Saturday, Oct. 14 7:00pm ET
Cornhuskers finally get defensive


LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) -- The Nebraska defense sent Texas Tech a message by roughing quarterback Kliff Kingsbury on the second snap. When the Huskers came away with his right sleeve, everyone understood they meant business.

Eric Crouch
Nebraska's Eric Crouch ran for two TDs and passed for another in the first half Saturday.

The Cornhuskers emphatically proved they're No. 1 again and plan to keep it this time by crushing the Red Raiders 56-3 on Saturday night.

Although Nebraska (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) gained 540 yards and scored its most points in 32 games, it was the defense that deserves the most credit for handing Tech (5-2, 1-2) the worst loss in its history.

"We went out there with an attitude and purpose, we went out there relentless," linebacker Carlos Polk said. "From the opening play, we wanted to make a statement."

After a one-week stint at No. 2 -- moving up only because Florida State lost, not because their play improved -- the Cornhuskers responded with their most complete game of the season.

Eric Crouch ran for two touchdowns and threw for another, all in the first half, and the defense held the Red Raiders to 200 yards, 289 below their average.

"We played how we are capable of playing," said Dan Alexander, who ran for 120 yards.

Especially the defense, which went from inconsistent to intimidating.

The renowned Blackshirts struggled the last three weeks as Notre Dame took them to overtime, Missouri played a tight first half and Iowa State was within one in the third quarter.

This time, the Cornhuskers plowed through Tech's young blockers and rattled Kingsbury from the start, pressuring him into interceptions to end his first two drives.

"I got a couple hits on the quarterback right before he threw it and he came up cursing a few times," Polk said. "After a while, it's going to take a toll."

Joe Walker returned the second interception 19 yards for Nebraska's first touchdown. Two plays later, nose tackle Jason Lohr sacked Kingsbury and ripped the right sleeve off the quarterback's black undershirt in the process.

Lohr triumphantly held up his prize, then threw it down. Kingsbury had to have a teammate tuck the stringy remains into his jersey.

Sufficiently spooked, Kingsbury's next five completions went a total of 5 yards. While short passes are a staple in coach Mike Leach's quick-strike offense, some of these -- like the one on third-and-17 -- were ridiculous.

The futility of the dump-and-dance approach was emphasized on Tech's final play of the second quarter: a 14-yard gain on fourth-and-15. It was the only time the Red Raiders crossed midfield in the first half.

"We thought we could throw some quick passes and really work that area, but they covered great," said Kingsbury, who was 20-of-37 for 165 yards, which is usually his halftime total. "They just played everything we did really well."

Tech came in thinking upset because of a hot passing game, a defense that was allowing 9.8 points per game and a sense that Nebraska was vulnerable.

It sure didn't work out that way. The Huskers led 28-0 at halftime en route to crushing the Red Raiders' nine-game winning streak at Jones Stadium.

"We never really got control mentally," Leach said. "We came out intense and tried really hard, but it was blind misdirection. We wanted to win, maybe too much."

Tech's lone points came on a 41-yard field goal by Chris Birkholz on the opening drive of the second half. The best chance for a touchdown fizzled when a 50-yard bomb to wide-open Shaud Williams bounced off his facemask.

The Red Raiders hadn't faced an option offense all season and, despite good speed, couldn't keep up with Nebraska. A three-and-out series to start the game and a Huskers fumble on the next drive offered Tech hope, but Nebraska ended up with only one more punt and one more turnover.

Crouch, who was so banged up by Iowa State that he missed a practice this week, ran 12 times for 52 yards and was 6-of-12 passing for 86 more in three quarters. Replacement Jamal Lord led Nebraska to touchdowns on all three of his drives, the last capped by an 8-yard run of his own.

It had been a good day for Leach as the offense he installed at Oklahoma helped the No. 8 Sooners beat No. 2 Kansas State 41-31. By halftime, his mood matched the stormy weather that swirled around the stadium. He angrily paced the sideline and got so frustrated by an official's call that he slammed down his headset.

The lightning and ugly clouds that threatened to delay the game passed early in the third quarter. When the forecast was announced, there was only a smattering of applause -- probably from the red-clad Nebraska fans who blended in with the red-clad Red Raiders faithful.

The Nebraska backers were louder at the outset of the fourth quarter as their call-and-respond chant of "Husker!" "Power!" serenaded the thousands of Tech fans heading for the exits.

Nebraska slipped to No. 2 two weeks ago following the unimpressive victory over Missouri. The Cornhuskers moved back into the top spot after Florida State fell to Miami last week. The Seminoles' loss gave the Huskers the nation's longest winning streak, which is now up to 12.

Thirteen should be disgustingly easy next week when Baylor, which hasn't scored in two games, visits Lincoln. Then Nebraska goes to Oklahoma for a matchup of Big 12 division leaders and the first mouth-watering matchup of the longtime rivals in many years. The Huskers play Kansas State three weeks later.

"I think a lot of people were questioning us," safety Troy Watchorn said. "This game was a huge step in the right direction."

Tech -- which has the misfortune of playing at K-State next Saturday -- fell to 0-5 against No. 1 teams and 0-6 against Nebraska.

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