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Idaho State v. Nebraska, 9.22.2012

With teammates all around, Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah (8) steps into the end zone to score in the first quarter against Idaho State at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.

ADAM WOLFFBRANDT/Lincoln Journal Star

The tell-all stat: Fans were doing the wave 19 minutes into the game.

To entertain themselves, they made the wave go in slow motion, then sped it up really fast. Then they changed things up, getting two waves going at once, making them collide.

Hey, you do what you've got to do when you’re watching a really, really bad football game and trying to forget they just played “Call Me Maybe” over the Memorial Stadium P.A. system.

Nebraska did what it had to do, too, though it didn’t really have to do much to put a 73-7 licking on a greatly overmatched Idaho State team.

What to learn from a game like Saturday’s?

“Not a lot,” Husker coach Bo Pelini admitted. “You know what I said to the team last night, I said, ‘Let’s find out how mature we are as a football team.’ How were we going to approach the game? Were we going to go out there and do what we’re capable of doing, regardless of who the opponent is? I thought we did that early on.”

That is hard to argue, considering Nebraska led the Football Championship Subdivision school 35-0 less than 13 minutes into the game when Ciante Evans picked off a pass and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown.

On the bright side for the Bengals, wounds heal easier when you leave with a $600,000 check.

On the bright side for the Huskers, it’s time for the meat and potatoes, with Big Ten play beginning next Saturday against Wisconsin.

“I feel like we’re in a good spot. I felt like we came out with a workmanlike mentality today, handled business and got out,” said junior offensive tackle Jeremiah Sirles. “That’s the way it should be. And next week? We owe these guys one. We all know it. We all know we need to play our best to beat these guys.”

It is hard to gauge the Huskers’ performance, given Idaho State has gone 5-40 over the past four seasons.

But if there was a positive for the Huskers, it was that they did not sleepwalk through the game as they did two years ago when they labored against FCS foe South Dakota State.

Senior running back Rex Burkhead, returning from a three-week absence because of a sprained MCL, busted off a 61-yard touchdown run a few minutes into the game.

And by the time wide receiver Kenny Bell raced 68 yards on a shovel pass, Nebraska had four touchdowns in 12 minutes of play.

A laugher. Or maybe more of a shake-your-header for those who don’t think these sort of games should be played.

Still, Husker players were trying to look at the lopsided contest with a critical eye.

“There’s still a lot of room for improvement. The scoreboard doesn’t necessarily show what we’ll see on film,” Bell said.

The Husker defense overpowered the young Idaho State offensive line, recording four sacks by halftime and seven by game’s end. Senior Eric Martin caused the most destruction, getting 2½ of those.

Nebraska tried to keep the score down, giving backup quarterback Ron Kellogg an early series of action, and even declining a first-half holding penalty on Idaho State it normally would have accepted.

Still, at halftime, it was 45-0. By the end of the third quarter, aided by a nifty 81-yard punt return by Ameer Abdullah, it was 66-0.

The Huskers held a total yardage advantage of 569 to 210. Idaho State finished with 31 yards rushing. Nebraska's fourth-string running back, Imani Cross, on the other hand, had 100.

Quarterback Taylor Martinez and Burkhead had their days cut short because of the blowout. Neither played in the second half.

In his return, Burkhead carried eight times for 119 yards and two touchdowns. He also tacked on a 25-yard catch on a screen pass.

The senior said he felt at about 90 percent, but admitted he couldn’t quite accelerate as he’d like on his long touchdown run because of a knee brace he hopes to get rid of in the next week.

Martinez, meanwhile, was 9-of-13 passing for 165 yards and two touchdowns.

“I think we’re right where we need to be,” Martinez said. “If we just keep this momentum going, we will be tough to beat.”

A year ago, Nebraska traveled to Wisconsin to begin life in the Big Ten. That game turned into a rout, with Badger fans throwing a fourth-quarter singing and chanting party as their team rolled to a 48-17 win.

“I remember being on the field at the end of that game last year and just the terrible feeling it left in my gut,” Sirles said.

This year’s Wisconsin team doesn't seem to match last year’s, with the Badgers having to claw and find a little luck just to get through the nonconference season with a 3-1 record.

But every team in the league, including Nebraska, has its question marks as conference play begins.

Now it’s time to see who can find the right answers.

“I don’t know that anyone has separated themselves from the pack as the dominating team in the league,” said NU defensive coordinator John Papuchis. “So it’s going to be an eight-week war to see who comes out on top. Really, I’m kind of champing at the bit to get it started. I feel like it’s a clean slate for us. We want to win the Big Ten. We haven’t made any bones about that, and it starts right now.”

Reach Brian Christopherson at or 402-473-7439. You can follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.


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