Ames, Iowa - Nebraska dominated the first half and put homestanding Iowa State away in the fourth quarter, as the Huskers snapped their three-game losing streak with an impressive 35-7 win over the Cyclones at Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
With the victory, Nebraska improved to 4-3 overall and 1-2 in the Big 12 to give Bo Pelini his first league victory as the Huskers' head coach. NU also snapped its overall five-game road losing streak. Iowa State slipped to 2-5 overall and 0-3 in the league.
In perhaps their best half of football of the season, the Huskers amassed 349 yards of total offense in the first half on their way to a 21-0 lead.
"I'm happy for the players," Pelini said. "They've hung together through it all, and I think we walked off the field a better football team today than when we walked on the field. I like the attitude and I like the work ethic of our team, and I feel like our best football is still ahead of us. I thought our kids played well, and I see progress. We've got it going in the right way but we've still got a long way to go."
Nebraska opened the scoring with Nate Swift's 19-yard reception from Joe Ganz with 5:27 left in the opening quarter. Swift's touchdown catch capped an impressive nine-play, 92-yard drive to give NU a 7-0 lead. Swift, who had three catches for 57 yards and a seven-yard run on a reverse on the drive, finished the day with eight catches for 112 yards to lead the Husker receivers. Swift also became the second player in school history with more than 2,000 receiving yards, finishing the day with 2,021 career yards, trailing only 1972 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers (2,479 yards) on the NU career list.
"Nate is playing at a high, high level," Pelini said. "He has made a lot of plays for us throughout the year, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. He is a really good football player, and he is playing really well right now."
Ganz enjoyed another big day at the controls of the NU attack. He completed 27-of-37 passes for 328 yards and one touchdown, while leading a balanced arsenal that rolled up 548 yards of total offense, including 220 yards on the ground. NU also dominated the time of possession for the second straight game by controlling the ball for 37:11 on the afternoon.
While the Huskers were firing on all cylinders offensively, the NU defense was also holding its own. Nebraska held ISU to 218 yards of total offense, including 113 through the air and 105 on the ground. Armando Murillo, Cody Glenn and Larry Asante led the Huskers with five tackles each, while Murillo added an 11-yard fumble return and a pass breakup.
Defensive end Zach Potter added four tackles, including an eight-yard sack and a breakup, while fellow end Clayton Sievers added a sack and forced a fumble for the Huskers.
Senior I-back Marlon Lucky led a three-back rushing onslaught for the Huskers by carrying 15 times for 74 yards with two touchdowns. Quentin Casille added 11 carries for 70 yards, including NU's final touchdown in the fourth quarter. Roy Helu Jr., added six carries for 66 yards, including a career-long 50-yard run on NU's final drive.
After Swift's strong run after catch to finish off the Huskers' first scoring drive, Ganz and the Huskers went on another long march early in the second quarter. Lucky capped the 11-play, 85-yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown run to give NU a 14-0 advantage with 8:59 left in the half. He added another scoring run six minutes later to put the Huskers up 21-0 with 2:23 remaining in the half. Lucky's four-yard touchdown run capped a nine-play, 71-yard march to give NU a commanding three touchdown lead.
A late turnover prevented Nebraska's lead from growing even larger, as the Huskers appeared poised to take a 28-0 lead into the locker room in the closing seconds of the first half. Menelik Holt hauled in a Ganz pass in the middle of the field and streaked toward the ISU 5. But Holt was hit hard and a Cyclone helmet knocked the ball out of his right hand and up into the air where it was snagged by ISU linebacker Jesse Smith.
Despite the fumble, Holt still had another solid afternoon with five catches for 45 yards for the Huskers. Holt was one of nine NU receivers to record a reception from Ganz on the afternoon.
Iowa State appeared to take the momentum from that stop and Smith's gritty return after the catch into the locker room, and erupted on a two-play, 80-yard scoring drive to open the second half. That Cyclone drive was highlighted by Alexander Robinson's 67-yard touchdown burst to cut Nebraska's lead to 21-7 just 37 seconds into the second half.
But Nebraska's defense tightened up the remainder of the game. The Huskers also forced their first turnover in four games when Armando Murillo recovered a fumble near the ISU 20 to stop a Cyclone drive.
Unfortunately, after the Huskers took possession, Ganz hit Todd Peterson on a quick out on the first play of the ensuing drive. Peterson was hit hard, fumbled and ISU recovered, giving the Cyclones the ball back at their own 42. But the defense held again, forcing Iowa State into a 40-yard field goal attempt that was missed wide left by Grant Mahoney with 12:04 left in the game.
The Cyclones stopped the Huskers on the ensuing drive, but Rickey Thenarse forced a Devin McDowell fumble after a 17-yard return of a Dan Titchener punt. The ball was recovered by Niles Paul on the ISU 39, and Ganz scored from one yard out eight plays later to push NU's lead back to three touchdowns at 28-7 with 6:35 left in the game.
Nebraska capped a successful road trip to Ames with Castille's 19-yard touchdown run on NU's final drive. Castille found the end zone with 1:55 left to close the scoring at 35-7, after Helu set up his touchdown with a career-long 50-yard burst to open the drive.
Nebraska returns to Memorial Stadium next Saturday when the Huskers take on Baylor. The Huskers' game with the Bears is set for an 11:30 a.m. kickoff with live national television coverage provided by Versus.
Scoring (Nebraska 35, Iowa State 7)
Saturday, Oct. 18, 2008
Jack Trice Stadium (Ames, Iowa)
First Quarter (Nebraska 7, Iowa State 0)
NU - Nate Swift 19 pass from Joe Ganz (Alex Henery kick), 5:27
Second Quarter (Nebraska 21, Iowa State 0)
NU - Marlon Lucky 15 run (Henery kick), 8:59
NU - Marlon Lucky 4 run (Henery kick), 2:23
Third Quarter (Nebraska 21, Iowa State 7)
ISU - Alexander Robinson 67 run (Grant Mahoney kick), 14:23
Fourth Quarter (Nebraska 35, Iowa State 7)
NU - Ganz 1 run (Henery kick), 6:35
NU - Quentin Castille 19 run (Henery kick), 1:55