NU nabs second consecutive shutout
Game day notebook
LAWRENCE, Kan. - It was only one play in the course of 123 offensive plays of the football game.
But, midway through the first quarter of Nebraska's 35-0 win over Kansas, it will be the play that is remembered for years to come.
Nebraska was leading 7-0, but set up for its first punt of the game. Kansas senior defensive back Jason Harris broke through the line and blocked the punt off NU punter Jesse Kosch's leg. The ball easily could have bounced into Kansas' arms.
"We had to have the blocked punt bounce up into one of our guys' hands and let him run it for a touchdown," Kansas Coach Terry Allen said.
However, the ball wound up in Nebraska junior fullback Joel Makovicka's hands and he took off 38 yards to the Kansas 32-yard line for a Nebraska first down. Kansas would hold NU scoreless on that drive, but that play set an ominous tone for the Jayhawks (4-4 overall and 2-3 in the Big 12 Conference).
"We looked at it and said, 'Let's go out there and stop them,'" senior defensive tackle Brett McGraw said. "It's one of those plays that are in the ups and downs of a football game. You have to look past them and keep playing."
Harris said most of his defensive teammates were planning a punt return to the left side of the field, thus being easy for Nebraska to block when the ball fell into Makovicka's arms.
"It was a block right and return left, I think," Harris said, "and most of guys were back there setting up the wall for the return. The next thing you know they set up their own wall and started picking us off one by one."
After the punt was blocked, the KU offense was ready to take the field.
"You go from 'we're going to be close to scoring' to 'shoot, we're not even out there,'" senior running back Eric Vann said. "It's a big turnaround as far as your mind-set goes. You're just like 'bad luck. Is there any good luck going to be involved tonight?'"
The failed blocked punt wasn't the only bad luck for the Jayhawks. Nebraska fumbled the ball three times but all bounced either out of bounds or right back to the Huskers.
"We got the blocked punt, I think they had three fumbles and they all bounced up into their hands in that first half, " Allen said. "When breaks do happen, we had to have them go our way. When the ball was fumbled around, it had to bounce into our hands."
For the game, Nebraska fumbled the football four times but didn't lose any of them. Kansas also fumbled four times in the game and did turn one of them over.
"Sometimes tonight the luck might have fallen on their side," McGraw said. "Whenever things like that happen you past them and go on. If you don't, you're going to be in big trouble."
From the blocked punt on, it seemed as if Lady Luck was on the Huskers' sideline. Of the 42,000 fans attending the game, at least half were Husker fans.
Allen said he was extremely proud that his team didn't give up after trailing 21-0 and losing half the lights in the game. A power grid outside Lawrence went out, eliminating half the lights at Memorial Stadium.
"There wasn't a kid out there who quit tonight and that gives you a great hope for the future," Allen said. "We made them work for everything that they got and that was the key for us."
Sometimes, Vann added, just playing a team like Nebraska can take you out of your rhythm and game plan.
"All those teams that play Nebraska are only hoping to win, just hoping to make a good showing," he said.