Huskers Look for 34th Consecutive Homecoming Win vs. Kansas
vs. Kansas (2-8, 0-6)
DATE: Saturday, Nov. 9, 2002
Lincoln -- Nebraska (6-4, 2-3) will look to rebound from its first home loss in four seasons and extend a 33-year Homecoming winning streak when it takes on Kansas on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium. Kansas enters the contest with a 2-8 record after a 64-0 loss against Kansas State last week. Kickoff for Saturday?s contest at Memorial Stadium is set for 12:30 p.m. and the game will not be televised. It will also not be video streamed on the internet.
The Huskers are coming off a 27-24 loss to No. 7 Texas at Memorial Stadium last Saturday night, ending a 26-game home winning streak. The game was not decided until Texas secured the victory with an interception deep in Longhorn territory with 10 seconds remaining. The interception ended a game of big plays and momentum changes between two of college football?s most storied programs.
The Husker-Kansas game is Homecoming Day in Lincoln and Nebraska has a long history of success at Memorial Stadium in Homecoming tilts. NU has won 33 straight on Homecoming since a 12-0 loss to Kansas State in 1968. Kansas is Nebraska?s most frequent Homecoming victim, having lost 21 times to the Huskers on Homecoming Day. Nebraska carries two 33-game win streaks into the contest. In addition to its 33-game Homecoming win streak, the Huskers also own a 33-game victory streak against Kansas.
Kansas enters Saturday afternoon?s game at 2-8 overall and 0-6 in Big 12 Conference play under first-year head coach Mark Mangino. The Jayhawks stood at 2-3 in early October, but have since lost five consecutive games and KU is 1-4 on the road in 2002.
Nebraska?s 26-Game Home Win Streak Ends with Heartbreaker vs. No. 7 Texas
Nebraska?s hopes for a second consecutive fourth-quarter rally fell just short on Saturday at Memorial Stadium and seventh-ranked Texas escaped Lincoln with a 27-24 victory. The loss ended Nebraska?s nation-leading home winning streak at 26 games and dropped the Huskers to 6-4 overall and 2-3 in Big 12 Conference play.
After Texas opened a 27-17 advantage with 3:24 remaining, the Huskers quickly drove 60 yards in four plays and scored on a Dahrran Diedrick two-yard run to slice the lead to three points. The Blackshirt defense forced Texas to punt and All-America candidate DeJuan Groce again showed why he is the nation?s best punt returner with an electrifying 44-yard return down the Nebraska sideline to the Texas 16-yard line. The Huskers did not pick up any yardage on their first two plays and on third down, Texas cornerback Nathan Vasher made a leaping interception of a Jammal Lord pass to end Nebraska?s comeback hopes.
The dramatic finish capped one of the most memorable games in Memorial Stadium?s 80-year history. The first half was highlighted by missed scoring opportunities by both teams. Josh Brown opened the scoring with a 48-yard field goal on Nebraska?s first offensive possession. Nebraska moved inside the Longhorn 32-yard line four other times in the first half, but was unable to muster any points on those possessions. Nebraska was twice stopped on fourth-and-one plays and also had a field goal blocked and a bad snap on another field goal try.
Texas moved inside the Nebraska 35-yard line four times in the first half and converted those possessions into a pair of field goals. The Longhorns were forced to settle for a field goal after driving to the NU 7 and also had a missed field goal in the first half.
Both offenses got untracked in the second half. Nebraska took the opening kickoff of the half and drove 79 yards in seven plays capped by a two-yard TD pass from Lord to tight end Jon Bowling to give NU a 10-6 lead. Lord rushed for 71 yards on two carries on the drive, including a 54-yard scamper. Texas quickly responded, driving 79 yards in five plays behind the passing of Chris Simms, who completed all three of his pass attempts on the drive, including a 49-yarder to fullback Ivan Williams and a 16-yard TD pass to wideout Roy Williams.
Nebraska was forced to punt, and Texas put together an impressive drive to extend its lead to 10 points. The ?Horns took over on their own 3-yard line and drove 97 yards in 17 plays, taking 7:45 off the clock in the process. Simms completed seven-of-eight passes on the drive and again connected with Roy Williams on a TD pass, this time from two yards out.
The Huskers bounced back on their next possession with an 80-yard, four-play scoring drive. Lord connected with freshman tight end Matt Herian for a 60-yard scoring strike to cut the UT lead to three points. Texas again forged a 10-point lead late in the fourth quarter, with a 10-play, 81-yard drive capped by Cedric Benson?s three-yard TD run. The touchdown gave the Longhorns a 27-17 advantage and set the stage for the game-ending excitement.
The contest featured record-setting nights by both quarterbacks. Lord?s 234 rushing yards were a Nebraska quarterback record and he passed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season. UT?s Simms passed for a school record 419 yards and Roy Williams caught a school-best 13 passes.
Recapping Game 10...No. 7 Texas 27, Nebraska 24
- The Texas victory ended Nebraska?s 26-game home winning streak. The Huskers? previous home loss was on Oct. 31, 1998, a 20-16 setback against the Longhorns. Nebraska has won 73 of its past 75 home games with Texas the only team to find success at Memorial Stadium.
- Jammal Lord rushed for a Nebraska quarterback record 234 yards in the game, breaking his own record of 218 yards set earlier this season against McNeese State. The game marked the fifth time this season Lord has topped 100 yards rushing and the seventh time in 2002 he has led Nebraska in rushing. In Saturday night?s game Lord became the 26th Husker to rush for 1,000 yards in a season and also broke the NU season record for quarterback rushing yards. Lord now has 1,155 rushing yards this season, bettering Eric Crouch?s 1,115 yards last season. Lord?s 332 yards of total offense were the third-most in school history. He now has 2,112 yards of total offense this season, the most ever in a junior season by a Husker and the seventh-best total in school history. Lord also threw two TD passes, the second time this season he has had two scoring strikes.
- Nebraska picked up 320 rushing yards against the Texas defense, which entered the game ranked third nationally in total defense. It marked the fifth straight game NU has rushed for 259 yards or more.
- Freshman tight end Matt Herian has three catches this season, all of 33 yards or longer, including a 60-yard TD reception vs. the Longhorns.
- Split end Ross Pilkington extended his streak of games with at least one reception to eight. His nine-yard reception in the second quarter was his 13th of the season, breaking the NU frosh receptions record.
- Tight end Jon Bowling had a two-yard TD reception to give NU a 10-6 lead in the third quarter. It was Bowling?s first TD of the season and the third of his Husker career.
- Place-kicker Josh Brown connected on a regular season career-long 48-yard field goal in the first quarter. Brown has now made six field goals of 40 yards or longer in 2002.
- Senior cornerback DeJuan Groce led Nebraska with a career-high 15 tackles, tying the most by a Husker this season. Groce also had a 44-yard punt return to give Nebraska a chance for victory late in the game. Groce continues to lead the nation in punt returns at 21.0 yards per attempt. Groce now has 525 punt return yards this season and 1,011 in his career.
- Sophomore middle linebacker Barrett Ruud had a career-high 12 tackles, including three tackles for loss and a nine-yard sack of Texas QB Chris Simms.
- Redshirt freshman free safety Josh Bullocks recorded his first career interception in the second quarter. He also had a pass breakup and contributed five tackles.
- The Husker defense limited Texas to just 79 yards rushing and has allowed a combined 132 yards on the ground the past two weeks (66.0 ypg).
- Chris Simms? 419 passing yards is the most by a Husker opponent this season and the fifth 400-yard passing effort against Nebraska in school history (fourth regular season).
Nebraska Head Coach Frank Solich
Coach Frank Solich (Nebraska, 1966) is in his fifth season at the helm of the Husker program with a 48-13 school and career record (.787). 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 a .787 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.
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. Running backs coach Dave Gillespie moved to the sideline for NU?s win at Texas A&M, after being in the press box for the first eight games. Assisting from the press box are rush ends coach Nelson Barnes, defensive backs coach George Darlington and offensive line coach Milt Tenopir.
Huskers Dominate Homecoming
Nebraska is 68-19-4 in Homecoming games and has won 33 straight Homecoming games at Memorial Stadium since 1968, when NU was shut out 12-0 by Kansas State. That game also marked the last time a Husker team was shut out at home. Last season Nebraska defeated Texas Tech, 41-31, on Homecoming. Kansas is Nebraska?s most frequent Homecoming opponent, having played the Huskers 29 times on Homecoming, with NU holding a 21-6-2 advantage against the Jayhawks. Kansas has faced Nebraska on Homecoming in its last three visits to Lincoln, with NU winning 56-17 in 2000 and 41-0 in 1998. The 1998 shutout was one of three in Nebraska?s past seven Homecoming games.
Nebraska?s Home Win Streak Ends Against Longhorns
Nebraska?s nation-leading 26-game home winning streak ended with Saturday?s 27-24 loss to Texas. The Longhorns remain the only team to win at Memorial Stadium since 1991, also leaving Lincoln with a victory in 1998. Nebraska has won 73 of its past 75 home games and is 31-2 at home under Frank Solich.
Nebraska has lost just 11 home games since 1980, with just six teams leaving Lincoln with a victory. Texas Coach Mack Brown (1998, 2002) is one of just three active coaches who have a victory against Nebraska at Memorial Stadium, joining Florida State?s Bobby Bowden (1980, 1985) and Penn State?s Joe Paterno (1981).
Surging Husker Running Game Continues to Roll up Big Numbers
Nebraska?s running game has been back to its usual self in recent weeks. The Huskers were held to just 81 yards on the ground at Iowa State in late September, but since that game the NU ground game has been nearly unstoppable, averaging 345.8 yards per game in five contests.
Nebraska is coming off a 320-yard rushing outing against No. 7 Texas, who boasted the nation?s No. 3 defense entering the game. Husker quarterback Jammal Lord gouged the Longhorn defense for an NU quarterback record 234 rushing yards on 23 carries (10.2 ypc) and NU had five rushing plays of 20 yards or more in the game.
Before the Texas game, Nebraska had an impressive outing at Texas A&M. The Huskers ran for 381 yards on a season-high 73 rushing attempts and scored five TDs on the ground. The effort was especially impressive when considering that the Aggies entered the game allowing just 76.9 yards per game on the ground and had not allowed an opponent to run for more than 129 yards in 2002. In fact, NU?s 381 rushing yards were the most against Texas A&M in 32 seasons. Before facing the Husker ground game, A&M had not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 20 games, but a pair of Huskers topped that mark (Lord, 159; Horne, 128).
Nebraska has rushed for 259 yards or more in each of the last five games, including a season-high 444 yards vs. McNeese State to begin the stretch. NU followed with 325 yards in a win over Missouri, 259 yards on the ground at Oklahoma State and the strong efforts vs. excellent Texas A&M and Texas defenses. For the season, Nebraska is averaging a Big 12-best 283.2 yards rushing per game to rank third in the nation, behind West Virginia (297.3) and Air Force (290.6).
Quarterback Jammal Lord and true freshman I-back David Horne have keyed Nebraska?s rushing success in recent weeks. Lord has run for 782 yards in the last five games (156.4 ypg). He has posted the only two 200-yard days by a quarterback in NU history in the period with 218 yards vs. McNeese State and 234 yards against Texas. He also had 159 yards at Texas A&M on an NU quarterback record 30 carries. Horne shed his redshirt after the Iowa State game and has gained 434 yards (86.8 ypg), including back-to-back 100-yard games at Oklahoma State and Texas A&M.
Husker O-Line Paving Way for Rushing Resurgence
Not to be forgotten in Nebraska?s rushing success in recent weeks is the play of the Husker offensive line. In the past two weeks in particular the NU offensive front has opened big holes against a pair of tough defenses.
Nebraska had a school-record 110 pancakes against Texas A&M, bettering the previous high of 101 vs. Baylor in 2000. Redshirt freshman offensive tackle Richie Incognito had 28 knock-down blocks against the Aggies, the second-highest total in school history, trailing only Toniu Fonoti?s 32 against Texas Tech last season. Incognito leads Nebraska with 136 pancakes, including 71 in the past three games (all 20-plus games). Incognito?s pancake total is the sixth-best in school history and just 19 pancakes from second on the NU single-season chart.
Incognito led Nebraska with 22 pancakes against Texas when NU produced 320 yards on the ground. Center John Garrison (11) and guard Mike Erickson (10) also had double-figure pancakes against the Longhorns. The game marked the sixth double-figure pancake game for Garrison and fifth this fall for Erickson.
Five Husker offensive linemen had career-high pancake totals against A&M. In addition to Incognito, OT Dan Vili Waldrop?s 24 pancakes were the fourth-highest total in school history, seven better than his previous career high of 17 vs. Rice in 2001. Garrison matched his career high with 20 pancakes. Erickson (16) and fellow guard Junior Tagoa?i (18) also bettered their previous best outings. Tagoa?i has three double-figure pancake efforts despite coming off the NU bench.
Huskers Nearly Pull off Second Straight Comeback
Nebraska trailed 20-10 entering the fourth quarter of Saturday night?s 27-24 loss to Texas, but still had a chance for victory with just seconds remaining in the contest. A comeback victory over the Longhorns would have marked the second straight week NU has rallied from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to win.
The Huskers showed their resilience in picking up a 38-31 victory at Texas A&M on Oct. 26, just the Aggies? 11th home loss in the past 14 years. In the game, Nebraska rallied from a 31-14 third-quarter deficit to upend the Aggies. The rally was one of the top come-from-behind efforts in school history and Nebraska?s best under Head Coach Frank Solich.
A few notes on Nebraska?s comeback victory at Texas A&M.
- The previous largest deficit Nebraska had overcome to win under Frank Solich was 10 points against Missouri on Oct. 24, 1998, in Lincoln. NU trailed 13-3 in the second quarter, but rallied for a 20-13 win.
- The Huskers? rally from 17 points behind was their largest in any game since a 59-23 win at Kansas in 1991. NU trailed 17-0 in the first quarter of that contest, but used six Calvin Jones TD runs to pave the way to an easy victory.
- Nebraska?s previous victory when trailing after three quarters was on Nov. 27, 1998, when the Huskers trailed Colorado 14-13 after three quarters, but pulled out a 16-14 victory.
- Before the A&M game, NU had not won a game when trailing at any point in the fourth quarter since a 34-32 victory over Colorado on Nov. 24, 2000. CU led 32-31 late in the game, but NU?s Josh Brown hit a game-winning field goal on the last play of the contest.
- Nebraska trailed 31-21 entering the fourth quarter at Texas A&M. The last time Nebraska rallied from a bigger deficit entering the fourth quarter was on Oct. 22, 1966, at Colorado. The Huskers trailed 19-7 entering the fourth quarter, but rallied for a 21-19 victory. Nebraska rallied from 10-point deficits entering the fourth quarter twice for bowl victories under Tom Osborne. NU trailed Florida 10-0 entering the fourth in the 1974 Sugar Bowl and won 13-10 and was behind North Carolina 17-7 heading into the fourth quarter of the 1977 Liberty Bowl, but escaped with a 21-17 victory.
Lord Rolling up Huge Numbers at Controls of Husker Offense
Nebraska junior quarterback Jammal Lord faced a variety of difficult challenges in his first season as the Huskers? starting signal caller. First, he was faced 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 has rebounded in strong fashion and is producing one of the top total offense seasons in school history.
Lord rushed for a Nebraska QB record 234 yards on 23 carries against seventh-ranked Texas and added 98 yards and a touchdown through the air. Lord?s 332 yards of total offense was the third-best output in school history, trailing only his school-record 369-yard performance against McNeese State earlier this season and Crouch?s 360 yards at Colorado last season.
In the Texas contest, Lord continued to make his name prominent in the Husker record books. He has now rushed for a Nebraska season quarterback record 1,155 yards, the 13th-best rushing season by any Husker regardless of position. He also upped his season total offense mark to 2,112 yards, the most ever by a Nebraska junior and the seventh-best total in school history. He needs 514 yards (171.3 ypg) in NU?s final three games to break the single-season total offense record.
Lord rushed for 159 yards on a Nebraska QB record 30 carries at Texas A&M and passed for 116 yards in the 38-31 win. In the process, Lord pushed both his career rushing and passing total past the 1,000-yard marks. He now has 1,368 career rushing yards to rank 35th on the NU list and 1,138 passing yards, good for 21st on the Husker career chart.
The 6-2, 220-pound Lord is nearing a rare milestone in 2002. He has 957 passing yards to go along with his 1,155 rushing yards and needs just 43 passing yards to become the third Husker quarterback in six seasons to rush and pass for more than 1,000 yards in the same season, joining Scott Frost (1997) and Eric Crouch (2001). Sixteen players have accomplished the feat in Division I-A history, with Lord and Kent State quarterback Josh Cribbs poised to join the club this week.
Lord began his recent surge with a record-setting afternoon against McNeese State, breaking the NU single-game total offense record with 369 yards, including a then-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 that Lord 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. Lord posted his second 100-100 game of the season at Texas A&M.
Lord?s 234 rushing yards against Texas marked his fifth 100-yard rushing game of the season. In addition to his two 200-yard outings, he also topped the century mark with 103 yards vs. Arizona State, 111 at Penn State and 159 yards at Texas A&M.
Lord has led the Huskers in rushing seven times in 2002, including each of the past two games. In addition to leading Nebraska in rushing yards (1,155) and rushing touchdowns (7), Lord averages a remarkable 6.5 yards per carry. By comparison, 2001 Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch averaged 5.5 yards per rush last season. Lord?s 115.5 yards rushing per game rank 19th in the nation and third in the Big 12 Conference. Lord is second nationally in rushing among quarterbacks. His 211.2 total offensive yards per game rank seventh in the Big 12.
The McNeese State game was a career-best passing day for Lord in terms of completions (12), attempts (18), yards (151) and percentage (.667). He has topped 100 yards passing six times in 2002, including four of the past six games. Most recently he threw for 116 yards at Texas A&M.
Lord Supplies Nebraska With Big-Play Threat
One of the attributes Nebraska coaches saw in Jammal Lord from the start of the season was his big-play ability. The junior has not disappointed in that department this season, accounting for 18 plays of 25 yards or longer.
Lord has 10 rushes of 25 yards or more this season, including at least one in each of Nebraska?s last five games. He has broke off five runs of 40 yards or longer, including runs of 42 and 54 yards last week against Texas. The NU signal caller has accounted for seven of NU?s eight longest runs of the season.
Against McNeese State, Lord 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 has connected on eight pass plays of 25 yards or more, including a 60-yard scoring strike to tight end Matt Herian against Texas. He hit a season-long 90-yard TD pass to Ross Pilkington at Iowa State, good for the third-longest pass play in NU history.
The 18 25-yard plays by Lord stacks up well in comparison to 2001 Heisman winner Eric Crouch, who accounted for 24 plays of 25 yards or longer in 12 games last season (10 rush, 13 pass, 1 receiving).
Going Around the Horne
I-back David Horne has given the Husker running game a kick-start since ending his redshirt season five games ago. Horne has rushed for 434 yards in five games (86.8 ypg) and has raced for more than 100 yards twice. Horne had 125 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries at Oklahoma State and had a career-best 128 yards and four touchdowns vs. Texas A&M.
In the Oklahoma State game, Horne became the first true freshman I-back to rush for more than 100 yards since DeAngelo Evans had 130 yards in the 1996 Big 12 Championship Game against Texas. Horne was the first Husker frosh at any position to top 100 yards rushing since redshirt freshman quarterback Eric Crouch had 108 yards in a 40-30 loss at Kansas State in 1998. Horne?s two 100-yard outings marked the first time a Husker back had topped 100 yards since Dahrran Diedrick rushed for 108 yards on 24 carries vs. Kansas State on Nov. 10, 2001. Horne?s four touchdowns at Texas A&M were the most by a Husker freshman since fellow Omaha Central graduate Calvin Jones rushed for a school-record six TDs at Kansas in 1991 as a redshirt freshman.
Horne?s speed and field vision were evident immediately in his debut against McNeese State. He made a strong debut, rushing 12 times for 81 yards. He backed that performance up with 88 yards on a team-high 20 carries against Missouri, including 46 yards on a key second-quarter TD drive. He also added his first career TD on a five-yard run in the first quarter against Mizzou.
The 6-0, 190-pound Horne is averaging 5.0 yards per carry and his 86.8 yards per game would rank seventh in the Big 12 Conference if he had played in the required number of games. With 434 rushing yards, Horne ranks seventh on the NU single-season list for most rushing yards by a freshman. He is just 66 yards from becoming the sixth Husker frosh to rush for more than 500 yards.
Diedrick Continues to Climb Husker Rushing Charts
Senior I-back Dahrran Diedrick continues to move up the Husker career rushing charts. He ran for 52 hard-fought yards and a touchdown against Texas a week after his most impressive outing of the 2002 season at Texas A&M. He rushed for 85 yards on 15 carries in the game, including 78 yards on nine carries after halftime. Diedrick also scored a touchdown on a 12-yard run on NU?s opening drive and had a season-long 29-yard scamper in the third quarter.
Diedrick has totaled 622 rushing yards this season and joined an elite club against Utah State when he became the 21st Husker to rush for 2,000 career yards. He finished that game with a season-high 93 yards and now has 2,436 career yards to rank 14th on the Husker charts, just 52 yards from NU?s all-time top 10.
At 6-0 and 225 pounds, Diedrick supplies the Huskers with a physical running complement to freshman I-back David Horne who gives NU a home-run threat at the position. Quarterback Jammal Lord gives the Huskers one of the nation?s most lethal three-player rushing threats.
Diedrick was a first-team All-Big 12 pick last season after leading the league in rushing with 1,299 yards. He also scored 15 touchdowns and rushed for 100 or more yards in seven of 11 regular-season appearances.
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 success in 2002.
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.
Here?s a quick look at Nebraska?s special teams dominance in 2002.
- Punt Returns...Nebraska ranks second in the nation in punt returns, averaging 18.9 yards on 30 punt returns this season. Groce has returned 25 punts for 525 yards, for a nation-leading 21.0 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. Groce has five punt returns of 25 yards or longer in 2002, including a 44-yarder in the final minute against Texas.
- Place-kicking...Senior place-kicker Josh Brown is 8-of-11 on field goals in 2002 and perfect in 37 PAT attempts. Brown has six field goals of 40 yards or longer this season. He entered the season with just four 40-yarders in 12 career attempts from that range. (NU opponents are 3-of-6 from 40-plus yards in 2002). 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 44-yarder vs. Utah State. He added 42-yarders against Missouri and Texas A&M and connected on a career regular-season long 48-yard field goal against Texas. Brown missed a fourth-quarter field goal vs. Missouri, ending a streak of eight straight field goals made. Brown has hit 13 of his last 17 field goals dating back to last season. He ranks fourth at Nebraska with 288 career points. Brown?s performance on kickoff duties should not be left unnoticed with 32 of his 56 kickoffs this season (2-5 vs. Texas) ending in touchbacks. Brown and Nebraska?s kickoff coverage team have pinned opponents inside the 20 on eight occasions.
- Punting...NU?s Kyle Larson continues to prove that he is among the nation?s top punters. Larson ranks 14th in the nation in punting with a 42.9-yard average on the season. He has also pinned the opposition inside the 20 14 times, including three times each vs. Troy State and Oklahoma State. He has pinned opponents inside the 10-yard line six times, including twice at Penn State. Husker opponents have pinned Nebraska inside the 20 on punts 12 times. Larson has averaged better than 45 yards per punt in six games this season (46.2 vs. TSU; 57.3 vs. USU, 46.8 vs. PSU, 47.2 vs. ISU, 50.5 vs. A&M, 45.5 vs. Texas) 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, and had a season-high five punts of 45 yards or more vs. Penn State. Larson has punted a season-high six punts four times. Nebraska ranks seventh in the nation in net punting at 38.06 yards per attempt. Larson, a Ray Guy Award candidate, has been NU?s nominee for Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week three times this season.
- 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. Texas A&M was the first opponent to block an NU punt this season and returned the ball for a first-quarter touchdown and Texas blocked a Husker field goal this past week.
- 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 23.64 yards per return, with a season-long 46-yarder vs. Texas. He has 10 kickoff returns of 25 yards or more in 2002, including three against Missouri. Davis ranks second at Nebraska in career kickoff return yardage with 1,292 yards and owns the top two season totals in school history, including his NU record 675 kickoff return yards in 2001.
- Kick Coverage...Nebraska has allowed opponents to average just 16.5 yards on kickoff returns and only 9.2 yards on 20 punt returns this season. While Groce and Davis have combined for 13 returns of 25 yards or more, NU opponents have just four such returns (one punt, three kickoffs).
Huskers Scoring in All Three Facets of Game
Nebraska has reached the end zone 38 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 17 games dating back to last season (3 of 10 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.
Late Turnovers Help Key NU Comeback at Texas A&M; Blackshirts Strive for Better Turnover Ratio
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-8 in turnover margin in the past seven games, including a combined six-turnover disadvantage in four losses. Nebraska ranks 80th in the nation in turnover margin at -0.50.
Nebraska committed a pair of turnovers against Texas. The first interception led to a Longhorn field goal, while the second pick with 10 seconds remaining sealed the victory. Nebraska picked off one Longhorn pass, but did not convert it into a score as a Husker field goal attempt was blocked. 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. 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 30 turnovers in winning seven of its nine games since the loss at Nebraska.
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. He has four interceptions and six pass breakups this fall despite teams routinely avoiding his side of the field. Groce?s shut-down abilities are a key factor in Nebraska ranking 29th nationally in pass efficiency defense with a 108.72 rating.
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 had a season-high three pass breakups at Texas A&M and now has 39 career PBU to rank third 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 had a career-high 15 tackles in Nebraska?s game against Texas.
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?s punt return exploits earned him a spot on CNNSI.com?s Midseason All-American team.
Groce averages 16.9 yards per punt return in his career and is averaging 21.0 yards on 25 returns this season to lead the nation. Groce totaled 114 yards on four punt returns against Missouri to move into second place on the NU career punt return yardage list, and he now has 1,011 career yards. Groce?s 525 punt return yards this season already rank third on the NU single-season chart, just ahead of his 469 yards last season.
Blackshirts Look for Return of Rush End Kelsay
Nebraska continues to improve on defense despite the loss of its most dominant player in the front seven. Senior rush end Chris Kelsay has missed the majority of the past five games with a hamstring injury.
Before his injury Kelsay had shown 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. Despite missing the last 19-plus quarters of action, Kelsay is tied for the team lead with nine tackles for losses totaling 46 yards this season. He also still holds the team lead with 4.5 sacks for 38 yards and has a team-high 14 quarterback hurries. He tallied four QB hurries against both 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 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 has forced him to miss Nebraska?s games with Missouri, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Texas, but Kelsay still had an impact in the games with his presence from the sideline. Several of his teammates credited Kelsay with encouraging the defensive troops from the sideline throughout the Blackshirts? top performance of 2002 vs. Missouri. In addition, Kelsay was instrumental in a defensive players? meeting where the defense set goals for the 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 leads Nebraska with 23 receptions and has a pair of touchdowns this season. The 6-6 Thomas played a key role in NU?s win at Texas A&M with four catches for a season-high 59 yards against the Aggies. He had a season-long 28-yard catch in the second quarter that set up a David Horne TD run.
Thomas? four catches against Texas A&M pushed his career total to 61 and moved him into a tie for ninth place on the NU career receptions chart. Thomas 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 Texas A&M game marked the 14th game in his career that Thomas has caught three or more passes, including five times in 2002. He 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.
With 862 career receiving yards, Thomas ranks 18th on the NU charts and is 138 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
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, which announced 11 semifinalists for the award last month.
Shanle is fourth on the team with 55 tackles, including a season-high 10 stops against McNeese State. He also returned a blocked punt for a touchdown against Arizona State. Ruud is second on the team in tackles with 58 and a team-high nine tackles for loss, despite being plagued by injuries throughout the season. Ruud had 12 tackles and three tackles for loss in Nebraska?s game against Texas.
Senior center John Garrison was 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 an offensive line that has helped NU to a Big 12-leading 283.2 rushing yards per game.
Junior punter Kyle Larson continues to prove he is one of the nation?s best, averaging 42.9 yards on 46 punts this season to rank 14th nationally 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 named one of 10 semifinalists for the Ray Guy Award last week.
True Freshmen Making Big Impact for 2002 Huskers
Five true freshmen have seen action for Nebraska in 2002 and all have made immediate impacts. Split end Ross Pilkington is in his first season as a Husker after two seasons of minor league baseball, while I-back David Horne, split end Mark LeFlore, tight end Matt Herian and cornerback Fabian Washington are all just a year removed from high school.
The freshmen have proven to be difference-makers throughout the season, with their biggest impact in recent weeks. Nebraska had 369 yards of total offense at Oklahoma State, 204 (55 percent) of which were accounted for by true freshmen. Horne accounted for the largest chunk of the yardage with 125 rushing yards on 24 carries. The Texas A&M game was similar as the frosh accounted for 185 yards of total offense, with Horne rushing for 128 yards and Pilkington grabbing two passes for 52 yards. Washington added three pass breakups and seven tackles in the victory. Against Texas, NU freshmen combined for five of the Huskers? seven pass receptions.
The true freshmen wasted no time this season making their presence known. In fact, three of the five scored touchdowns on their first touch of their Husker careers. In the season opener, Washington intercepted an Arizona State pass and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown. Two games later against Utah State, Herian turned his first career reception into a 33-yard TD. He has since added two pass receptions, a 44-yarder at Oklahoma State and a 60-yard TD catch vs. Texas. He averages 45.7 yards on his three catches.
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. Horne has scored two touchdowns and Pilkington scored on a 90-yard TD at Iowa State, the Huskers? longest pass play in 37 years.
Washington and Pilkington were the only two members of the group to play in the season opener. The 6-0, 175-pound Washington took over starting duties at left corner against McNeese State and has a nose for the football. Washington has three interceptions this season and has also recovered and forced a fumble, while breaking up six passes.
Pilkington ranks second on the team in receptions with 13 and leads the Huskers in receiving yards with 277, good for a 21.3-yard per catch average. He has caught at least one pass in eight straight games and his 13 catches have established a new Nebraska freshman receptions record. His 277 receiving yards leave him just five yards away from Johnny Mitchell?s 1990 frosh receiving yardage record of 282 yards. 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.
Three Huskers saw action as true freshmen in 2001?Mike ?backer 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.
The Huskers have two games remaining against ranked teams?Texas, Kansas State and Colorado. Five Big 12 teams are ranked this week, including Oklahoma (1 AP/2 Coaches) Texas (4/4), Kansas State (12/12), Colorado (18/21) and Iowa State (21/22). Two of Nebraska?s non-conference opponents are ranked with Penn State listed 19th in both polls and Arizona State listed at 24th by the coaches and 25th in AP.
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, NU?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 has missed Nebraska?s past four games 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. In addition, redshirt freshman Seppo Evwaraye is out for the season with an injury to his right shoulder, while freshman DT Brandon Greeson, who is redshirting this fall, will also miss the remainder of fall practice with a shoulder injury. Rover Lannie Hopkins suffered a concussion against Texas A&M and missed the Texas contest, but should be available this week.
35 Former Huskers on NFL Opening-Day 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 32 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.
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 DE 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. Carolina Panther defensive end Mike Rucker was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Month in September and is among the league leaders in sacks and fumbles caused. Safety Mike Minter, Carolina?s all-time leading tackler 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.
Hassebroek, Two Other Student-Athletes Among Homecoming Court
Three members of the Husker athletic family are members of this year?s Homecoming Royalty Court and for the first time in recent history, a football player is represented on the court. Senior wingback Troy Hassebroek (Lincoln, Neb.) earned the honor. The son of Ron and Helen Hassebroek, Troy is a senior in Teachers College, majoring in middle level education and minoring in coaching. Hassebroek has been recognized often for his continued community service and as an active member of Nebraska?s Student-Athlete Advisory Board. Two members of the men?s cross country team are also represented in the 20-member group. The son of Robert and Kathleen Gray, Ian Gray (Eugene, Ore.) is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, majoring in biochemistry and biological sciences, and minoring in business administration. Kyle Wyatt (Albion, Neb.), son of David and Ruth Wyatt, is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, majoring in English, with a theory and criticism concentration, and minoring in history.
The homecoming king and queen will be voted on by the student body and crowned Nov. 9 at the halftime of the Nebraska-Kansas football game in Memorial Stadium.