCL tear in the same knee. In NU's victory over Arizona State, reserve defensive tackle Jared Helming also tore the ACL in his left knee and is out for the season.

At Mike linebacker, sophomore Barrett Ruud continues to be hampered by injuries. Ruud broke his left hand against Troy State, but returned to that contest with a cast and has played in each of the last three games with a cast. He has recently been slowed by a bruised knee suffered in the Utah State game and suffered a bruised right shin in the second quarter at Iowa State and did not return to the game.

I-back Thunder Collins completed his four-game suspension against Iowa State. After failing to comply with NCAA regulations, Collins was ruled ineligible. Nebraska is awaiting word from the NCAA on Collins? eligibility.

Nebraska Boasts Big 12-Best 35 Players on Opening Day NFL Rosters
Nebraska remains among the nation?s leaders in supplying talent to the National Football League. In fact, the Huskers had a Big 12-best 45 players in 2002 NFL training camps and 36 of those players currently find themselves on 2002 rosters. A full listing can be found in the left margin of this page.

Among Nebraska?s notable alumni on NFL rosters are 10-year veteran offensive guard Will Shields of the Kansas City Chiefs, who has appeared in seven consecutive Pro Bowls. Green Bay?s Ahman Green finished fourth in the NFL in rushing last season with 1,387 yards, while St. Louis defensive end Grant Wistrom has been a key component in a Ram defense that has helped the team to the Super Bowl in two of the last three years.

Since 1994, Nebraska has had 53 players selected in the NFL Draft, the third-most of any school in the nation and tops among Big 12 Conference schools.

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