The Kansas Jayhawks still have not won at Memorial Stadium since 1968, as Nebraska extended its home win streak over Kansas to 20 games with a 45-35 win Saturday.
And now we're going bowling.
Nebraska nabbed its sixth win of the season, making the Huskers bowl eligible and propelling them to second in the Big 12 North race. Missouri would have to lose both of its remaining regular season games for Nebraska to make the conference championship, assuming Nebraska wins out, and I don't see Iowa State beating Missouri, but Kansas might.
Last week I outlined some pointers for success against Kansas, on offense and defense. Let's take a look at how it panned out.
*Bring Consistent Play
The Huskers showed up to play Saturday. They found a good rhythm and stuck to it.
When plagued with penalties or difficulties on offense, Nebraska has quit and refused to keep fighting in previous games, but didn't Saturday. They brushed it off and played for the next possession.
Consistency was a big part of the win. Nebraska held the ball for 34 minutes and 46 seconds, a vindicating number for the offense's consistent play.
*Protect Joe Ganz
Poor ol' Ganzy had been rattled pretty bad against Oklahoma the week before and needed some time to sit in the pocket and think things out.
Overall, the offensive line did a good job ensuring he had time. Ganz threw 324 yards—his eighth time throwing for over 300 yards in his 12 starts—along with three touchdowns and one interception.
He wasn't hurried too often and was able to make smart decisions and lead Nebraska to its highest scoring day since the first game of the season against Western Michigan.
*Capitalize on the Run Game
Boy, did they. The coaches finally figured out that Marlon Lucky doesn't have what it takes anymore (I'll later discuss why he could have made a decent quarterback) and put in Quentin Castille and Roy Helu, Jr.
The backfield managed 167 yards, fueled by Helu's 115 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries (7.2 yards per carry). The true sophomore leaped over defenders and wowed the crowd with a 52-yard burst for a touchdown near the beginning of the fourth.
Like I've been saying since last season, Helu is the future (and now, thank God, the present) of Nebraska's run game.
*Disrupt Kansas' Rhythm
Nebraska did a good job to shake up the Jayhawks. Kansas seemed pretty comfortable in the first half, taking Nebraska into halftime tied at 14.
In the second half, Nebraska stepped up to the plate and gave Kansas all they had. The defense frustrated and flustered Kansas' offense and Nebraska's scorers moved the ball methodically and intelligently down the field against Kansas' defense.
If Kansas was comfortable in the first two quarters, they were dazed and confused in the last two.
Nebraska's defense sacked Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing five times and would have had six if he hadn't grounded the ball intentionally at nose tackle Ndamukong Suh's feet.
Reesing completed only 50 percent of his passes (15-for-30) and usually had little time to let go of the ball before Nebraska's defensive line got to him. The defense did exactly what they had to do to slow Kansas' prolific offense and give Ganz and company a chance to get the win.
*Shut Down Kansas' Run Game
The Jayhawks only managed 118 yards rushing, forcing them to become a one-dimensional offense. This was exactly what Nebraska needed.
Granted, Kansas running back Jake Sharp had a couple of impressive runs, but Nebraska made sure the ball wound up in Reesing's hands much more often than Sharp's. This made Kansas beatable (when they weren't throwing to Nebraska corner Anthony West's side).
Much to my amazement, Nebraska did a couple of other things as well to secure a victory over Kansas that I feel warrant mentioning.
Explored the Playbook
To start off the scoring for the game, running back Marlon Lucky tossed his fourth career passing touchdown to tight end Mike McNeill. Lucky is 4-for-6, throwing 69 yards for four touchdowns. Impressive numbers if you ask me.
On 2nd-and-goal from the Kansas two-yard line in the fourth quarter, nose tackle Ndamukong Suh lined up at fullback and caught a wide-open touchdown pass from Ganz. It was Suh's second career touchdown after he returned an interception against San Diego State.
With less than five minutes to play, Nebraska faced 4th-and-8 at the Kansas 20 and lined up for a field goal. The place-kick holder flipped the ball back to kicker Alex Henry, who took off for a nine-yard gain and a first down that led to a crucial touchdown.
Used Nate Swift's play-making ability
He's the best wide receiver Nebraska has ever had in its history, and he hardly ever gets the ball. I can draw a clear connection between the number of touches Swift gets and a win or a loss accordingly.
This game, Swift caught the ball seven times and turned it into 111 yards and a touchdown. That's almost 16-yards per catch. Tell me again why we don't pass the ball to him more?
It was a great win for Nebraska and a huge step in the right direction to restoring the program to where it belongs: in the hunt for the national championship.
We're 6-4 and could very realistically finish 8-4, or 9-4 with a bowl victory. To me, that's not too shabby after Callahan's 27-22 four-year reign of terror.
Coach Bo Pelini, without a doubt, is the answer Nebraska needed.