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Clock in, clock out. Just make sure you collect that ‘W' and keep that quarterback of yours in one piece.

That's what the Huskers did Saturday night in their 20-3 workmanlike dispatching of Kansas at Memorial Stadium.

This game isn't about to be displayed on any canvas, but the ninth-ranked Huskers did their duty, plowing past the Jayhawks on a cold November night when Nebraska coaches displayed some caution in how they used quarterback Taylor Martinez.

The Husker offense was ho-hum, a little disjointed, always a few cents short of the big play.

But the Blackshirts? All sorts of splendid.

When it was over, the Kansas offense trudged to the locker room with 87 total yards.

No need to squint. You read correctly -- 87 yards.

"When we got that last three-and-out, someone said I don't think I've ever been a part of holding a team under 100 yards," Husker defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said.

The last time Nebraska held an offense to less than 100 yards was 10 years ago against Baylor.

It doesn't happen often, so when it does, even the tough-to-please head coach is going to give you some love.

"I didn't see a guy out there defensively who didn't play well," Bo Pelini said.

It's a good thing the Husker defense brought its ‘A' game, because the offense could never quite find the formula to blow the game open against a three-win Kansas team.

It was frustrating enough that the Huskers were still throwing the football in the final minute, even calling a timeout with 10 seconds left before taking a knee.

What was that about?

"We always try to score," Bo said.

And, no, he said he didn't care about any BCS style points or anything like that.

"It's about getting your football team better, and at that point I wasn't very happy about how we played offensively, so we're going to keep playing and get the reps we need."

Martinez wasn't always sharp in his return to action. He admitted after the game he couldn't cut side to side as well as usual as he recovers from a sprained ankle suffered two weeks ago.

"It's getting a lot better," he said. ‘It's almost 100 percent right now."

But there's good reason the freshman quarterback carried the ball just three times in the first half, two coming on scrambles.

Husker coaches obviously didn't want to run Martinez much if they didn't have to.

"I thought he was a little rusty, especially to start," Bo Pelini said. "We tried to protect him out there a little bit. That was kind of the plan going in, let him ease back into it."

But at the half, with the Huskers leading 14-0, Martinez told coaches he could run more. And so he carried on the first three plays of the second half and five more times after that.

The Huskers tallied 397 total yards, but struggled to muster the big play. The biggest one of the night was a 26-yard catch by Niles Paul.

Martinez fumbled once, threw an interception, and didn't run or pass for a touchdown.

Redshirt freshman lineman Jeremiah Sirles said it felt like the offense was clicking well enough. It just wasn't finishing drives.

"Like I told everyone, it's not crisis-mode time, it's not panic-mode time," Sirles said. "We just need to refocus and get back to work because we moved the ball, we did good things, we just need to clean up some of the little things."

Fortunately for Nebraska, the Blackshirts were nasty. From the opening series, they owned the line of scrimmage and made life a mess for Kansas quarterback Quinn Mecham.

They swarmed to the football, sacking Mecham six times, and holding the Jayhawks to five first downs.

"It was an amazing performance by our defense," said cornerback Prince Amukamara. "Our coaches are never satisfied. They are just going to raise expectations higher next week."

"We just went out there and had fun," said safety DeJon Gomes. "We could see a visible difference in how we just went out there and were flying around."

It was the perfect night to throw the bones, but just another step, Carl Pelini reminded.

On Friday, he told his team about a marathon runner who was asked what he thought about while he ran.

"He said I think about each step individually, because the minute I don't, I'm going to stumble," Carl Pelini said. "And that's what it's about. You've got to think about each step."

Now comes Texas A&M, and a chance to clinch the Big 12 North. Make no mistake, the next step's a biggie.

Reach Brian Christopherson at bchristopherson@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439.

Nebraska-Kansas game highlights