Nebraska defense returns to dominance

Updated: August 30, 2003, 9:13 PM ET

LINCOLN, Neb. -- The Blackshirts are back.

The numbers from Nebraska's 17-7 win over No. 24 Oklahoma State tell the story.

The Cornhusker defense held the high-powered Cowboy offense to 183 total yards, just 57 in the second half. It limited the vaunted OSU passing attack to 97 years and All-America receiver Raushan Woods had only five catches for 47 yards.

The Blackshirts forced five turnovers and scored the go-ahead touchdown when Barrett Ruud picked up a fumble and rambled in from 15 yards out to give Nebraska a 10-7 lead early in the third quarter.

Nebraska's second touchdown came just three plays after another Cowboy turnover.

"We showed the nation the Blackshirts are back," said cornerback Fabian Washington. "We knew it during conditioning in the spring and during fall practice. We just had to show the nation today."

Nebraska coach Frank Solich praised the defense for keeping the Huskers in the game. Like Washington, he wasn't surprised by the performance.

"I felt all along we had a defensive football team that could run and was aggressive," Solich said. "That's a pretty good combination."

Ruud said the defense was keyed up to take the field to implement the new system introduced by new defensive coordinator Bo Pelini.

In the second half, Ruud and Washington said, the Blackshirts knew they could keep OSU out of the end zone. All that was needed was a Nebraska score to give the Huskers the lead.

Ruud provided that when Oklahoma State's Tatum Bell bobbled the ball on a sweep and it hit the turf at the Nebraska 15-yard line.

"All I was worried about was getting the scoop," Ruud said. "I knew if I got a good scoop there was no way I wasn't going to score."

Nebraska's second-half defensive dominance wasn't the result of major halftime adjustments, Pelini said.

"We just kind of settled in," he said. "We didn't play anything new in the second half. We called a couple different things and got a little more aggressive."

The Huskers were able to be more aggressive because the secondary's mix of zone and man-to-man coverage disrupted the timing between OSU quarterback Josh Fields and Woods, his primary target, Nebraska secondary coach Marvin Sanders said.

Sanders and Pelini said they hoped the Huskers enjoyed the win Saturday night, but they and the team want to see some dramatic improvement in next Saturday's game against Utah State.

"They want to be great," Pelini said. "We're going to keep setting the bar high. If we do that, good things are going to happen for us."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index