LINCOLN, Neb. — So much for the high-flying West Coast offense first-year Nebraska coach Bill Callahan had such high hopes for at the beginning of the season.
The combination of a staunch Missouri pass defense and a smattering of inaccurate throws by Nebraska quarterback Joe Dailey grounded any hopes the Cornhuskers had about turning Saturday’s Big 12 North contest into an aerial duel. Dailey finished with 26 yards passing on 18 attempts, but it didn’t matter much when the final seconds ran off the clock.
In a strategy dictated more by necessity than intent, the Cornhuskers displayed flashes of an old-school look that the 77,616 crimson-clad Homecoming fans enjoyed. Nebraska rushed for 209 yards in a 24-3 win against the Tigers. It was the 36th straight Homecoming victory for Nebraska.
“We struggled on offense, make no doubt about that,” Callahan said. “We ran the ball at times well, but we weren’t as effective as we could have been in the passing game.”
The Missouri run defense did a solid job containing the Nebraska attack until late in the fourth quarter, when Cory Ross rattled off an 86-yard touchdown run that effectively sealed the win and pushed Ross’ total for the game to a career-high 194 yards.
“I thought our players fought all the way down to the end,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “Unfortunately for our defense, they got that one big, but our defense really played outstanding up to that point. We were certainly very pleased with them.”
BIG PLAYS:In the last eight games against the Tigers, the Cornhuskers have generated at least one play of 50 or more yards. The Missouri defense looked to be on the verge of ending that streak, but Ross’ 86-yard touchdown run with 2:56 left in the fourth quarter erased those hopes.
“Cory did a great job today and he capped it off with a big long run and a big-time cutback,” Callahan said. “It was a long run and big gain at a crucial time when we were trying to seal the game, and he certainly did it for us today.”
That run was the fourth play of 80 or more yards for the Cornhuskers in the past five games against Missouri.
DEFENSIVE CALLING CARDS:The Tigers and Cornhuskers have struggled to meet expectations this season, but both squads brought solid defensive units into the contest.
Missouri entered the game ranked third in the county in pass defense, allowing 146.1 yards per game. The Tigers held Nebraska quarterback Joe Dailey to 26 yards, giving up only four completions in 18 attempts.
The Nebraska rushing defense, which was ranked 13th nationally allowing 99.3 yards per game, also held true to form. The Tigers had 35 rushing attempts, but managed only 51 yards.
“I thought their defense played really well,” Pinkel said. “We knew they were going to try and cinch up everybody to try and stop the run. You try to go up top for big plays, you try to throw the ball downfield, and we connected on a few but didn’t connect on enough.”
Nebraska’s defense, which had allowed an average of 58 points in the previous three games, held the Tigers to a season-low three points.