Cory Ross limped into the interview room, the last Nebraska player to address the press after Saturday's loss to Southern Mississippi.

He may have been the last player for interviews, but it's become clear Ross is one of Nebraska's foremost weapons in its new West Coast offense.

Against the Golden Eagles, Ross carried 27 times for a career-high 169 yards and had five receptions for 27 yards.

"I'm a little sore, but no big deal," said Ross, moving delicately on his sore left knee.

It was easy to excuse Ross for being rather late for interviews. The 5-foot-6, 192-pound junior carried a heavy load and endured his share of contact as he led an offense that produced 476 yards, including 274 on the ground, but was done in by five turnovers.

"Their running game is good," Southern Miss linebacker Naton Stewart said. "They have a shifty tailback and powerful guys up front."

Ross established himself during Nebraska's opening drive, gaining 8 yards on each of his first three carries.

On Nebraska's first possession of the second half, Ross bolted for a career-long run of 52 yards to set up Joe Dailey's 9-yard touchdown pass to Grant Mulkey.

Ross' legs were still churning during the game's waning moments, gaining a hard-fought 3 yards on fourth-and-1 during Nebraska's last-gasp drive. He jumped from the FieldTurf and punched the air, exhorting his teammates.

"I did all I could to contribute," Ross said.

One could argue Nebraska asked Ross to do too much. He was clearly spent after the game.

The thing is, Ross appears to fit well in the West Coast system. He can run for yards both inside the tackles and on the perimeter. He catches passes well out of the backfield and is a good blocker.

It's safe to say Ross will continue to be one of Nebraska's primary weapons.

"We just don't want to overuse him," Nebraska head coach Bill Callahan said. "We have a lot of guys to use."

Nobody's been as productive as Ross of late. In last week's win against Western Illinois, Ross carried 13 times for 125 yards and caught two passes for 32 yards.

Ross has topped 100 yards rushing in five of his last six games dating to last season, when he started the final three games. He's averaged 121.7 yards in that six-game stretch.

Ross' big day Saturday pushed his career rushing total to 1,053 yards. He became the 54th Husker to top the 1,000-yard career rushing mark.

"Cory hits the holes hard and fast, and when he gets through them, he makes people miss," said Nebraska left guard Brandon Koch.

Redshirt freshman I-back Tierre Green added 66 yards on 11 carries Saturday after rushing seven times for 112 yards and two touchdowns in last week's victory.

"Our plan from the start was to be a physical running team," Koch said.

Callahan has stressed that point since taking over as head coach in January. Perhaps now, after two straight productive rushing days by the Huskers, fans and pundits will be convinced that the West Coast offense isn't necessarily a pass-dominated system.

In fact, it's a system that stresses balance.

Ross is limping proof.

"He's fallen in love with this offense," Husker running backs coach Randy Jordan said.

Sometimes, love hurts.

Reach Steven M. Sipple at 473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com.