Lincoln - Second-ranked Nebraska used an opportunistic defense and special teams to overcome a 14-13 halftime deficit and defeat Kansas State, 31-21, Saturday.
The Huskers recorded three interceptions, including Willie Amos? 20-yard touchdown return, while scoring on DeJuan Groce's 60-yard punt return in the third quarter to continue its chase of the Big 12 North title and a berth in the conference title game Dec. 1.
After trailing at intermission, Nebraska came out and pounded the ball at the Wildcats, using a 15-play, 77-yard drive that took more than seven minutes off the clock to take the lead for good. Senior quarterback Eric Crouch and junior I-back Dahrran Diedrick combined for 12 rushes on the drive, while Crouch found senior wingback John Gibson for a 17-yard gain on third-and-12 in the drive?s only pass play. Diedrick then scored from two yards out for a 19-14 Husker lead and added the two-point conversion.
Nebraska (11-0 overall, 7-0 Big 12) then took advantage on special teams, as Groce returned a Mike Ronsick punt 60 yards for NU?s 14th straight unanswered point. Groce helped a special teams unit gain 70 yards on three punt returns, while Josh Davis and Kyle Ringenberg combined for 74 yards on four kickoff returns. It was Groce?s first career score and marked the second straight week NU had returned a punt for a touchdown.
On defense, Amos added 70 yards on two interception returns, including a 50-yard return in the third quarter that set up Nebraska?s final points. Amos picked off the pass at the Nebraska 36 and scooted down the sideline before being tackled at the Kansas State 14. The Huskers then took seven plays, all on the ground, before placekicker Josh Brown booted a 28-yard field goal to give the Huskers a 31-14 advantage.
Kansas State (4-5 overall, 2-5 Big 12) got on the board once in the second half, as Joe Hall had a one-yard touchdown run to end an eight-play, 50-yard drive. The Wildcats then intercepted a second Crouch pass with 1:59 remaining but turned it back over on the next play from scrimmage as Pat Ricketts recorded the Huskers? third interception of the day. Nebraska then took four plays to run out the clock and seal the victory.
Crouch finished the day with 106 rushing yards and one touchdown. His score came on a 14-yard run on the Huskers? fifth possession, after NU had given up the ball on a fumble, punt, interception and missed field goal in their first four drives of the game. Crouch attempted just seven passes, hitting three for 60 yards, including a 45-yard screen pass to I-back Thunder Collins. Leading the Huskers on the ground was Diedrick, who topped the 100-yard mark for the seventh time this season and fifth in the last six games, while gaining 108 yards on the ground and one touchdown.
Early in the game, Kansas State had several opportunities to get on the board, as Nebraska committed a pair of turnovers in the first quarter. But the Wildcats could not convert, as senior Tim Demerath blocked Joe Rheem?s 34-yard field goal attempt and the Husker defense forced a pair of punts.
Nebraska?s defense continued to hold the Wildcats in check but it was the KSU special teams that to set up their first touchdown to close it to 13-7. Terence Newman blocked Kyle Larson?s punt, giving the Wildcats first-and-goal at the NU seven, setting up a five-yard run by Wildcat quarterback Ell Roberson two plays later.
Finishing out the half, the Wildcats seemed to take the momentum, as Roberson guided KSU on a five-play, 65-yard drive in just 1:31 that gave KSU the lead at the break. Roberson, who misfired on his first eight pass attempts, found a diving Aaron Lockett in the endzone for a 32-yard touchdown pass with six seconds remaining to give the Wildcats a one-point, 14-13, advantage at the intermission. It was the first time since Oct. 31, 1998, that the Huskers had trailed at home at the intermission.
Roberson gained 119 yards on the ground to lead KSU, becoming the first opponent to break the 100-yard mark against the Huskers this season. Nebraska still outgained the Wildcats, 324-276 in total offense and 264-239 in rushing, while winning their 21st straight home game and 17th straight game over the Wildcats in Lincoln.
Nebraska Postgame Notes
No. 2/2/1 (AP/Coaches/BCS) Nebraska defeated unranked Kansas State, 31-21, in Lincoln, to improve 11-0 on the season and 7-0 in Big 12 action, Kansas State drops to 4-5 overall on the season and 2-5 in the league. Nebraska?s last and regular-season game is Friday, Nov. 23 at Colorado.
Even though Nebraska committed two turnovers in the first quarter, neither team scored in the first period, marking the third straight game that both Nebraska and its opponent entered the second quarter with a 0-0 tie. Nebraska scored at the 9:06 mark in the second quarter on an Eric Crouch 14-yard run. Crouch?s touchdown run marked the first K-State has given up in the last 10 quarters. Nebraska converted Kansas State?s first turnover into a score, as sophomore free safety Willie Amos recorded his third interception of the season and scored on a 20-yard return. NU place-kicker Josh Brown missed on the extra point however, as NU went up 13-0. KSU got on the board with 2:57 remaining in the second quarter, after Terrence Newman blocked a Kyle Larson punt and Ell Roberson scored two plays later on a five-yard run. KSU used up all but six seconds on its last drive before half, going ahead 14-13 after a Aaron Lockett 32-yard TD pass reception from Roberson (his only completion of the game). NU has trailed five times in a game this season, also vs. Troy State, Missouri, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, but this is the first time that Nebraska has trailed in the second half and the first time NU has trailed at home to start the second half since Oct. 31, 1998, when Texas defeated Nebraska 20-16, NU?s last loss at home.
On Nebraska?s first drive of the second half, the Huskers drove 77 yards on 15 plays (7:11) as Dahrran Diedrick (39 yards) and Crouch (15) accounted for 54 of NU?s rushing yards. Diedrick scored his 13th rushing TD of the season on a two-yard run with 7:41 remaining in the third quarter, as Nebraska converted three third-down conversions on the drive. NU was successful on a running two-point conversion after a KSU holding penalty put the ball on the 2-yard line. Diedrick ran it in, converting on his first two-point conversion of his career, which put the Huskers up 21-14. After the Blackshirts held KSU with a pair of tackles for loss, Mike Ronsick punted away to DeJuan Groce, who returned the punt 60 yards for a score. After the ensuing PAT by Brown, NU led 28-14 with 4:46 remaining in the third quarter, and never looked back. KSU cut the lead back to 10 on a one-yard run by Joe Hall with 5:22 remaining in the game.
The win for the Huskers was Nebraska's 13th straight overall; 17th straight win over Kansas State in Lincoln; NU?s eighth straight Big 12 Conference win; the Huskers? 21st straight at home; and marked Nebraska?s ninth perfect home season in 10 years, third straight. With the win, NU has begun the season 11-0 for the first time under Solich, the fifth time since 1990 and the seventh time overall; marked Nebraska's second 11-win season under Solich in four years; gave Coach Solich 42 career wins in four years; ranks Solich for third among Division I-A coaches for wins in first four years and improved NU to 2-1 as the BCS No. 1 team.
* Senior quarterback Eric Crouch improves to 35-5 as a starter, becoming the ninth quarterback in Division I-A history to record 35 wins as a starter. In the win over Kansas State, Crouch rushed 23 times for 106 yards and completed 3-of-7 passes for 60 yards. He threw an interception in the first quarter (picked off by DeRon Tyler) and also threw a second with two minutes remaining in the game (picked off by Jon McGraw), but Kansas State did not convert either into points. Crouch threw his longest completion of the season, a 45-yard strike to Thunder Collins (his previous long was 42 yards to Wilson Thomas vs. Rice) and scored on a 14-yard run to give Nebraska its first score of the game with 9:06 remaining in the second quarter. This season, Crouch has rushed 185 times for 953 yards with 16 touchdowns. He has completed 57 percent of his passes for 1,312 yards and seven TDs. He leads the team with 2,265 yards of total offense.
Crouch owns Nebraska school records for career rushing yards by a quarterback (3,272), most rushing TDs by any player (57), career total offense (7,555) and most total offense TDs (86), to name a few. Crouch is also the NCAA Division I-A record holder for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback, passing Ohio's Kareem Wilson (49). Crouch's rushing yards rank third overall at NU, fifth in the Big 12 (first among quarterbacks) and eighth among NCAA Division I-A quarterbacks. Crouch ranks third all time at NU in passing with 4,283 yards and is just the third Division I-A quarterback to rush for 3,000 and pass for 4,000 yards. Crouch needs 27 rushing yards to become the 13th Division I-A quarterback all time to rush and pass for 1,000 yards in a season (second at NU). Crouch has rushed for 50 or more yards in a game 31 times and 100 yards in a game 16 times. He has scored at least one rushing touchdown in nine of 11 games this season and in 34 games in his career. Crouch now has 414 rushing yards against Kansas State in four years, including 106 this year, 42 last year, 158 in 1999 and 108 in 1998. Crouch?s rushing touchdown moves him into fifth place on the NCAA Division I-A chart for career rushing
TDs, and he moves up from eighth to sixth on the non-kicker NCAA Division I-A career scoring chart with 356 points (second at NU, second in Big 12).
* Junior I-back Dahrran Diedrick, who became the first back in the Big 12 to rush for 1,000 yards this season, hit the 100-yard rushing mark for the seventh time this season and the fifth time in the last six games. Diedrick scored on a two yard run and converted a two-yard two-point conversion (the first of his career) to give Nebraska a 21-14 lead with 7:41 remaining in the third quarter. Diedrick leads the Huskers 217 carries for 1,205 yards in 10 games (120.5 yards per game, ranks 12th nationally). His yards rank as the fourth-best rushing total by a junior in school history (11th best overall, best under Coach Solich). Diedrick has 1,720 career rushing yards to rank 25th on NU's all-time rushing list.
* For the fourth time this season, Nebraska had multiple 100-yard rushers as I-back Dahrran Diedrick led the way with 108 yards and QB Eric Crouch had 106 yards. NU also had multiple 100-yard rushing games vs. Iowa State (Diedrick 107/Crouch 104); Baylor (Collins 165/Diedrick 137/Crouch 132/Davies 119); Texas Tech (Diedrick 157/Crouch 105), and all four times Diedrick and Crouch have been in the mix. Against the KSU defense that entered the game ranked second nationally against the run, Nebraska rushed for 264 yards, the most against KSU this season.
* Cornerback DeJuan Groce returned a punt 60 yards to give Nebraska a 28-14 lead with 4:51 remaining in the third quarter. That TD followed a Nebraska score on its opening drive of the second half and a strong stand by the Husker defense. For Groce, it was his longest return and first for a TD. Groce now has four returns this season of 25 yards or more. His previous best was 34 yards vs. Missouri. For Nebraska, it is the second straight week that Nebraska has returned a punt for a TD, as Ben Cornelsen had a 71-yard return last week vs. Kansas. Groce had two punt returns for 70 yards and two tackles (one for three yards lost) and one pass breakup. Groce ranks fourth in career pass breakups behind Ralph Brown?s school-record 50 from 1996-99), and current Huskers Keyuo Craver?s 41, and Erwin Swiney?s 38 with 32 in his career.
* Turnovers...Nebraska 3 (1 fumble, 2 interceptions, KSU points off turnovers-none). Dahrran Diedrick fumbled on Nebraska?s first drive but KSU did not convert, even though they recovered the ball on the Nebraska 20 (as Tim Demerath blocked a FG). Eric Crouch threw a first-quarter interception, that was picked off by DeRon Tyler. Although KSU got the ball on the NU 38, the Wildcats did not convert. Crouch threw a second interception in the fourth quarter (picked off by Jon McGraw with two minutes remaining in the game), but NU picked off KSU on the very next play and did not convert. Diedrick?s fumble was Nebraska?s first fumble/fumble lost since the Baylor game. Nebraska has had just one fumble/fumble lost in the last four games.
Kansas State 3 (3 interceptions, NU converted two to nine points, one TD, one FG). NU sophomore free safety Willie Amos picked off Ell Roberson, who was under heavy pressure from Jon Clanton. Amos ran it in 20 yards for the score with 8:43 remaining in the second quarter. Although Josh Brown missed the PAT, NU went up 13-0. The score was the first return for Amos on a pick, and his first career touchdown. It was the third time this season that the Husker defense has scored itself, the second by interception (also Jon Clanton on a 20-yard fumble return vs. Troy State and Keyuo Craver?s 57-yard interception return vs. Iowa State). Amos picked off the Wildcats a second time, which NU also converted. Amos picked off Roberson at the end of the third quarter, and returned the pick 50 yards to the Kansas State 14 yard line. Nebraska scored seven plays later on Josh Brown?s 28-yard field goal to go up 28-14. The last time Nebraska had two interceptions in a game by the same player was Mike Brown vs. Texas A&M in 1999. Amos is the first Husker to record two interceptions in a game since rover Mike Brown had two interceptions vs. Texas A&M in 1999. In the game, Amos had two interceptions for 70 yards and a TD and was named the ABC/Chevrolet Nebraska Player of the Game. Amos leads the team with four interceptions this season (five in career). On the first play after Crouch?s interception, Nebraska sophomore left corner Pat Ricketts intercepted KSU QB Marc Dunn, but did not convert as time ran out. For Ricketts, it was his first career interception. The three interceptions in the game tied the Huskers? season best as NU also had three against Baylor. NU now has 19 on the season by 10 different players. Nebraska has now converted 15 of 26 turnovers (7 fumbles 19 interceptions) into 15 scores (12 TDs, three FGs) for a total of 91 points.
* Team Highs and Lows...Nebraska Lows: Pass attempts 7 (previous low 9 twice), completions 3 (4 Baylor)...Kansas State Highs: Rushing yards 239 (196 by Rice). KSU Lows: Completions 4 (8 twice); Passing yards 37 (79 Kansas). KSU?s Ell Roberson recorded the first 100-yard rushing game against the Huskers this season, and the first since Northwestern?s Damien Anderson who had 149. In regular-season action Colorado?s Cortlen Johnson had 155 in the last regular-season game vs. NU in 2000. The previous best this season vs. NU was Kansas? Reggie Duncan, who had 73 yards. Roberson had a 43-yard run on KSU?s first drive, just the seventh long run against the Blackshirts this year. One of 23 seniors playing his last home game, LB Jamie Burrow had a team-best 12 tackles, including five solos, and a 17-yard sack. Burrow had double-figure tackles for the third time this season (also 11 vs. Notre Dame and 17 vs. Oklahoma). Fellow senior free safety Dion Booker was second on the team with nine stops (four solo).
* Nebraska Defense...the Huskers held KSU to 276 total offense yards on 239 rushing yards and a season-low 35 yards passing. KSU is the second straight opponent NU has held to less than 100 yards passing as KU had 79 last week. Nebraska recorded three sacks and had six tackles for loss, led by Mark Vedral?s 3-15. NU had three interceptions and has had at least one in each of the last six games. KSU was just 4-of-18 passing as starting QB Ell Roberson completed just 1-of-11 passes with two interceptions (both to Amos). His completion was a 32-yard TD pass to Aaron Lockett. On the season, NU opponents have completed just 42.7 percent of their passes (162-of-379) with 19 interceptions and seven TDs. The Husker Blackshirts scored themselves against KSU on a 20-yard Amos interception return and on a 60-yard Groce punt return, marking the fifth straight year Nebraska has scored either a defense or special-teams TD vs. Kansas State. In the last two games, NU opponents have completed 12-of-35 passes for 116 yards.
* Sacks...Nebraska has had at least one sack in every game this season. Today, Nebraska had 3-35 and now has 39-328 on the season. WLB Mark Vedral had 1-8 on a Rock Cartwright fullback pass, and also shared a sack with rush end Demoine Adams (1-10). MLB Jamie Burrow had a 17-yard sack against Roberson.
* Blocked Kicks...Nebraska senior Tim Demerath blocked Mike Ronsick?s punt in the first quarter, marking the third straight year that NU has blocked at least one kick against Kansas State and has had five in the last three seasons. Nebraska has blocked four kicks this season (three punts) and has had one in each of the last two games (also Ben Zajicek vs. Kansas). NU?s Kyle Larson was also blocked, and had one tipped slightly by KSU?s Terrence Newman.
* Place-Kicker Josh Brown...missed on a 43-yard field goal attempt on NU?s last drive of the first quarter, which extended into the second quarter, but hit on a 28-yard field goal that gave Nebraska a 31-14 lead with 14:34 remaining in the fourth quarter.
* Senior tight end Tracey Wistrom did not catch a pass in the game, but in pregame ceremonies, Wistrom was named the first named honoree of the Brook Berringer Memorial Endowed Scholarship. The endowment was established by a benefit concert given on Aug. 27, 1997, by lead singer Mark Miller and the members of the country singing group, Sawyer Brown, who were friends of Brook Berringer. The scholarship was endowed in memory of former Nebraska quarterback Brook Berringer, who died in a plane crash on April 18, 1996.