A year ago at this time, Troy State was playing its first game as a Division I-A team. And it showed as the Trojans lost by double figures to the Huskers in Lincoln. The Trojans proved that they?ve grown a lot since their inaugural visit to Memorial Stadium last September, but the end result was still the same. Nebraska was too much for the Trojans once again, using a record-setting performance by DeJuan Groce on special teams and another solid game by the Blackshirts to wrap up a 31-16 win here Saturday night in front of 77,831. The victory moved the Huskers to 2-0 on the season and extended Nebraska?s nation?s best home winning streak to 23 games.
Perhaps no one played a bigger role in Saturday night?s outcome than Groce. The senior cornerback and co-captain intercepted two Hansell Bearden passes in the first quarter and took both of his punt returns for touchdowns in the game, setting a school record and giving the Huskers breathing room in a hard fought contest.
Groce provided a spark from the opening possession. After Nebraska won the toss and elected to kick off, Troy State quarterback Hansell Bearden took control, completing his first three passes to move the Trojans into Husker territory. On second-and-nine from the Nebraska 46-yard line, Groce stepped in front of Troy State?s Skipper Heyward for his first pick of the day. The Nebraska offense couldn?t capitalize though, going three-and-out on their initial possession.
The Huskers opened the scoring on their next possession, capitalizing on a 21-yard punt by TSU?s Thomas Olmstead that gave quarterback Jammal Lord and the rest of the offense a short field to work with. Three plays later, Lord took the keeper 18 yards for a touchdown.
The two teams traded possessions over the next 14 minutes, with neither team able to generate scoring drives thanks to some timely defensive plays and excellent punting. With the Huskers protecting a 7-0 lead midway through the second quarter, Groce went on the offensive, fielding a Thomas Olmsted punt and taking it 83 yards for his first career punt-return TD and a 14-0 Nebraska lead. A TSU field goal closed out the first half scoring before the two teams traded touchdowns to start the third quarter.
With Nebraska up 21-10 following a 1-yard Dahrran Diedrick touchdown run, Groce came back for an encore performance. After a Troy State drive stalled at its own 31-yard line, the Ohio native fielded another Olmsted punt in Husker territory, this time taking it 72 yards to paydirt. Groce?s TD gave the Huskers their biggest lead of the game at 28-10. A fourth quarter Josh Brown field goal and a late TSU touchdown made up the final 31-10 score.
The Huskers return to action next Saturday night when Utah State pays a visit to Lincoln. Kickoff is set for 6 pm. The game will not be televised but a live audiocast will be available on huskersnside.com.