LAWRENCE, Kan. – Husker offensive coordinator Shawn Watson asked the media to hold off on questions for a few seconds while he scanned the stat sheet after Saturday’s game.
What was he looking for?
“I just wanted to see what Roy (Helu) did,” Watson said. “I thought Roy played a great game. He’s been unbelievable for us these last two weeks. … He’s shown a lot of courage. He’s really given us a huge lift.”
The junior running back was the difference-maker in the fourth quarter of Nebraska’s 31-17 win against Kansas, running for two touchdowns after KU had taken a one-point lead.
His 20-yard touchdown burst put the Huskers ahead, and his 14-yard score with 29 seconds left put the game to bed.
Helu finished with 156 yards on 28 carries. The real numbers came down the stretch, as he piled up 86 of those yards in the fourth quarter.
His best run came on a third-and-10 from the Nebraska 37-yard line with just about three minutes left. With Nebraska leading 24-17, Helu busted off the right side, then cut inside, then cut outside before he was tackled after a 30-yard gain.
Helu credited the offensive line.
“Defenses get tired of hitting the same running back, and defensive linemen (get tired of) getting pounded off the run blocks,” Helu said.
Husker coach Bo Pelini said he was particularly proud of the last drive, when his team went 74 yards in 10 plays to seal the game.
“That’s just the way you finish, and that’s the way you come out and are able to put the game away,” Pelini said.
Lee on the run
Quarterback Zac Lee almost hurt Kansas as much with his feet as his arm Saturday. He finished with nine rushes for a career-high 53 yards.
His best run came on a bootleg early in the second quarter when he raced 32 yards into Kansas territory, a play that eventually set up an Alex Henery field goal to make it 10-0.
Watson said it was just a matter of challenging Lee to be more of a force as a running quarterback.
“I think what happens, especially to a quarterback, they try to (say), ‘OK, I’m the starter now. I’m going to be a passer,’” Watson said. “And one of the things that was so attractive about Zac coming out of junior college was his ability to run. And we’ve had some real heart-to-hearts about that. He’s got to pull that ball down and go with that because that’s an attribute he brings to the table a lot of guys don’t.”
A tough shot
Husker tight end Mike McNeill was as involved as he’s been in the passing game all season. His four catches tied a season and career high.
But it was his last catch, a 5-yard reception early in the fourth quarter, that took him out of the game.
“He just took a shot in the rib area,” Husker tight ends coach Ron Brown said. “I think he’ll be OK. We’ll let the trainers check, but it didn’t seem like it was anything majorly flagrant.”
Busts irk Pelini
Pelini said he thought his defense started the game well but had “too many busts” and some “shoddy tackling.”
Nebraska allowed 21 first downs, 335 total yards and Kansas touchdown drives of 80 and 89 yards.
“Believe me, we won the football game, we made some plays at the end, even defensively to get them off the field,” Pelini said. “But I’m far from happy about how we played defensively.”
Nebraska’s win and the losses by Kansas State and Colorado mean the Huskers and Wildcats will play next week in Lincoln for all the Big 12 North marbles.
“It’s in our hands,” Pelini said. “We control our own destiny. It’s at home. We’ve got to get better as a football team this week. We need to come out and be ready to play because I know they will be. I know Coach (Bill) Snyder is going to have that football team ready to play.”
This and that
Henery kicked three field goals. He’s now 15-of-18 this year and 41-of-47 in his career. He has four multi-field goal games this year and nine in his career. He’s now seventh on the Husker scoring chart, 17 points from the top five. … Pelini is 6-1 in November as Nebraska head coach. … Redshirt freshman Tim Marlowe’s 40-yard kick return to open the game was the longest of his career. … Kansas completed 19 of 41 passes, the seventh Husker opponent held to less than 50 percent.