Huskers Pass Louisiana Tech Test
Lincoln -- It was a new look, but an old result as the Frank Solich era began with a 56-27 victory over Louisiana Tech in the Genuine Nebraska Eddie Robinson Classic.
Solich was an assistant for 19 seasons until replacing Hall of Fame Coach Tom Osborne following last season. The Huskers, ranked fourth and third in the preseason polls (AP/Coaches), scored on all six of their first half possesions en route to a 35-6 halftime lead.
Sophomore quarterback Bobby Newcombe completed nine-of-10 passes on the day for 168 yards, including a 46-yard scoring pass to tight end Sheldon Jackson to give the Huskers a 7-0 lead. NU increased the lead to 14-0 as Newcombe scored from one yard out.
The sophomore from Albuquerque, N.M., rushed for a pair of scores in his starting debut before suffering a torn PCL in his left knee late in the third quarter. After Louisiana Tech cut the lead to 21-6, Joe Walker took the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for his second career touchdown to increase the NU lead to 28-6. Newcombe closed out the first-half scoring with a one-yard run to give NU a 35-6 halftime lead.
The Bulldogs, behind the explosive combination of quarterback Tim Rattay and wide receiver Troy Edwards, closed the Husker lead to 35-21. Edwards set an NCAA record with 405 yards on 21 catches, while Rattay completed 46 of 68 passes for 590 yards. Edwards' receiving yards broke the previous NCAA mark of 363 yards held by UNLV's Randy Gatewood against Idaho. Edwards' 21 catches were two shy of Gatewood's NCAA record 23 receptions.
Sophomore I-back Correll Buckhalter rushed for a career-high 143 yards and two scores, including a 43-yard jaunt for the final score.
The No. 4/3 (AP/Coaches) Nebraska Cornhuskers opened up their 109th season with a 56-27 win over Louisiana Tech in the Genuine.Nebraska Eddie Robinson Kickoff Classic. The win was the Huskers 43rd straight home victory, (tied for fifth longest all-time in NCAA), NU's 15th straight win overall; fourth win in four preseason games and 13th straight season-opening win. It was the first game and first victory for Husker mentor Frank Solich, who took over for the retired Tom Osborne in January. Solich is the fourth-straight Husker Head Coach to win his first career game. The 56 points is the most in a coaching debut, since "Jumbo" Stiehm led his team to a 117-0 win over Kearney State in 1911. Solich is the Huskers' 26th Head Coach.
Quarterback Bobby Newcombe -- in his first start at quarterback (and first start overall), Newcombe completed 9-10 passes for 168 yards, including one TD (46 to Sheldon Jackson, his first pass of the game). All were passing career highs and his 48 yard completion to Jackson is a career best. The 9-10 (with 10 minimum) ranks as the second highest completion percentage in a game by a Husker. He also rushed 12 times for 12 yards including two scores, both 1-yard runs (5:49 in first quarter and 2:41 in second quarter).
Place-Kicker Kris Brown -- set school record for most consecutive PATs. With eight today, he now has 87 consecutive, breaking Gregg Barrios' school record of 83 from 1986-1990. He now has 307 career points scored and needs five to tie and six to pass career scoring leader Mike Rozier (312, 1981-83).
Fullback Joel Makovicka -- now has more than 1,000 yards career rushing. With 10-47 today, he now has 160 carries for 1,036 in his career, to rank sixth all-time for a Husker fullback and 42nd all-time. On the fullback chart, he passed Lance Lewis (1,008 1988-92) and Coach Frank Solich (1,010, 1963-65).
Tight End Sheldon Jackson -- had a career-best 94 yards in receptions on two catches. His first was a 46-yard TD reception (career best) for the game's first score. His second was a career-long 48 yard reception from Bobby Newcombe, that ended at the LaTech 1-yard line. Newcombe scored one play later to give the Huskers a 35-6 lead late in the second quarter. Jackson's 94 yards is the most since Clester Johnson had 129 against Arizona State in 1995.
Rover Joe Walker -- finished the day three yards short of his own school record for most kickoff return yards in a game. He had 5-182 vs. La Tech, including a 99-yard TD return with 6:57 left in the second quarter. It was the first kickoff return for a TD since Kenny Cheatham returned a kick 85 yards against Oklahoma in 1996. It is the longest since Tyrone Hughes returned a kickoff 99 yards at Kansas State on Oct. 6, 1990. (School record is 105 yards in 1911 by Owen Frank vs. KSU). Walker's previous long was a 51-yarder (team best in 1997) against Central Florida and Missouri. (His one KO return TD ties the school season record).
I-back Correll Buckhalter -- had his first 100-yard rushing day in his first career start as a Husker. The true sophomore rushed 19 times for 143 yards and two TDs. His scores were a 4-yard run with 13:02 in the fourth quarter and a 43-yard career-long TD run with 1:24 remaining in the game gave the Huskers a final 56-27 winning margin. His two TDs in a game tied his career best.
Records -- The negative 21 yards rushing by Louisiana Tech ranks tied for fourth best all-time by a Husker defense, Louisiana Tech set several school opponent records and a couple of NCAA records...Troy Edwards' 405 yards in receptions is an NCAA record (previous--363 by Randy Gatewood, UNLV vs. Idaho, Sept. 17, 1994, caught 23). Team record for most completions by an NU opponent with 46 (previous 30 by Kansas State, Oct. 16, 1993, all by Chad May; and Kansas, Nov. 11, 1995); Most attempts with 68 (previous 52 by Kansas State, Oct. 16, 1993, 51 attempts by Chad May); Most Yards with 590 (previous best was 489 by Kansas State, Oct. 16, 1993, all by Chad May). Tim Rattay set individual passing records for all of the above with 68-46-590 as well (Rattay's four TDs ties the school record vs. NU, nine other times). Edwards' 21-405 are school records against Nebraska, his 21 catches are two short of Gatewood's 23. Edwards had scores of 52 yards (third quarter), 94 yards (third quarter) and 80 yards (fourth quarter). The 94 yard TD marked the first time an opponent of NU has had a 90-plus yard pass completion since a 98-yard TD by Missouri's Pete Woods to Joe Stewart on Oct. 23, 1976.
The last time -- NU was out-yarded and won was against Colorado in 1997, when CU had 455 yards and NU 442 in a 27-24 NU win. Today, La Tech had 569 and NU had 462.
LOUISIANA TECH NOTEBOOK
- Tech was held to no points in the first quarter for the first time since the Arkansas game on Sept. 27, 1997
- Sophomore WR Sean Cangelosi's second quarter touchdown was the second of his career.
- Nebraska's 35 points in the first half is the most the Bulldogs have given up since Auburn scored 35 first-half points on Oct. 11, 1997.
- This is senior WR Troy Edwards' sixth straight 100-yard receiving game and second straight 200-yard game.
- The 94-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter from junior QB Tim Rattay to Edwards was the longest pass play in the career of each player.
- The 94-yard touchdown ties the school record for longest pass play.
- Edwards' 405 yards receiving today is a career-high, a single-game school record and a NCAA record. The previous school mark was 310 yards by Chad Mackey vs. Toledo in 1996. The NCAA mark was 363 by UNLV's Randy Gatewood vs. Idaho St. on Sept. 17, 1994.
- Edwards' 21 catches are also a career-high and a single-game school record. Previous record was 17 held by Chad Mackey and Lifford Jackson. His 21 was two shy of the NCAA single-game mark.
- Rattay's 590 yards gives him a school record 10th 300-yard passing game. This is only his 13th career game as Tech's QB. It is also his second career 500-yard game and the third in school history.
- Rattay's 46 completions is a single-game school record. The previous record was 37 by Jason Martin vs. Nevada in 1995.
- Rattay's 68 attempts and 590 yards are both school record in each category. The previous marks were 65 attempts and 542 yards.
- The 56 points given up by Tech is the most since the Texas A&M game in 1996. The Aggies scored 63 points.
NEBRASKA HEAD COACH FRANK SOLICH
Opening Remarks "I'm glad it's over and I think our players are too. Our coaching staff is glad that things are underway. It was really difficult in terms of the media attention that this team had to face going into this first game. When you're in a program like Nebraska you're going to attract attention. When Tom stepped down it attracted more and with guys in new positions it is going to attract even more. It's not an easy game to prepare for but I thought I kids did a great job in handling all the fuss and the attention that was given to them and this program leading up to this game. I thought it was a very good football game especially in the first half in terms of well played. The game got a little sloppy in the second half maybe for both teams but certainly that way for us. Both teams tired out a little bit, it was a difficult day to play football. I felt good about our team overall. They played hard on both sides of the ball and we have a good kicking game. We have a lot of work ahead for us. I think that they have the attitude that they are ready to go to work. We'll come out Monday and get ready for the next game. All in all, I was really pleased with the team and their performance. Louisiana Tech has a very fine football team and I don't think there is any question about that. All in all, it was a win and we are delighted by that."
Do you look at 590 yds. more than the scoreboard?
"Who had the 590yds.? I've not looked at the stats yet. The only thing I was interested in was the win. That's a tremendous amount of yards but that's the way it goes on a first game. We have work to do but I'm satisfied with the effort of our team. Certainly we need to work on some areas of the game. We can certainly improve on offense. For a first game it's okay."
What can you say about Bobby's efforts? "I thought he did a great job in his first start as a quarterback for us. I thought he showed a lot of composure like we thought he would. He threw the ball well. We thought he could put it up a little more. We had some success with running it and then it gets difficult. Our mixture of plays I thought was okay. Bobby showed that he is a good passer."
Describe your thoughts and emotions as the game started?
Do you feel relief? "I feel relieved that we've got one down. I don't know what to tell you, it was difficult but the players handled it tremendously well and it made it easier for me to handle. I certainly tried to downplay the media attention on me but it was a big moment for me. I just wanted to get that kickoff going. I was glad to run onto the field in fact, it was probably the fastest I've ever run. I didn't get much sleep. I wasn't really sleepy. I guess I'll rest tonight."
What did you tell the players after the game in the locker room?
"I congratulated the players on the win. I also told them that there are certainly areas that we can improve on."
HUSKER PLAYER QUOTES
Quarterback Bobby Newcombe "It was my first game and it is an experience I will never forget, especially it being my first start at quarterback. I will treasure it. I definitely won't be as nervous the next game and the big thing is I will be ready to go mentally." "The offensive line played well and I thought the entire offense executed pretty well. We still have a lot we need to work on and I think our team will get better week by week.
Tight End Sheldon Jackson "The offense has been scrutinized a lot coming into this game and to score as many points as we did shows a lot for the guys. We stack up pretty good at every position and that is a big part of our offense."
Linebacker Brian Shaw "It was hard for our defense to start against a passing team because they show so many sets and have a variety of patterns. We have some things to work on, but it is good to start the season out with a win. We did do some positive things and I don't know what happened in the second half. That was a disappointing final 30 minutes."
Rover Mike Brown "We played terrible back in the secondary. We definitely are not pleased with the way that we performed. They passed that ball every down. Even their running plays were passing plays. We didn't tackle as well as we were supposed to tackle and that added to our problems."
"In all my playing days, I have never seen a person do what (Edwards) did to us today. That is the most impressive performance I have ever seen in my life."
Rush End Chad Kelsay "He gets the ball off extremely quick and we didn't get to him as much as we should have. In a situation like that, you just have to keep coming and have to take advantage of those times that he gives you. Defensively, we have a lot of work to do."