Nebraska (5-2, 1-1) at
Oklahoma State (2-4, 0-2)
DATE: Saturday, Oct. 19, 2002
Nebraska hope to continue to build momentum after a pair of home victories the past two weekends, including a 24-13 win over Missouri on Saturday in the Huskers? conference home opener. The victory evened Nebraska?s Big 12 record at 1-1 and improved Nebraska to 5-2 on the 2002 season.
The Huskers will be looking to find success on the road, after dropping September road games at Penn State and Iowa State. Nebraska has lost four straight games away from Lincoln overall, but will look to snap that streak in a setting that has been friendly to the Huskers in the past. Nebraska owns a 15-1-1 record in games played in Stillwater and has won 11 straight games at Oklahoma State.
Oklahoma State enters this weekend?s game with a 2-4 overall record and stands 0-2 in Big 12 Conference play. Three of the Cowboys? four losses this season have come against nationally ranked opponents, including a two-point loss at Texas two weeks ago. The matchup with Nebraska will be Oklahoma State?s first home game in nearly a month. The Cowboys own a 2-1 record at Lewis Field this year, with their lone loss to UCLA.
A Husker win on Saturday would continue a remarkable streak of success against Oklahoma State. Nebraska owns a 35-2-1 advantage in the all-time series between the schools and Oklahoma State has not defeated the Huskers since 1961.
Husker Defense Steps Up in Victory over Mizzou, Rushing Game Gets Untracked
Nebraska used a dominant second-half defensive performance and an electrifying punt return touchdown by DeJuan Groce to erase a 13-7 Missouri lead and post a 24-13 victory over the Tigers last Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
Missouri capitalized on a Nebraska fumble on the Huskers? first offensive play and moved 33 yards in four plays to forge a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the contest. Nebraska marched 64 yards in nine plays late in the first quarter to even the game at 7-7. True freshman David Horne capped the drive with a five-yard TD run, the first score of his Nebraska career.
Missouri responded with an 11-play drive that covered 75 yards and moved to the Nebraska one-yard line. However, the NU defense rose to the occasion, and the Tigers settled for a field goal and a 10-7 advantage at the end of one quarter. Mizzou added a 44-yard field goal on its first drive of the second quarter and had a 13-7 edge with 9:14 to play in the first half. At that point, Missouri had gained 169 yards of total offense and picked up nine first downs.
Late in the second quarter Missouri moved to the Nebraska 34, but Fabian Washington broke up a pass on a MU fourth-down attempt, giving the ball to the Husker offense with less than three minutes to play before halftime. Horne broke 30 yards up the middle on the first play of the drive, and Jammal Lord found tight end Aaron Golliday for a one-yard TD pass to give NU a 14-13 advantage at the half.
Nebraska broke open the game with a big play midway through the third quarter, when Groce fielded a Brock Harvey punt and raced 89 yards down the Husker sideline for his third punt return TD of the season. The return gave the Huskers a 21-13 advantage and place-kicker Josh Brown gave NU breathing room with a 42-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
The NU running game and the Blackshirt defense took control from there. The Huskers controlled the ball in the second half with a 20:20-9:40 advantage in second-half time of possession. Nebraska also totaled 177 of its 325 rushing yards after halftime. Meanwhile, the defense kept quarterback Brad Smith and the Tiger offense under wraps. Mizzou gained just 28 total yards and picked up two first downs in the second half and had only 51 yards after grabbing the 13-7 advantage in the second quarter.
Recapping Game Seven...Nebraska 24, Missouri 13
DeJuan Groce scored his third punt return touchdown of the season on an 89-yard return in the third quarter. The touchdown was the third-longest punt return in NU history, and the second of 89 yards or more in the past three seasons against Missouri, joining Bobby Newcombe?s school-record 94-yard TD in 2000. Groce?s three punt return TDs this season tie NU?s school record, set by Johnny Rodgers in 1971. Groce is just one off the NCAA record of four, held by eight players. With 114 punt return yards on Saturday, Groce moved his career total to 885 yards and passed Larry Wachholtz (788 yards), Tyrone Hughes (817) and Newcombe (829) to move into second on the NU chart. Groce trails only Rodgers? 1,515 yards from 1970 to 1972.
Junior Josh Davis had four kickoff returns for 111 yards before leaving with a left quadricep injury in the second quarter. Davis and Groce keyed the Huskers to a 225-29 advantage in return yards.
Quarterback Jammal Lord led Nebraska in rushing for the fifth time this season with 98 yards on 17 carries, including a 35-yard scamper in the third quarter.
Tight end Aaron Golliday caught a one-yard TD pass from Lord to put the Huskers up 14-13 just before halftime. It was his first TD reception in a regular-season game and second in his career, as he also had a 13-yard TD reception vs. Tennessee in the 2000 Fiesta Bowl.
Freshman split end Ross Pilkington has caught at least one pass in each of the last five games. Pilkington had a 17-yard catch for a first down on NU?s first scoring drive.
I-back David Horne had a career-best 88 yards rushing, including 10 carries for 72 yards before halftime. Horne had 81 yards in his debut vs. McNeese State the previous week. Horne had four carries for 46 yards on NU?s go-ahead drive at the end of the second quarter, including a career-long 30-yard scamper on the first play of the drive.
Nebraska trailed by nearly five minutes in possession time at halftime, but held the ball for more than 20 minutes in the second half to finish with a 32:58 to 27:02 advantage for the game. Missouri ran just 23 plays in the second half.
Senior place-kicker Josh Brown kicked a 42-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, his sixth field goal of the season, including four of 40 yards or longer. Brown?s streak of consecutive field goals ended with a missed 35-yarder late in the game. Brown scored six points in the game to move past Ahman Green into fourth place on the NU career scoring list with 271 career points.
The Husker defense limited Missouri to just 220 total yards, half of the Tigers? 441-yard average entering the game. Tiger QB Brad Smith was held to 157 total yards, well under his average of 332 total yards entering the game. NU?s Blackshirts allowed just 11 first downs, including just one by rush.
The Husker defense recorded four sacks in the game, including two for five yards lost by senior rush end Demoine Adams. Rush end Trevor Johnson and defensive tackle Patrick Kabongo split a sack and rover Lannie Hopkins accounted for Nebraska?s final sack.
Nebraska?s victory was its 26th straight home win and the 252nd straight sellout at Memorial Stadium. It also marked the 25th straight year the Huskers have won their conference home opener.
Nebraska Head Coach Frank Solich
Coach Frank Solich (Nebraska, 1966) is in his fifth season at the helm of the Husker program with a 47-11 school and career record (.810). 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 .810 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 Top 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 47 Husker victories with Frank Solich at the helm?good for a total of 302 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 293 wins as a Husker assistant.
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.
Blackshirts Post Dominant Second-Half Effort vs. Missouri; Rebound from Early-Season Disappointment
Nebraska?s defense had its best outing of the 2002 season against Missouri in a 24-13 victory Saturday in Lincoln. Nebraska limited the Tigers to 220 total yards, less than half of the Tigers? 441-yard average entering the contest. NU also held the Tiger rushing offense to 97 yards on the ground, while Mizzou entered the game averaging better than 220 yards in rushing. In the process, NU limited Missouri redshirt freshman quarterback Brad Smith to 157 total offense yards, well under his average of 332 yards entering the game.
The Huskers overall effort against Missouri was impressive, but their play in the final 40 minutes of the game was even more dominant. After the Tigers forged a 13-7 lead early in the second quarter, the Blackshirts allowed just 51 total yards and two first downs, one of which was a result of a penalty. Missouri had just 28 yards after halftime, including only four second-half rushing yards.
The Blackshirts surrendered an average of 444.0 yards in road losses at Penn State and Iowa State, including more than 200 yards per game on the ground. However, in wins over McNeese State and Missouri, the Huskers have allowed just 287.5 yards per outing and held the teams to 14 and 13 points, respectively. NU now ranks sixth in the Big 12 in both total defense and scoring defense, allowing 341.3 yards and 20.3 points per game.
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 have played a key role in NU?s non-conference victories and will be a key to success in the Big 12 schedule.
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 special teams has remained solid throughout the season and again played a big role in the 24-13 victory over Missouri. Groce had his third punt return TD of the year and Josh Davis averaged nearly 28 yards on four kickoff returns. Overall, Nebraska held a 225-29 edge in return yards vs. Missouri.
Here?s a quick look at Nebraska?s special teams dominance in 2002.
Punt Returns...Nebraska is averaging 20.0 yards on 22 punt returns this season. Groce has returned 18 punts for 399 yards, for a nation-leading 22.2 average. Groce?s two punt return touchdowns vs. Troy State not only set a school record, but matched the NCAA record. His 89-yard TD return against Missouri was his third of the season and the third-longest punt return in school history. It also tied the NU school record for punt return TDs in a season, matching Johnny Rodgers? three in 1971. His 155 yards on two returns against Troy State was just 15 yards shy of the school record for punt return yardage in a game. Groce moved up to second on the NU career punt return chart with his performance against Missouri.
Place-kicking...Senior place-kicker Josh Brown is 6-of-7 on field goals in 2002 and perfect in 26 PAT attempts. Brown has four field goals of 40 yards or longer this season, including a 42-yarder vs. Missouri. He 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 missed a field goal in the fourth quarter vs. Missouri, ending a streak of eight straight field goals made. Brown has hit 11 of his last 13 field goals dating back to last season. He ranks fourth at Nebraska with 271 career points. Brown?s performance on kickoff duties should not be left unnoticed with 26 of his 40 kickoffs this season (3-5 vs. Missouri) ending 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 ranks 15th in the nation in punting with a 43.1-yard average on the season. He has also pinned the opposition inside the 20 nine times. 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 three times this season. Nebraska ranks seventh in the nation in net punting at 39.29 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. 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 23.24 yards per return, including a season-long 42-yarder vs. Utah State and three returns of 25 yards or longer against Missouri. Davis ranks fourth at Nebraska in career kickoff return yardage.
Kick Coverage...Nebraska has allowed opponents to average just 15.8 yards on kickoff returns and only 8.5 yards on 15 punt returns this season. Missouri had just 29 yards on two kickoff returns against Nebraska and the Huskers have not allowed an opponent to return a kickoff past their own 35-yard line.
Special Teams Supplying Huskers With Big Plays in 2002
Nebraska?s biggest threat for long-distance plays this season has come via its special teams. Senior punt returner DeJuan Groce has four punt returns of 25 yards or more this season, including touchdowns of 72, 83 and 89 yards. Junior Josh Davis has eight kickoff returns of 25 yards or more, including three against Missouri. While Groce and Davis have combined for 12 returns of 25 yards or more, NU opponents have just two such returns (one punt, one kickoff).
Place-kicker Josh Brown has also been strong from long distance. The senior from Foyil, Okla., has four field goals of 40 or more yards in 2002. He entered the season with just four 40-yarders in 12 attempts in his three-year career. NU opponents have made one of two 40-plus field goals, a 43-yarder by Utah State?s Dane Kidman. Brown and Nebraska?s kickoff coverage team have pinned opponents inside the 20 on six occasions.
Husker punter Kyle Larson ranks in the top 20 nationally in punting at 43.1 yards per punt. Larson struggled against Missouri, but has been remarkably consistent this season. Larson has averaged better than 45 yards per punt in four games this season (46.2 vs. TSU; 57.3 vs. USU, 46.8 vs. PSU and 47.2 vs. ISU) with a career-best 57.3 vs. Utah State, when he also had a career-best 71 yarder.
Larson has had at least one punt of 45 yards or more in every game except McNeese State when he punted just twice. Larson had a season-high five punts of 45 yards or more vs. Penn State. Larson has punted a season-high six punts three (vs. Troy State, Penn State and Missouri) and has pinned oponents inside the 20 nine times, including three times vs. Troy State. Larson has pinned opponents inside the 10-yard line four times, two of which came in the loss at Penn State. Husker opponents have pinned Nebraska inside the 20 on punts 10 times.
The Huskers have blocked three punts this season, including two by junior linebacker Demorrio Williams, while NU?s Larson has not been blocked. In fact, when Larson took a bad snap at the Nebraska 24 yard line vs. Missouri, he ran it eight yards for a first down.
Huskers Scoring in All Three Facets of Game
Nebraska has reached the end zone 27 times this season, with the offense, defense and special teams all getting into the act. Of Nebraska?s touchdowns, five have been non-offensive scores, two in each of the Huskers? first two games this season and DeJuan Groce?s 89-yard punt return TD vs. Missouri.
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 seven of their last 14 games dating back to last season (3 of 7 in 2002). Seven members of the 2002 team have scored non-offensive TDs in their careers led by Groce?s five 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 are a combined minus-7 in turnover margin in the past four games, including a combined five-turnover disadvantage in losses at Penn State and Iowa State. Nebraska ranks 77th in the nation in turnover margin, but faces another struggling team in that department this weekend, with OSU ranked 63rd at -0.17 per contest.
In Nebraska?s season opener, the Huskers 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. Arizona State has since proven to have an opportunistic defense, forcing 24 turnovers in winning five of its six games since the loss at Nebraska. The Sun Devils rank third nationally in turnovers gained.
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 true freshman Fabian Washington has taken over the left cornerback spot.
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 36 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 16th nationally in interceptions per game at 0.57. Opposing offenses rarely throw toward Groce and his shut-down abilities key a Husker pass defense that ranks 13th nationally in pass efficiency defense with a 95.05 rating.
The senior is a threat to become the first Husker to ever earn All-America honors at two positions in the same year. In addition to being among one of the nation?s top corners, 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. He added an 89-yard return for a touchdown against Missouri, giving him three this season, tying Johnny Rodgers? school record and moving him within one return TD of the NCAA record. Groce averages 16.7 yards per punt return in his career and is averaging 22.2 yards on 18 returns this season to lead the nation. Groce totaled 114 yards on four punt returns against Missouri and moved into second place on the NU career punt return yardage list with 885 yards. Groce?s 399 punt return yards this season already rank fifth on the NU single-season chart and his 469 yards last season ranked third.
Lord Rebounds with Record-Setting Performance Against McNeese State
Nebraska junior quarterback Jammal Lord has faced a variety of difficult challenges in his first season as the Huskers? starting signal caller. First, he was charged with the duty of following 2001 Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch, who started 38 games at quarterback from 1998 to 2001. Secondly, Lord guided a young Husker offense against ranked teams in his first two road contests at Penn State and Iowa State. While those games didn?t go as Lord and the Huskers would have hoped, Lord showed the ability to rebound against McNeese State and had another solid outing in NU?s win over Missouri.
The 6-2, 220-pound Lord had a record-setting afternoon against McNeese State, breaking the NU single-game total offense record with 369 yards, including an NU-quarterback record 218 rushing yards on 17 carries. Coincidentally, both of the broken records were set last season by Crouch?360 total offense yards at Colorado and 191 rushing yards at Missouri.
The McNeese State game marked the first time in his career Lord has topped 100 yards in both rushing and passing in the same contest, and he averaged a remarkable 10.5 yards on 35 total-offense attempts. The game marked the third time this season Lord has rushed for more than 100 yards in a game, also topping the century mark with 103 yards vs. Arizona State and 111 at Penn State. He also had two TD runs of longer than 50 yards (56, 57) marking the first time a Husker has had two 50-plus yard scoring runs in a game since 1999.
Lord also had his career-best passing day in terms of completions (12), attempts (18), yards (151) and percentage (.667). He completed 4-of-4 passes for 63 yards on a second-quarter scoring drive that ended with a 10-yard TD pass to Troy Hassebroek. Lord?s play allowed Nebraska to convert on 12-of-16 third-down attempts in the game.
Lord has been Nebraska?s top offensive weapon this season, leading the Huskers in rushing five times, including a 98-yard effort in the 24-13 victory over Missouri. He has passed for more than 100 yards four times this year.
Lord leads Nebraska in rushing with 689 yards and six touchdowns and averages 6.4 yards per carry. His 98.4 yards rushing per game rank 33rd in the nation and sixth in the Big 12 Conference. Lord is fourth nationally in rushing among quarterbacks. His 188.9 total offensive yards per game rank ninth in the Big 12 Conference. Lord is on track to become the third Husker quarterback (Scott Frost-1997, Eric Crouch-2001) to top 1,000 yards in both rushing and passing in the same season.
Senior Rush End Kelsay Leads Blackshirts on Field and from Sideline
Senior rush end Chris Kelsay has shown in 2002 why he 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., was also on preseason watch lists for the Rotary Lombardi Award and the Bronko Nagurski Award.
The 6-5, 260-pound Kelsay is the anchor of the Husker defensive front. Kelsay has nine tackles for losses totaling 46 yards this season, 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 saw very limited action against McNeese State leaving in the first quarter with a strained right hamstring. The injury forced him to miss Nebraska?s victory over Missouri, but Kelsay still had an impact on the contest. Several of his teammates credited Kelsay with encouraging the defensive troops from the sideline throughout the Blackshirts? top performance of 2002. In addition, Kelsay was instrumental in a defensive players? meeting in which NU set goals for the Missouri game. The goals set included 13 or fewer points, less than 100 yards rushing allowed and fewer than 250 total yards by the Tigers. NU met all of those goals.
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.
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 19 receptions and has a pair of 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 and had a team-high four grabs for 47 yards in the win over McNeese State.
The McNeese State game marked the 13th time in his career that Thomas has caught three or more passes in a game, including four games in 2002. Thomas had three or more grabs nine times last season, including six each in key victories over 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 did not have a reception against Missouri, ending a streak of eight consecutive games with at least one catch.
Thomas has 57 career receptions and is closing fast on the Husker career top 10, just four catches shy of a tie for ninth place on the list. With 803 career receiving yards, Thomas ranks 20th on the NU charts and is 197 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.
Diedrick Continuing Husker Running Back Legacy
Senior I-back Dahrran Diedrick continues to move up the Nebraska career rushing charts. 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.
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 2,273 career yards to rank 14th in school history. Against Missouri, Diedrick rushed 14 times for 61 yards and passed Jeff Kinney to move into 14th place on the NU rushing list. Diedrick has rushed for 459 yards and two touchdowns this season and is less than 300 yards from the NU career top 10.
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.
Other Huskers on Preseason Watch Lists for National Awards
Several Huskers were mentioned as preseason candidates for national awards. In addition to Groce (Thorpe), Kelsay (Lombardi) and Diedrick (Doak Walker), Husker linebackers Scott Shanle and Barrett Ruud were two of the 67 preseason candidates for the Butkus Award.
Ruud tied for the team lead in tackles against Missouri with seven and has a team-leading 41 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 and played a key leadership role this fall. 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 against McNeese State with 10 stops, including a sack. He ranks second on the team with 37 tackles for the year.
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, but has helped NU to a Big 12-leading 267.4 yards per game on the ground. Nebraska has picked up its offense in the past two games, averaging 477.0 yards in the game, including 384.5 yards on the ground in the victories over McNeese State and Missouri.
Junior punter Kyle Larson continues to prove he is one of the nation?s best, averaging 43.1 yards on 34 punts this season to rank 15th 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 was 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.
True Freshmen Making Big Impact for 2002 Huskers
Five true freshmen have seen action for Nebraska in 2002 and all have made immediate impacts. In fact, three of the true freshmen who have played have scored touchdowns on their first touch of their Husker career. In the season opener, left cornerback Fabian Washington intercepted an Arizona State pass and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown. Two games later against Utah State, tight end Matt Herian turned his first career reception into a 33-yard TD. Split end Mark LeFlore got into the act against McNeese State, taking his first career carry on a reverse 64 yards for a touchdown to give NU a 31-7 fourth-quarter advantage.
Washington and split end Ross Pilkington made their Husker debuts in the season opener and have seen the most extensive playing time among the group. Washington took over starting duties at left corner against McNeese State and has three intereceptions in six games to rank 21st nationally. Pilkington caught a 90-yard TD pass at Iowa State and ranks second on the team in receptions with nine, while leading the Huskers in receiving yards with 210, good for a 23.3-yard per catch average. Pilkington originally committed to the Huskers in February of 2000, but played two seasons of minor league baseball in the Colorado Rockies? organization before coming to Lincoln. Herian is listed fourth at tight end while LeFlore is NU?s No. 3 split end.
I-back David Horne, a high school teammate of LeFlore at Omaha Central, became the fifth Husker true frosh to see action this season, when he shed his redshirt against McNeese State. Horne made a quick impression, rushing 12 times for 81 yards in his debut. He backed that performance up with 88 yards on a team-high 20 carries against Missouri, including 46 yards on a crucial second-quarter touchdown drive. He also added his first career TD on a five-yard run in the first quarter.
Three Huskers saw action as true freshmen in 2001?Mike linebacker Barrett Ruud, rover Philip Bland and receiver Mike Stuntz. Bland became the first true freshman to start since 1997 (Erwin Swiney and Joe Walker). Stuntz has moved back to quarterback after playing split end last year. He was the first skill-position player (QB, RB or WR) under Solich to bypass a redshirt season and this year has been joined by Pilkington, LeFlore and Horne.
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 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 ranked teams?Texas, Kansas State and Colorado.
Nebraska continues to receive votes in both polls, with 30 points in the AP poll (29th) and 34 from the coaches (30th). Five Big 12 teams are ranked this week, including Oklahoma (2 AP/2 Coaches) Texas (8/8), Iowa State (9/13), Kansas State (17/19) and Colorado (23/25). In addition to Nebraska, Big 12 teams Texas A&M and Texas Tech received votes in one or both polls. Penn State is ranked 20th and 21st in this week?s poll, while 5-2 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.
Nebraska Personnel/Injury Update
Senior rush end Chris Kelsay missed Nebraska?s game with Missouri with a hamstring injury, but hopes to return to action this week. His injury is the latest in a series of injuries to hit Nebraska?s defensive front four. In the preseason, senior nose tackle Jason Lohr was lost for the season with a torn left ACL. In game one vs. Arizona State, redshirt freshman defensive tackle Jared Helming also tore the ACL in his left knee and was lost for the season. Coach Frank Solich announced last week that redshirt freshman Seppo Evwaraye is out for the season with an injury to his right shoulder. In addition, freshman defensive tackle Brandon Greeson, who is redshirting this fall, will also miss the remainder of the fall with a shoulder injury.
Senior rover Aaron Terpening broke his left hand during practice two weeks ago and has played with a cast on his hand in each of the last two games. No. 4 I-back/kickoff return man Josh Davis suffered a left quadricep injury against Missouri and his status for the upcoming week is uncertain.
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 34 of those players currently find themselves on 2002 rosters. Nebraska had 30 players on active 2002 opening day rosters to rank eighth nationally and tops among Big 12 schools. A full listing can be found in the left margin of page eight.
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. The Carolina Panther defense currently ranks No. 1 in the NFL in large part because of the play of a pair of former Huskers. Defensive end Mike Rucker is among the league leaders in sacks with five and has also forced three fumbles, while safety Mike Minter has intercepted two passes, including one that he returned for a touchdown.
Since 1994, NU 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.