With 3 minutes, 35 seconds remaining in the third quarter Saturday night, the scoreboard on the north end of Memorial Stadium looked like this:
Total yards: Missouri 314, Nebraska 258.
Many of the 85,372 fans, had they been told of those numbers before the game, would’ve probably been very encouraged.
The mere difference of 56 yards, though, wasn’t very reflective of the most important statistic.
The score: Missouri 38, Nebraska 10.
The vast difference of 28 points was quite reflective of Nebraska’s mistake-prone performance against the nation’s No. 4 team.
Missouri was nearly flawless, and Nebraska, especially on offense, was sloppy.
Hence, the Tigers’ lopsided 52-17 victory that ended Missouri’s 30-year drought in Lincoln.
Topping the list of Husker errors: A mind-boggling 14 penalties for 101 yards. Adding to the problems were a 3-yard punt, a Joe Ganz interception returned for a touchdown, and a Quentin Castille fumble in Nebraska territory that set up another Missouri touchdown.
It didn’t matter, then, that Nebraska ran 73 plays, to Missouri’s 58, and was outgained in total yardage by a modest 93 yards.
“We’re not about statistics; we’re about winning football games,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. “We got our butts kicks, and that’s my fault.”
Nebraska’s problems began on its second drive, when the Huskers, down 14-7, were driving and trying to answer a Missouri touchdown.
Facing second-and-7 from the Missouri 26-yard line, Ganz scrambled near the sideline. He couldn’t find an open receiver, but instead of throwing the ball out of bounds, he took a 7-yard sack.
“I need to be smarter than that,” Ganz said. “I need to get rid of the ball. That was dumb.”
Missouri followed with another sack, forcing Nebraska out of field-goal range.
The Tigers led 24-7 when Ganz threw his fifth interception of the season. Brock Christopher returned it 17 yards for a touchdown late in the second quarter.
“That was kind of the turning point,” Ganz said.
Down 31-7, Nebraska, with no timeouts, drove to the Missouri 11-yard line in the final minute before halftime. But Ganz threw three straight incompletions, and the Huskers had to settle for an Alex Henery field goal.
The mistakes really began to mount in the third quarter. Nebraska took the opening kickoff and drove near midfield when a holding penalty set back the Huskers. It looked as if NU had converted a third-and-7, when Ganz hit Menelik Holt with a pass into Missouri territory.
But Holt was called for illegal touching, as he was out of bounds and came back into play to catch the pass.
Nebraska punted. Dan Titchener’s kick went off his foot and flew all of 3 yards.
Even Nebraska’s most impressive drive of the night — the Huskers’ first of the game, which covered 60 yards in seven plays and resulted in a touchdown — included a false-start penalty.
“Having a great drive against a team like Missouri, you’re driving down and then, and you get a penalty there, a penalty there,” senior receiver Nate Swift said. “It’s tough when things like that happen. We’ve just got to go back and fix those mistakes.”
Nebraska drove to the Missouri 18 on its next possession of the third quarter. That drive, too, went backward when senior lineman Matt Slauson was called for a personal foul.
Ganz was 26-of-38 passing for 290 yards and two touchdowns, but Nebraska’s running game sputtered for the fourth time in five games. The Huskers managed a mere 79 yards on 38 carries.
Again, coaches rotated three backs, with Marlon Lucky getting 14 carries for 46 yards. Castille had 26 yards on 12 carries, and Roy Helu had five runs for 11 yards.
“If we can’t run it, we should be able to throw it,” Ganz said. “We just didn’t have enough. We didn’t do enough offensively. We left too many points on the field.
“I’m just sick to my stomach after this game. We better rebound fast, otherwise we’re going to get killed again next week.”
Reach Brian Rosenthal at 473-7436 or firstname.lastname@example.org.