Huskers Stopped by Jayhawks

Lawrence, Kan. - After battling back from a 17-2 second-quarter deficit to cut the lead to 17-15 early in the third quarter, the Nebraska football team's comeback effort came up short in a 40-15 loss at Kansas on Saturday afternoon.

The loss to Kansas ended Nebraska's 36-game series winning streak over the Jayhawks and dropped the Huskers to 5-4 overall and 2-4 in Big 12 action. KU improved its season marks to identical 5-4 overall and 2-4 Big 12 records with its first victory over Nebraska since a 23-13 win in Lincoln on Oct. 12, 1968.

Playing in front of a KU Memorial Stadium record crowd of 51,750, Kansas wasted little time in jumping out to an early lead at home. The Jayhawks held the Husker offense to a three-and-out on the first series of the game and with a short field in front of him, quarterback Jason Swanson hit Mark Simmons on a 40-yard touchdown pass with 10:45 left in the opening quarter to give KU a quick 7-0 lead.

Nebraska's special teams responded with its first big play of the game, as freshman Marlon Lucky scampered 57 yards on the ensuing kickoff return to give the Huskers excellent field position at the KU 40. Unfortunately for the Huskers, the offense was not able to capitalize and Sam Koch was forced to punt. 

The Ray Guy Award semifinalist came through big for the Huskers by pinning the Jayhawks at the KU 3. On second-and-11 at the KU 2, linebacker Corey McKeon put Nebraska on the board with a sack of Swanson to give the Huskers their first safety since Nov. 15, 2003 against Kansas State.

After exchanging punts, Koch then came on to attempt his fourth punt of the first quarter. Unfortunately for the Huskers, the Jayhawks came up with a big special teams play of their own as Ronnie Amadi blocked the first punt of the season against NU. Amadi's block was recovered by Darren Rus who returned it 20 yards for touchdown to give KU a 14-2 lead at the close of the first quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff, Lucky got loose again on the return and took it all the way to the KU end zone for what appeared to be Nebraska's first kickoff return for a touchdown since Joe Walker's 99-yard jaunt against Louisiana Tech on Aug. 29, 1998. But Lucky's return was called back by an illegal block away from the return at the NU 20, that stuck the Huskers at their own 10.

The Huskers were forced to punt again from deep inside their own territory to open the second quarter, and the Jayhawks opened their drive at the NU 46. KU drove inside the NU 20, before McKeon came up with his second huge defensive play of the day when he intercepted a Swanson pass intended for Simmons and returned it 19 yards to the NU 34.

Although the interception stopped a KU scoring threat, the NU offense was unable to capitalize. KU drove again on its following possession, culminating with a 21-yard field goal by Scott Webb to push the Jayhawks' lead to 17-2 with 4:46 left in the first half.

The Huskers started their comeback on their next drive, as the offense showed a spark by zipping 66 yards in just six plays capped by Zac Taylor's 30-yard scoring strike to wide receiver Terrence Nunn to trim the KU lead to 17-9 at halftime. For Nunn, who finished the day with a team-leading three receptions for 47 yards, it was his fifth touchdown reception of the season.

Nebraska maintained momentum early in the third quarter with another big defensive play from an NU linebacker, as senior Adam Ickes forced a fumble after a reception by Simmons that was recovered by defensive end Adam Carriker to start Nebraska's drive at the KU 16.

Senior I-back Cory Ross cashed in for the Huskers with his one-yard touchdown run to cut KU's lead to 17-15 with 6:19 left in the third quarter. Nebraska's two-point conversion attempt to tie the score was intercepted and the Huskers were unable to threaten the rest of the way.

On the second play of KU's next drive, running back Jon Cornish erupted for a 72-yard touchdown run to give the Jayhawks a 24-15 cushion heading into the fourth quarter.

After the two teams exchanged punts again, Nebraska was pinned deep in its own territory by a 37-yard Kyle Tucker punt. Taylor dropped back into his own end zone and was sacked by KU's Eric Butler. It was the first safety allowed by the Huskers since the Jayhawks recorded a safety last season in Lincoln.

Leading 26-15, KU put the game out of reach with a 12-play, 70-yard drive that culminated with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Swanson to Simmons with 8:33 left in the contest to give the Jayhawks a 33-15 advantage.

The Kansas defense, which entered the game ranked second nationally in total defense, sealed the outcome with Kevin Kane's 40-yard interception return for a touchdown with 5:23 left to close the scoring.

On the game, Kansas outgained the Huskers 428-138, as the Jayhawks achieved balance by rushing for 213 yards and passing for 215 yards in a strong all-around effort on offense, defense and special teams. NU managed just seven first downs, while being held to 21 rushing yards and 117 yards passing. Taylor finished the day completing 14-of-26 passes with one touchdown and one interception. Ross led the Huskers on the ground with 30 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, as the Huskers managed just 49 offensive snaps.

Koch provided a highlight for the Huskers by punting nine times with a 47.6 yard per punt average, including four punts of more than 50 yards with a long of 65. He also pinned KU inside its own 20 on four occasions.

Defensive tackle Titus Adams led the Blackshirts with 11 total tackles, including nine solos with one tackle for loss, while McKeon contributed nine total stops, including two TFLs, one sack and an interception.

Swanson completed 16-of-27 passes for 215 yards with two touchdown connections to Simmons and one interception, while KU running backs Clark Green (101) and Cornish (100) each crossed the century mark on the ground for the Jayhawks. Simmons led the Jayhawk receiving corps with six receptions for 100 yards and two scores.

Nebraska returns home to Memorial Stadium in Lincoln next Saturday to square off with Kansas State. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m., as the Huskers celebrate Senior Day with their last home game of the season at Memorial Stadium.