Nebraska (2-0) vs. Utah State (0-1)

DATE: Saturday, Sept. 7, 2002;
TIME: 6 p.m. Central
SITE: Lincoln, Neb.
STADIUM: Memorial Stadium?250th 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; Dave Webber-Halftime Studio Host)
TV: None

Lincoln -- Nebraska (2-0) plays its third straight home night game to open the 2002 season this Saturday evening when Utah State (0-1) comes Lincoln for a 6 p.m. kickoff. The Huskers improved to 2-0 on the young season with a 31-16 victory over Troy State last Saturday night in Lincoln.

The Utah State game will be another landmark game in the storied history of Husker football, as Nebraska celebrates its 250th consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium. The streak began in 1962 during Hall of Fame Coach Bob Devaney?s first season as Nebraska head coach. Since that November afternoon contest against Missouri 40 years ago, the Nebraska faithful have filled Memorial Stadium to support the Huskers for every home game. When the streak began in 1962, capacity at the stadium was less than 40,000 and has steadily grown to its current capacity of 73,918. Also at Saturday night?s game, Nebraska officials and the Cornhusker Marching Band have prepared a special halftime performance in honor of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Utah State opened the season with a 23-3 loss against rival Utah last Saturday at home. The Aggies finished the 2001 season with a 4-7 record, but were victorious in four of the final six games of the season. Saturday?s contest will mark the seventh meeting between the two schools, all in Lincoln, with the Huskers winning each of the first six meetings.

Nebraska remains in the top 10 in both polls this week?ninth in the AP poll and eighth according to the coaches.

In addition to trying to open a season 3-0 for the sixth consecutive year, Nebraska will be gunning for its 24th consecutive home victory against Utah State, a mark that would be the third-longest home victory streak in school history. The Huskers have also won 21 straight regular-season non-conference games.

Groce?s Record-Setting Performance Carries Huskers to Victory over Troy State
Nebraska?s special teams showed for a second straight week that there is more than offense and defense to a successful football team. Senior DeJuan Groce set a school record and tied an NCAA record with two punt returns for touchdowns and added two interceptions against Troy State, leading the Huskers to a 31-16 victory and a 2-0 record in 2002.

The Huskers jumped to a 7-0 advantage in the first quarter after a poor punt set Nebraska up at Troy State?s 25. Jammal Lord?s 18-yard TD run capped a three-play drive, giving NU a touchdown advantage midway through the first period.

Defense dominated the remainder of the first half, including two first-quarter interceptions by Groce, the second of which was a highlight film one-handed grab. Groce then gave Nebraska a 14-0 lead midway through the second quarter when he returned a Troy State punt 83 yards for a score. Troy State cut the advantage to 14-3 with a field goal shortly before halftime.

The Trojans drew closer after forcing a fumble on NU?s first drive of the second half and recovering at the Husker 6. One play later, Troy State found the end zone and cut NU?s lead to 14-10. However, Nebraska responded on its next drive using trademark Husker power football to drive 91 yards in 16 plays capped by Dahrran Diedrick?s one-yard run, giving NU a 21-10 edge.

Groce erased any remaining doubt about the outcome late in the third quarter when he took another Trojan punt and raced 72 yards to paydirt and a 28-10 Husker advantage. Josh Brown added a fourth-quarter field goal and Troy State scored in the game?s final minute to account for the final margin.

Offensively, Nebraska was led by quarterback Jammal Lord, who ran for 92 yards and completed 8 of 15 passes for 114 yards. Nebraska was outgained by Troy State, but the Trojans? high-powered passing attack connected on just 11 of 29 attempts.

Recapping Game Two...NU 31, Troy State 16

  • Nebraska senior cornerback DeJuan Groce had a standout evening on both defense and special teams. The two punt returns for scores set a school record and tied the NCAA record, most recently set by Eddie Tillitz of Miami (Ohio) in 2000. Groce?s 155 punt return yards on the night were just 15 yards shy of the school record for punt return yards in a game. Groce now has four punt return touchdowns in his career and his two interceptions pushed his career total to six. The Ohio native was Nebraska?s nominee for both Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week and Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week and received the special teams honor from the conference.
  • Junior linebacker Demorrio Williams led the defense with eight tackles, including six in the first half. He had one tackle for loss on the night.
  • The Huskers got strong play from a pair of middle linebackers. Sophomore starter Barrett Ruud broke his left hand on the game?s second play, but returned to the contest in the second quarter and made three tackles and had a pass breakup. His backup, sophomore Chad Sievers made six tackles, including a TFL and had a pass breakup in his first action as a Husker. Sievers, who transferred from New Mexico State, missed Nebraska?s opener with a knee injury.
  • The Husker defense forced three turnovers, all in the first quarter. Groce had two interceptions, the first of which was caused by heavy pressure from defensive tackle Patrick Kabongo. The Blackshirts snuffed out a Troy State threat late in the first quarter when DT Jon Clanton forced a fumble that was recovered by cornerback Pat Ricketts.
  • Quarterback Jammal Lord led Nebraska in rushing for the second straight week with a career-high 23 carries for 92 yards, including an 18-yard TD scamper in the first quarter. Lord also connected on 8 of 15 passes for 114 yards. His 62-yard connection with tight end Jon Bowling in the first quarter was the longest pass of his career. Lord?s 114 passing yards were also a career best as was his 206 yards of total offense and his 38 total offense attempts.
  • Senior split end Wilson Thomas had four catches for 31 yards on the night. Thomas has now had three or more catches in 11 of his last 15 games and with his 45 career receptions are tied for 24th on NU?s all-time list.
  • Bowling?s 62-yard catch was a career-long reception and the longest by a Husker tight end since a 70-yard pass from Eric Crouch to Tracey Wistrom in NU?s 1999 victory over California.
  • Senior place-kicker Josh Brown remained perfect on the season as he connected on all four of his PAT attempts and made a 34-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. Brown also drove four of his seven kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.
  • Junior punter Kyle Larson averaged 46.2 yards on his six punts and pinned Troy State inside its 20 on three occasions.
  • Two true freshmen hit the field for the first time as Huskers. Split end Mark LeFlore and tight end Matt Herian joined Ross Pilkington and Fabian Washington as true freshmen who have seen action this season. Washington drew his first career start when NU opened in a nickel package.

Nebraska Head Coach Frank Solich
Coach Frank Solich (Nebraska, 1966) is in his fifth season at the helm of the Husker program with a 44-9 school and career record (.830). 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 .830 winning percentage, would rank second 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.

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.

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." If NU?s first two games are any indication, Solich?s thoughts may prove to be quite prophetic.

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 Nebraska?s 31-16 victory.

Here?s a quick look at Nebraska?s special teams dominance through two games.

  • Punt Returns...Nebraska is averaging 26.5 yards on its eight punt returns this season. Groce has returned six punts for 185 yards, for a remarkable 30.8 average. Groce?s two punt touchdowns in one game 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 seventh at Nebraska in career punt return yards.
  • Place-kicking...Senior place-kicker Josh Brown is 3-3 on field goals in the first two games and perfect in 10 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. Brown?s performance on kickoff duties should not be left unnoticed. Eleven of his 16 kickoffs this season 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.
  • Blocked Kicks...Nebraska has had a history of being one of the nation?s best kick blocking units. 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 touchdown was at Kansas State in 2000 (Keyuo Craver).
  • Kick Coverage...While the Huskers have excelled in the return game, NU?s opponents have averaged just 14.0 yards on kickoff returns and 7.4 yards on five punt returns.
  • Punting...NU?s Kyle Larson was one of the Big 12?s best last season, averaging 42.5 yards per punt. Through two games little has changed, as Larson has averaged 43.7 yards on 11 punts and pinned the opposition inside the 20 four times. He averaged 46.2 yards per punt vs. Troy State.

Huskers Scoring in All Three Facets of Game
Nebraska has reached the end zone 10 times in its first two games this season, with the offense, defense and special teams all getting into the act. Of Nebraska?s 10 touchdowns, four have been non-offensive scores, two in each of the Huskers? 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.

The first two games this season marks 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 nine 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 such 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 Boost Turnover Margin
In addition to special teams excellence, the Husker coaching staff regularly preaches the importance of a positive turnover margin. The Huskers have been a +1 in that department in each of the first two games this season. 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.

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.

NU Shines Under the Lights
Memorial Stadium is regarded as one of the toughest places in the nation for opposing teams. In recent years, opponents have had even more difficulty competing against the Huskers in night games in Lincoln.

Nebraska owns a 16-1 record all-time in night games at Memorial Stadium, beginning with a 34-17 victory over Florida State in 1986. Nebraska has now won 12 consecutive night games at home, including two straight victories to open the 2002 campaign.

Nebraska has dominated the opposition throughout the streak, posting 10 of the 12 wins by 17 or more points. In all, 13 of Nebraska?s 16 home night victories have been by 17 points or more, with a 36-21 loss to Washington in 1991 NU?s only blemish in home contests under the lights.

Nebraska is 50-15-3 all-time under the lights. Nebraska opens the season with three consecutive home night contests, marking the first time in school history the Huskers have played three straight night games at home.

Injury Update
NU's interior defensive line has been hit hard by injury early this season. Senior nose tackle Jason Lohr tore his left ACL in Nebraska?s final major scrimmage of fall camp on Aug. 16 and is also out for the year. Lohr missed the final 10 games of last season after tearing the LCL in the same knee against Notre Dame. He was granted a medical hardship for 2001 and was looking forward to repeating his senior season in 2002. Lohr, who has not redshirted, underwent surgery on Friday, Aug. 23.

The defensive line took another blow against Arizona State as No. 3 nose tackle Jared Helming was lost for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Lohr was the second 2002 projected starter to be lost for the season, joining defensive back Willie Amos, who suffered a major knee injury that required reconstructive surgery during spring ball. Amos has a redshirt year available.

The Huskers have also had several minor injuries hamper members of the offensive backfield. Reserve I-back Robin Miller has missed both games after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Aug. 17. Fullback DeAntae Grixby suffered a bone bruise in his left knee in practice, missed NU?s game with Troy State and is expected to miss the next two to three weeks. Redshirt freshman I-back Marques Simmons sat out the opener with a hamstring injury, but played against Troy State.

Linebacker Chad Sievers (knee) and defensive tackle Seppo Evwaraye (foot) both saw action against Troy State after sitting out the Huskers? season opener.

Jammal Lord Off to Strong Start in Replacing Heisman Winner
Junior Jammal Lord is charged with the difficult task of replacing departed Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch as the Husker signal caller. Against Arizona State, Lord made a strong debut leading the Huskers to a 48-10 victory. Lord rushed for 103 yards in the game and directed a Husker offense that did not have a turnover in a season opener for the first time in 28 years. Lord?s play in his first career start stacks up well against several other prominent Husker quarterbacks (see left column).

Lord posted the top total offense game of his career against Troy State with 206 total yards, including a career-best 114 through the air and 92 rushing yards and a touchdown on a career-high 23 carries.

Lord follows Crouch, who compiled a 35-7 record as NU?s starter from 1998 to 2001, the most wins by any Husker quarterback. Lord is the eighth Husker (since 1946) to take over for a three-year starter at quarterback, following in the footsteps of Don Erway (1954), Bob Churchich (1964), Dave Humm (1972), Craig Sundberg (1984), Vince Ferragamo (1975), Gerry Gdowski (1989) and Scott Frost (1996). All but one of the seven previous replacements posted nine wins in their first year as a starter.

3/4-Year QBs

Years

Team Rec.

Replacement

Year

NU Rec.

John Bordogna

51-52-53

10-18-2

Don Erway

1954

6-5-0

Dennis Claridge

61-62-63

22-9-1

Bob Churchich

1964

9-2-0

Jerry Tagge

69-70-71

33-2-1

Dave Humm

1972

9-2-1

Dave Humm

72-73-74

27-7-2

Vince Ferragamo

1975

10-2-0

Turner Gill

81-82-83

33-4-0

Craig Sundberg

1984

10-2-0

Steve Taylor

86-87-88

31-6-0

Gerry Gdowski

1989

10-2-0

Tommie Frazier

92-93-94-95

45-4-0

Scott Frost

1996

11-2-0

Eric Crouch

99-00-01

33-5-0

Jammal Lord

2002

1-0

When comparing Lord with the 2002 Heisman winner, Lord has a definite size advantage, as Crouch stood 6-1, 200 and Lord is 6-2, 220. Coach Solich said that Lord has great scrambling abilities.

"One thing he does as well as any quarterback I can recall at Nebraska," Solich said, "is once a play breaks down, he makes something out of it. When scrambling, he instinctively will dump the ball off to someone running free."

Lord showed that scrambling ability early against Arizona State. On the first play of Nebraska?s third drive, Lord was pressured by the ASU defense, but broke out of the pocket and turned the play into a 33-yard gain. Later in that drive with NU facing a fourth-and-3, Lord scrambled for an eight-yard gain, keeping alive a drive that ended in a Husker touchdown.

Husker QB coach Turner Gill was very impressed by his pupil?s performance against Arizona State.

"I was even more impressed with Jammal?s play after watching the game film," Gill said. "He was in several adverse situations and made some nice plays out of them. I was very, very impressed with the way he performed under difficult circumstances."

Groce Anchors Youthful 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 and Lornell McPherson share the left cornerback role.

In NU?s first two games 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. Groce now has 34 career PBU to rank fourth on the NU career list and is the Huskers? single-season PBU record-holder with 17 in 2000.

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 16.4 yards per punt return in his career and is averaging 30.8 yards on six returns this season to rank third in the nation. In his career, Groce ranks seventh 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.

The standout play of Groce has not gone unnoticed on the national level. In a cbssportsline column, Groce is picked for the "August Heisman".

Senior Rush End Kelsay Leading Blackshirt Defense
Senior rush end Chris Kelsay was a preaseaon 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, who 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.

Kelsay recorded 52 total tackles as a junior, including a team-best 17 tackles for losses totaling 58 yards and five sacks. He has got off to a quick start in 2002 with 1.5 sacks for 17 yards and four quarterback hurries against ASU and a two hurries, a TFL and a pass breakup vs. Troy State. Kelsay now has 7.5 sacks and 23 tackles for loss in his Husker career.

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 a year ago 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, who 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 has rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns in the first two games this season and moved into 23rd place on NU?s career rushing list with 1,956 yards. Diedrick is just 44 yards short of becoming the 21st Husker to rush for 2,000 career yards.

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 duplicate his yardage total of 2001, he would move into the top five on NU?s career rushing chart.

Other Huskers on Preseason Watch Lists for National Awards
Groce, Kelsay and Diedrick lead a strong group of Huskers who have been mentioned as prseason 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 11 stops on the season. The sophomore from Lincoln showed the type of toughness of the award?s namesake against Troy State when he broke his hand on the game?s second play, but returned in the second quarter. He will be in a cast for the next four weeks, but is expected to play.

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.

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 43.7 yards on 11 punts this season. Larson is one of 34 punters on the Ray Guy preseason watch list. For a full listing of Husker players on preseason watch lists and other preseason honors, please see the left column on page 6.

Thomas Among Nebraska?s Career Receiving Leaders
Senior split end Wilson Thomas will be relied on as a go-to-player in the Husker offensive attack this season. Thomas opened the season by catching his fourth career TD, a nine-yarder from Jammal Lord in the third quarter. For the game, Thomas had three receptions for eight yards. In game two against Troy State, Thomas had a team-best four receptions for 31 yards.

Thomas caught three or more passes in nine games last season, including six each against Oklahoma and Kansas State, and now has 11 career three-catch games. He capped the 2001 regular season with a career-best 109 receiving yards against Colorado, including a career-long 78-yard reception.

Thomas now has 45 career receptions and is just five catches from cracking the top 20 on the NU career list and is within striking distance of the top five. With 663 career receiving yards, Thomas ranks 27th on the NU charts and is 337 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.

The 6-6, 215-pound 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.

Poll Position
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. NU currently stands ninth and eighth, respectively, in the AP and coaches polls.

Nebraska?s AP preseason ranking was its lowest since opening at No. 11 in 1992, but marks the fifth straight season under Solich that Nebraska has been 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 is one of four Big 12 teams ranked in the top 10 of both polls, joining Oklahoma (2 AP/3 Coaches), Texas (3/2) and Colorado (7/6). Texas A&M is ranked 23rd in the Associated Press poll, while Husker non-conference opponent Penn State is ranked 23th in the coaches poll and 24th by the AP.

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 Boasts 32 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 on NFL preseason rosters in 2002 and 32 of those players find themselves on 2002 opening day rosters. 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.

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.