Nebraska’s biggest game of the season thus far was last week. The Huskers’ best game to date arguably occurred Saturday night.
Coming off a loss at college football superpower Southern California, Nebraska appeared bent on taking out its frustration on Troy. The 23rd-ranked Huskers broke from the gate quickly and rolled to a resounding 56-0 triumph before 84,799 spectators at Memorial Stadium and a national pay-per-view audience.
“We played well all night,” said Nebraska defensive end Adam Carriker, who helped pave the way for the Huskers’ first shutout since October of 2003 against Iowa State.
Playing superbly across the board, Nebraska improved to 3-1 and quickly and convincingly squelched any thoughts of a hangover in the wake of last week’s 28-10 setback at USC.
Nebraska coach Bill Callahan called it a “satisfying” victory. His team begins Big 12 play next week at home against Kansas.
Said Husker quarterback Zac Taylor: “Everyone was really dialed in, and it showed.”
By halftime Saturday, Nebraska led 28-0 and accumulated 406 total yards — 154 rushing and 252 passing. The Huskers, during the first 30 minutes, produced three runs of 20 yards or more after having two such runs total in the first three games.
Nebraska finished the night with 597 total yards to Troy’s 140.
Callahan gave props to the offensive line. He said he spent a lot of time with it during the week of practice.
“The timing’s getting better,” he said. “We feel we still have a ways to go.”
On a night with too many Husker stars to list, I-back Marlon Lucky shined brightest, reeling off touchdown runs of 34, 45 and 51 yards. His final touchdown — with 91/2 minutes remaining in the third quarter — pushed the lead to 35-0.
Lucky wound up with a career-high 156 yards on 10 carries, a week after gaining only 27 yards on 10 attempts.
“The line made big holes, and I ran through them,” said the North Hollywood, Calif., native.
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I-back Kenny Wilson added 106 rushing yards on 19 carries as Nebraska produced two 100-yard rushers for the first time since the 2004 season opener against Division I-AA Western Illinois.
Taylor finished 14-for-17 passing for 268 yards and a touchdown in just more than two quarters of play. Husker junior wideout Terrence Nunn caught four passes for a career-high 102 yards.
Nebraska’s dominance Saturday was somewhat surprising because Troy (1-3) had played impressively in losses to both Florida State and Georgia Tech. Indeed, the Trojans, of the Sun Belt Conference, had pushed both teams into the fourth quarter before falling.
They never threatened the Huskers in falling to 0-4 all-time in Lincoln.
“That’s the best football team we’ve played in a long time,” said Troy head coach Larry Blakeney. “I don’t know what they call that offense — the West Coast, East Coast, South Coast or Canadian. Whatever. It’s very well-designed and gave us more than we could handle.”
Nebraska essentially put away Troy just 4:26 into the second quarter as the 6-foot, 210-pound Lucky sprinted up the middle for a 45-yard touchdown run to push the lead to 21-0.
Nebraska jumped on the out-manned opponent from the get-go. Mixing three passes with seven runs, the Huskers took their game-opening possession 73 yards for a 7-0 lead. Lucky capped the drive with a 34-yard burst, bouncing to the right and sprinting past a couple Trojans to paydirt. He carried five times for 51 yards during the march.
The Huskers went up 14-0 on their next possession when Taylor lofted a touchdown pass to wide-open tight end J.B. Phillips, capping a five-play, 72-yard drive. Wideout Nate Swift, with only three catches on the season entering the night, caught two passes for 77 yards during the possession.
On its second scoring drive, Nebraska overcame two penalties — a chop block and a holding call — that set the Huskers back 25 yards. Not that it mattered.
Troy appeared lost from the start and never recovered, faltering miserably even on special teams. For instance, Trojans punter Jason Wright bobbled a snap midway through the third quarter, and Husker special-teams whiz Brandon Rigoni pounced on the pigskin, with NU taking over at the Trojan 4.
Three plays later, Nebraska backup quarterback Joe Ganz zipped a 1-yard touchdown strike to reserve fullback Matt Senske to make it 42-0.
Troy later fumbled away a punt that led to junior I-back Brandon Jackson’s 8-yard touchdown run.
Nebraska long since had taken control — by design.
“In a physical sense, we wanted to get the game over by halftime.”
Reach Steven M. Sipple at 473-7440 or email@example.com.