Huskers top Trojans despite early offensive woes

HUSKER FOOTBALLClick here to view the DN's Photo Gallery from the Huskers-Trojans' game Saturday.

Maybe the terminals were dirty or some wires got crossed.

Whatever the reason, Nebraska Offensive Coordinator Barney Cotton still wanted to give the short-circuited Jammal Lord-to-Matt Herian connection one more try.

In the third quarter, it finally sparked.

Lord's 77-yard bomb to the sophomore tight end set up a key touchdown and the Blackshirts continued their stellar play, boosting the Cornhuskers (5-0) to a 30-0 win over Troy State (3-3).

For NU Coach Frank Solich the first half was a fruitless search for the big play, which he thought Nebraska could use to overcome the Trojans' aggressive defensive scheme.

"It was a frustrating game in the first half from the offensive standpoint," said Solich, whose Huskers moved up to Nos. 7 and 10 in the latest polls. "We had opportunities to get points on the board, but didn't get it done."

Lord misfired on several deep passes in the first half, one intended for redshirt freshman Isaiah Fluellen and another pair to Herian, both of whom had beaten their defenders.

Lord's incompletions were especially costly because rushing yards were hard to come by. Troy State often sold out to stop the run by stacking the line of scrimmage.

NU totaled only 95 yards rushing on 25 carries before halftime.

"We were basically doing things to ourselves," said Cotton, who saw his offense held to 186 yards rushing on the day. "We weren't effective and didn't execute when we had big play opportunities. We have to be more aggressive and make things happen."

The Huskers would only have gone into the locker room with a 3-0 lead if it weren't for repeated chances gleaned from the Blackshirts.

The NU defense forced turnovers on three straight drives in the second quarter, putting the offense inside the TSU 35-yard line each time. Josh Bullocks intercepted his fifth pass of the year, followed by fumble recoveries by Titus Adams and Fabian Washington.

But, the offense only could manage one touchdown from those turnovers -- on a one-yard-sneak by Lord after Washington's recovery. Two second quarter drives ended on missed field goal attempts by David Dyches -- both of which hit the right upright in the south end zone.

Lord's passing woes continued on the first play of the second half. The senior from Bayonne, N.J., looked long to Herian down the middle, but underthrew the pass straight into the arms of Troy State safety Derrick Ansley.

Still, Cotton refused to be gun-shy with the offensive play calling and told Lord the big play was still the way to finish off the Trojans.

"Anyone would be discouraged when it happened more than once," Cotton said of Lord, "but I told him, 'Hey listen, get your head right because we're going to go out there and do it again.'"

The lightning bolt struck at the 5:51 mark of the third quarter. One play after a Trojan punt, Lord dropped back from his own 20 and lofted a rainbow to Herian, who raced down the sideline to the 3-yard line.

Cory Ross found the end zone one play later to put the Huskers on top 17-0. Lord finished the game completing 7 of 12 throws for 135 yards.

"It was kind of frustrating on the first couple of passes," said Herian, who hauled in three catches for 110 yards. "I didn't think the third one would work either because I didn't think they would let me behind them again."

Herian's career day also included catching freshman Joe Dailey's first career touchdown pass -- a 21-yard score in the fourth quarter.

Defensively, the Blackshirts put on what has become the expected: a dominant showing. The nation's top-ranked statistical unit allowed only 150 total yards, forced four turnovers to push its nation-leading total to 19 in five games and recorded season-highs in sacks (six) and tackles for loss (11). It was NU's first shutout since beating Baylor 59-0 Oct. 21, 2000.

"Honestly, I feel like we're getting better week in and week out," said linebacker Demorrio Williams, who had a team-high 13 tackles and 1.5 sacks. "(Troy State) came out and played real physical. They were the most physical team we've played."