Nebraska's fifth and final interception on Saturday was gift-wrapped with a bow on top.
NU safety Anthony West hauled in a floater from Idaho quarterback Nathan Enderle with not one Vandal receiver in sight. Instead of thanking Enderle, though, West ought to send his gratitude to his teammates on the defensive line.
"Every time you get pressure, you get in (Enderle's) head," Cornhusker defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said. "We were in his head today. I promise you, that throw he made to West, we were in his head. He didn't want to get hit again."
The No. 8 Cornhuskers totaled seven sacks during their 38-17 victory against Idaho. Defensive back DeJon Gomes said that pressure had a far greater impact than the mere 80 yards Idaho lost on the sacks.
"If the quarterback only has one or two seconds to throw, then he's going to throw it up for grabs," Gomes said. "That's going to help us out in coverage."
Enderle's desperate attempts led to two pick-sixes in Nebraska's dominant 28-point second quarter, and the Huskers picked off at least three passes for the fourth time in their last seven games.
"Everybody knew we had a good opportunity to get our hands on the ball," safety P.J. Smith said. "We just had to take advantage of it when it was there."
Smith started the second-period pick parade by snagging a tipped ball that resulted from tight coverage by cornerback Prince Amukamara. Gomes ended Idaho's next drive with an interception and 40-yard touchdown run, and Rickey Thenarse added a 47-yard interception return on the following drive.
Their picks marked the sixth time in school history NU has had two interceptions for scores in a game.
Secondary coach Marvin Sanders said the most impressive interception came from Thenarse. The senior safety broke on an IU wide receiver's route and, at almost full speed, seemed to steal the ball from the receiver and take it down the sideline.
"On that same play in the course of practice, he got beat on, and I chewed his butt about it," Sanders said. "That's why, for me, it was gratifying — he learned from his mistake in practice, and he got it fixed."
By the fourth quarter, Idaho was trying anything to get its wide receivers open. The Vandals drew up a double reverse flea-flicker, but before Enderle could even look down field, NU defensive tackle Jared Crick was slamming him to the ground for an 18-yard loss. Two plays later, Enderle gave in and threw his final interception.
"I give credit to the defensive line," Sanders said. "He didn't have a lot of time back there, and when he did have some time, he had nowhere to throw it. You've got to give those guys up front a lot of credit."
The Huskers held Idaho to 219 yards passing and broke up seven passes, which Pelini attributed to a heightened emphasis on aggressive play.
"We challenged them, and it led to some big plays for us," he said. "That's going to be the way we play. I want us to be aggressive."
After facing a run-heavy Western Kentucky offense in week one, the Husker defensive backs were just happy to be put in a position to make plays.
"It was really fun," Smith said. "A couple of us on the sideline were saying, ‘They're throwing out presents, he's throwing presents to us. It's gifts. We just got to get it and go. It's Christmas.'"