Nebraska Defeats Texas Tech, 24-10
By Garrett McKinnon
LUBBOCK, Texas - Most coaches would tell you, you only get so many proverbial pitches to swing at when you play against a good football team.
For the Texas Tech Red Raiders, connecting with those good "pitches" proved to be a tough chore as the Raiders struck out on their chance of an upset and the Nebraska Cornhuskers (5-1, 3-0) escaped from a packed crowd of 51,344 fans at Jones Stadium with a sloppy 24-10 win, ending an 11-game home win-streak for Tech.
The Red Raiders (4-3, 3-2) missed their first pitch on the game's first play. After receiving the opening kickoff, the Raiders fed the ball to I-back Byron Hanspard, who was hit almost immediately and fumbled the ball. Nebraska linebacker Terrell Farley scooped up the loose ball and raced 21 yards for the quickest touchdown in Nebraska history after seven seconds of play. Strike one.
The Red Raiders could not move the ball after the ensuing kick and punted the ball. The Cornhuskers immediately drove down the field to inside the Tech 30-yard line where a fumble by Damon Benning killed the drive.
The Raiders managed to put together a short drive, and Jeremy Hernandez pinned the `Huskers deep in their own territory when his punt was downed by the Raiders at the Nebraska two-yard line.
Three plays later, Tech linebacker Robert Johnson intercepted Nebraska QB Scott Frost's pass and ran it back nine yards for a score. With 3:31 left to play in the first quarter, Tech and Nebraska were tied at 7 apiece.
The Cornhuskers responded immediately, putting together a 13-play, 53-yard drive that ended in Kris Brown's 39-yard field goal to make the score 10-7 Nebraska.
After neither offense was able to move the ball during the next two possessions, the Red Raiders took over at their own 25, moving 63 yards in 13 plays and setting up Jaret Greaser's 29-yard field goal to again tie the game.
The Cornhuskers fumbled again on their next possession, setting up the Raiders at their own 49-yard line. A short drive set up a 50-yard field goal attempt by Greaser, who was just wide left on the kick.
Nebraska, aided by a roughing-the-passer penalty against the Raiders, moved to the Tech 32-yard line with six seconds to play. There, a 49-yard field goal attempt by Brown was well short, and the two teams went into the locker room tied at 10.
Tech seemed to have all the momentum early in the third quarter when the Raider defense held the Cornhuskers to three plays and a punt. The Raiders took over at their own 32 after the punt, but Hanspard again fumbled the ball. The Cornhuskers recovered at the Tech 41-yard line.
Seven plays later, Frost scored on a three-yard keeper to put the Cornhuskers up 17-10. Strike two.
The walls almost caved in on Tech's next possession. After holding the Raiders on three plays, the `Huskers blocked a punt, recovering at the Tech 40-yard line. Two penalties moved Nebraska back to their own 43, though, and the Raiders forced a punt.
Hanspard carried for the 26th time on the last play of the third quarter, breaking the 100-yard barrier for the 13th consecutive game. The drive ended on a punt after the Raiders had driven to the Nebraska 45-yard line.
The Red Raiders seemed to be in good shape after holding Nebraska to three plays and a punt on the `Huskers' next possession. But, freshman return man Clint Robertson muffed the punt and Nebraska recovered at the Tech 14-yard line.
Nebraska fullback Joel Makovicka fumbled the ball into and out of the back of the end zone seconds later, giving the Raiders the ball at their own three-yard line.
After gaining 27 yards to the 30, the Raiders were forced to punt. Nebraska's Benning fielded the punt at his own 44-yard line and rambled down the sideline to the Tech five-yard line. Two plays later, Benning scored from three yards out to put the Cornhuskers up 24-10. Strike three.
Two possessions later, the Raiders were down to less than six minutes left in the game. A drive that began at the Tech 20 moved to the Tech 48, but three straight sacks forced a Raider punt, and the game was essentially in hand for Nebraska.
The Cornhuskers gave the Raiders one final chance to make the game interesting when Makovicka fumbled inside his own 30-yard line. The Raiders, though, could not manage a first down and Nebraska ran out the clock.
Despite the win, it was a less-than-beautiful performance from the Cornhuskers. Nebraska managed only 13 first downs and 238 total yards. The powerful Cornhusker offense managed only 3.7 yards per carry in gaining 183 yards against a gritty Raider defense. That, combined with seven fumbles (four of which were lost), an interception and 11 penalties for 99 yards left the Cornhuskers happy to walk away with a win.
"I am disappointed in our offensive execution, it has to improve," said Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne. "Tech is certainly a top-20 team and under the right circumstances, a top-10 team. They have a tough defense, a good offense with a lot of speed and they scored one touchdown on our offense. They may be the best team we've played."
Nebraska players echoed their coaches sentiment.
"We had too many mental mistakes today. We have got to eliminate those if we are going to be a great defense like we want to be," said Nebraska defensive lineman Grant Wistrom. "Hanspard is a great running back. You can't simulate his quickness in practice. I think he is probably one of the best running backs and best athletes in the country."
The Red Raider defense stepped up in forcing five Nebraska turnovers and holding Frost to four completions in 12 attempts for 55 total yards passing, but the Raider offense struggled against a Nebraska defense ranked seventh in the country entering the game.
The Raiders rushed 46 times for 102 total yards, a 2.2 yard-per-carry average. Hanspard, the nation's leading rusher entering the game, rushed 31 times for 107 yards. The rest of the team accounted for minus-five yards on the ground.
Despite throwing for 112 yards, Tech quarterback Zebbie Lethridge completed only 11 of 30 passes, though several were dropped by wide-open receivers. Lethridge did not throw any touchdowns or interceptions. In all, the Raiders gained 214 yards in the game.
The Raiders as a team fumbled five times, losing three in a game that saw eight total turnovers.
"A bad ole finish for a pretty good start. They had us right where they wanted us. I am proud of our football team for not quitting," said Tech head coach Spike Dykes. "The defense played well today, especially with the position they were put in. The offense had a hard time going in. They had a hard time moving the football."
The loss marked the end of an 11-game home win streak by the Raiders. The Cornhuskers were also the last team to win in Lubbock prior to the streak, defeating the Raiders 42-16 in 1994.
The Raiders head to College Station next week to play the Texas A&M Aggies.
FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL NEBRASKA 7 3 7 7 24 TEXAS TECH 7 3 0 0 10 1ST QTR: NEB - TD, TERRELL FARLEY 21 YD FUMBLE RETURN (KRIS BROWN KICK), 0:07 TT - TD, ROBERT JOHNSON 9 YD INTERCEPTION RETURN (JARET GREASER KICK), 11:20 2ND QTR: NEB - FG, KRIS BROWN 39 YD, 0:47 TT - FG, JARET GREASER 29 YD, 11:23 3RD QTR: NEB - TD, SCOTT FROST 3 YD RUN (KRIS BROWN KICK), 5:31 4TH QTR: NEB - TD, DAMON BENNING 3 YD RUN (KRIS BROWN KICK), 6:45 Neb TT First Downs 13 17 Rushes-Yards 49-183 46-102 Passing Yards 55 112 Return Yards 88 34 Passing (Att-Comp-Int) 12-4-1 30-11-0 Punts-Average 5-48.0 8-31.0 Fumbles-Lost 7-4 5-3 Penalties-Yards 11-99 4-33 Time of Possession 26:28 33:32
Rushing: Neb - Green 19-76, Benning 4-32, Evans 6-24, Frost 14-22, Schuster 4-17, Makovicka 2-12 TT - Hanspard 31-107, Morris 2-0, Lethridge 13-(-5) Passing: Neb - Frost 4-12-1, 55 yards TT - Lethridge 11-30-0, 112 yards Receiving: Neb - Vedral 2-35, Green 1-19, Evans 1-1 TT - Hart 4-39, McKenzie 2-18, Morris 1-20, Allamon 1-15, DuBuc 1-10, Jasin 1-7, Hanspard 1-3 Attendance - 51,344