Victory over Cowboys brings relief to Solich

Updated: August 31, 2003, 3:22 PM ET

LINCOLN, Neb. -- In the weeks leading to his team's opener, Nebraska coach Frank Solich said the outcome of the Oklahoma State game wouldn't make or break the Cornhuskers' season.

It was clear after Saturday's 17-7 victory, though, that Solich was breathing easier.

"If you don't win," he said, "there's a lot hanging over you and there are a lot of question marks."

With the victory, the Huskers likely will reappear in the national rankings for the first time since last September. The Associated Press poll will be released Monday.

Solich said he wasn't concerned whether a win over the 24th-ranked Cowboys changes the nation's view of the Huskers.

"How it's looked at by other people, I'm not real sure," Solich said. "I know it's a great start for us, and our kids are anxious to get on to the second game."

The Huskers will be heavy favorites in this week's home game against Utah State. They then host Penn State before a difficult road test at Southern Mississippi.

While Nebraska's defense got much of the credit for Saturday's win -- OSU generated only 183 yards -- Solich said the work of first-year offensive coordinator Barney Cotton shouldn't be overlooked.

Cotton promised a new and improved passing game, but the Jammal Lord-led offense looked much the same as last year when Solich was calling the plays.

The Huskers ran the ball 65 times for 268 yards. Lord attempted only 16 passes, completing eight for 78 yards.

For all the talk about Lord's improved passing in the offseason, he was way off-target on several of his throws. Lord was at his best when he was running.

Solich said it became apparent in the third quarter the running game was wearing down the Cowboys, so Cotton was right to keep the ball on the ground.

"Barney was under a great deal of pressure," Solich said, referring to expectations for more passing. The man just showed what he was going to be all about as an offensive coordinator. I had nightmare dreams of him trying to throw deep on the very first play.

"Barney didn't buy into any of the talk about how it was going to work and what was going to get accomplished. He just called his game."

So did Bo Pelini, who was in his first game ever as a defensive coordinator after nine years as an NFL assistant.

Pelini said the players did a good job of meeting his expectations.

"I wouldn't call it excellence because I know we're going to get better," Pelini said. "It's the next stop along the way of where we want to go."

As for himself, Pelini said he didn't feel a great sense of personal satisfaction in his performance.

"I know what I can get done and what this defensive staff can get done," he said. "I'll keep growing and improving. . . The win was the most important thing. If we had given up 42 points and still won, I would have taken it."

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