Gambles pay off for Nebraska in win over K-State

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) With a gutsy pair of fourth-down gambles and a punishing run defense, Nebraska took another step toward regaining supremacy of the Big 12 North.

No. 21 Nebraska snapped a four-game losing streak in Manhattan with a 21-3 victory over Kansas State on Saturday night and moved into sole possession of first-place in the division.

"It's big just to get that record out of the way and so some people can stop talking about how we haven't won out here," said quarterback Zac Taylor, who threw for 149 yards and one touchdown - which he set up with a 24-yard bootleg on fourth down. "Now we have, and hopefully we can start a new streak out here."

The Huskers (6-1, 3-0 Big 12), who haven't played in the conference title game since 1999, also earned the program's 800th victory. Kansas State (4-3, 1-2) had not lost at home to Nebraska since a 39-3 defeat on Oct. 5, 1996.

Nebraska's first touchdown, a 17-yard pass play less than four minutes into the game, came on a faked field goal. Holder Jake Wesch, a backup kicker who played quarterback in high school, rolled right and found reserve tight end Hunter Teafatiller all alone just outside the end zone for a 7-0 lead.

"It couldn't have been better timing," coach Bill Callahan said. "They were going after that first field goal to establish some momentum, so I think we kind of defused that somewhat."

And on the Cornhuskers' first drive of the second quarter, Taylor's 24-yard run on fourth-and-2 from Kansas State's 27 set up a 3-yard TD pass to Josh Mueller - also a backup tight end - for a 14-0 lead.

"The good thing about that play was there was so little time on the play clock that I didn't really have time to think about it," Taylor said. "They were planning on a run from the tailback so it worked pretty well."

Marlon Lucky's 40-yard TD burst up the middle made it 21-0 shortly before the midpoint of the third quarter.

Brandon Jackson ran for 92 yards and Lucky for 71 as Nebraska, the top rushing team in the league, finished with 190 yards on the ground. The Huskers' Blackshirts defense, meanwhile, smothered Kansas State freshman running back Leon Patton.

Patton, who had 151 yards and a touchdown last week in Kansas State's 31-27 victory over Oklahoma State, finished with 12 yards on 13 carries and was twice turned away near Nebraska's goal line.

"The best friend a passing game can have is a good running game, and it wasn't there tonight," Kansas State coach Ron Prince said.

Lucky's score, capping a two-play, 72-yard drive, came after wide receiver Maurice Purify appeared to fumble the ball away after a 32-yard catch from Taylor. But on review, officials said Purify's left knee was down before the ball came out.

It was the first of two calls overturned on review Saturday night, and both changes went the Huskers' way. The other review changed an incomplete pass call into a diving interception by nose guard Ndamukong Suh.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Patton's 3-yard carry on second-and-goal left the Wildcats just 1 yard from the end zone. But the Huskers stuffed him for a 2-yard loss on third down and Josh Freeman's fourth-down pass to Jordy Nelson fell incomplete.

The Wildcats, who came in averaging 116.2 yards rushing, had 22 on Saturday night.

With Patton ineffective, the Wildcats turned to Freeman, a freshman who went back on an oral commitment to Nebraska to attend Kansas State. He spent the night under heavy pressure and was sacked four times, completing 23 of 47 passes for 272 yards with two interceptions.

"One of our goals was to make K-State one-dimensional," Suh said. "We wanted to keep their young quarterback in the pocket and go after him for sacks."

Jeff Snodgrass' 53-yard field goal in the third quarter kept Kansas State from being shut out for the first time since a 12-0 loss at Colorado on Nov. 16, 1996. Snodgrass missed from the same distance as time ran out in the first half.

The Wildcats have scored only two offensive touchdowns in three Big 12 games - both of those in a span of just over three minutes in the fourth quarter against Oklahoma State.

"We're getting sick of just playing hard," defensive end Ian Campbell said. "We would like to have results come through on both sides of the ball."