2:05 PM ET, September 29, 2007
Memorial Stadium, LINCOLN, NE
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- A week after being jeered by the home fans, Nebraska's defense played well enough to earn some cheers at Memorial Stadium.
Linebacker Bo Ruud returned an interception 93 yards for a touchdown to break open the game late in the third quarter, and the 25th-ranked Cornhuskers went on to a 35-17 win over Iowa State on Saturday.
"We've been taking a lot of heat, but we've taken the mindset that we know what we're capable of, and we're trying to get better," Ruud said a week after the Huskers barely held on for a 41-40 win against Ball State.
"We just had a couple down weeks. We've got a lot of room to improve. That wasn't even our best football."
The Cyclones ran a school-record 102 plays from scrimmage and held a 20-minute possession advantage, but Nebraska still came away with the win.
Ruud's touchdown came after I-back Marlon Lucky passed for one score and ran for another. Sam Keller and Thomas Lawson also teamed up for two touchdowns as the Huskers (4-1, 1-0 Big 12) won their conference opener for the 11th time in 12 years.
The Cyclones are winless in eight road games since October 2005 and in 15 visits to Lincoln since 1977.
Nebraska gave the Cyclones every reason to believe they might end the futility.
Lucky and Glenn fumbled and Keller threw an interception, and Nebraska committed a number of special-teams penalties early, but all Iowa State could generate was Bret Culbertson's 30-yard field goal.
"When the [ISU] defense is playing that good and getting us the ball back, it's disappointing that we didn't do more with it," ISU quarterback Bret Meyer said.
The first of Jason Scale's two touchdowns, after a Nebraska punt, put Iowa State up 10-0 in the middle of the second quarter.
But the Cyclones, again, couldn't sustain success. Last week they blew an 11-point lead in the last 5:25 at Toledo. Saturday, they saw a 10-point lead disappear in a 3:26 span late in the first half and cost themselves opportunities to get back into the game after committing four turnovers of their own.
Lucky threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Sean Hill and Lawson caught a 6-yard TD pass from Keller to make it 14-0. Lucky scored on a 41-yard run to put the Huskers up 21-10 early in the third quarter.
All the while, Keller said, the defense kept Nebraska in the game.
"One thing I'm proud of is the way we rally around each other," Keller said. "There was a lot of things the defense went through last week, and they carried us this week. They were on the field a lot, out there battling, fighting, making tackles, making picks. I'm proud of the way they responded and the way the offense got a rhythm going at the end of the first half."
Nebraska's turnovers aside, if the Cyclones hadn't been able to move the ball, the Huskers' defense wouldn't have been on the field so long.
The Cyclones generated 415 yards -- their second-most ever in Lincoln -- and 28 first downs.
Scales, filling in the for the injured J.J. Bass, finished with a game-high 115 yards on 31 carries. Meyer, who was intercepted three times, completed 26 of 51 passes for 281 yards.
But after 23-point underdog Ball State amassed 610 yards against his defense last week, drawing boos from the Big Red faithful, Nebraska coach Bill Callahan was satisfied with how the Blackshirts responded to the offense's turnovers.
"We put them in a bad position in that first quarter," Callahan said.
Ruud made the defensive play of the game after the Cyclones moved from their 36 to the Nebraska 9 in the third quarter. The senior linebacker intercepted Meyer and, with defensive tackle Shukree Barfield throwing a key downfield block, zigzagged his way down the Iowa State sideline 93 yards to the end zone.
"When you have the opportunity to make that play, you have to make it," Ruud said. "Luckily, I had some blockers down the field."
Last week, Ruud's 34-yard interception return keyed the Huskers' fourth-quarter comeback over Ball State.
Lucky went over 100 yards for the third time in five games, running for 107 yards on 16 carries. Keller was 18-for-28 for 219 yards, with one interception.
After the Huskers went down 10-0, Cortney Grixby's 51-yard kickoff return set them up at the ISU 47. The Huskers moved to the 20 before Lucky rolled right after taking a pitch, pulled up and threw to Hill in the end zone.
Keller, operating in the two-minute offense, moved the Huskers 82 yards in 10 plays, with Lawson giving the Huskers the lead with his first touchdown reception late in the first half.
"We got up 10-0, and the game was kind of unfolding the way we'd hoped it would," Cyclones coach Gene Chizik said. "But then the momentum swung there towards halftime. A couple of plays later in the half really turned the game around."
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... The Cornhuskers erased a 10-0 deficit and scored 28 unanswered points to take a comfortable lead after three quarters.
Gameball goes to... Marlon Lucky. The Nebraska RB finished with 107 yards and one TD on the ground. But he also was 1-for-1 for 20 passing yards and a TD.
Stat of the game... 415. Iowa State finished with 415 total yards, meaning Nebraska has given up more than 1,000 yards in its past two games.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||9-22||7-12|
|4th Down Conversions||2-4||0-0|
|FG||02:50||Bret Culbertson 30 Yd |
Drive: 12 plays, 52 yds, 4:00
|TD||07:47||Jason Scales 3 Yd Run (Bret Culbertson Kick) |
Drive: 6 plays, 48 yds, 2:32
|TD||04:34||Sean Hill 20 Yd Pass From Marlon Lucky (Alex Henery Kick) |
Drive: 7 plays, 47 yds, 3:03
|TD||01:08||Thomas Lawson 6 Yd Pass From Sam Keller (Alex Henery Kick) |
Drive: 10 plays, 67 yds, :00
|TD||14:01||Marlon Lucky 41 Yd Run (Alex Henery Kick) |
Drive: 4 plays, 54 yds, :55
|TD||02:13||Bo Ruud 93 Yd Interception Return (Alex Henery Kick)||10||28|
|TD||06:57||Jason Scales 6 Yd Run (Bret Culbertson Kick) |
Drive: 17 plays, 97 yds, 4:07
|TD||02:25||Thomas Lawson 4 Yd Pass From Sam Keller (Alex Henery Kick) |
Drive: 3 plays, 3 yds, 1:25