Husker Defense Steps Up in Victory over Mizzou; Rushing Game Gets Untracked

Source: Nebraska Athletics

Lincoln, Neb. — Nebraska used a dominant second-half defensive performance and an electrifying punt return touchdown by DeJuan Groce to erase a 13-7 Missouri lead and post a 24-13 victory over the Tigers.

Missouri capitalized on a Nebraska fumble on the Huskers’ first offensive play and moved 33 yards in four plays to forge a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the contest.

Lannie Hopkins sack
Lannie Hopkins sacks Mizzou QB Brad Smith for an 8-yard loss in the fourth quarter. | Courtesy: NU Athletic Communications
Lannie Hopkins sack
Lannie Hopkins sacks Mizzou QB Brad Smith for an 8-yard loss in the fourth quarter. | Courtesy: NU Athletic Communications

Quarterback Jammal Lord led the Huskers in rushing for the sixth time with 98 yards on 17 carries, while freshman David Horne added 88 yards and his first career touchdown on 20 carries in his second collegiate game.

Nebraska marched 64 yards in nine plays late in the first quarter to even the game at 7-7. True freshman David Horne capped the drive with a five-yard TD run, the first score of his Nebraska career.

Missouri responded with an 11-play drive that covered 75 yards and moved to the Nebraska oneyard line. However, the NU defense rose to the occasion, and the Tigers settled for a field goal and a 10-7 advantage at the end of one quarter.

Mizzou added a 44-yard field goal on its first drive of the second quarter and had a 13-7 edge with 9:14 to play in the first half. At that point, Missouri had gained 169 yards of total offense and picked up nine first downs.

Late in the second quarter Missouri moved to the Nebraska 34, but Fabian Washington broke up a pass on a Missour fourth-down attempt, giving the ball to the Husker offense with less than three minutes to play before halftime. Horne broke 30 yards up the middle on the first play of the drive, and Jammal Lord found tight end Aaron Golliday for a one-yard TD pass to give NU a 14-13 advantage at the half.

Nebraska broke open the game with a big play midway through the third quarter when Groce fielded a Brock Harvey punt and raced 89 yards down the Husker sideline for his third punt return TD of the season. The return gave the Huskers a 21-13 advantage and place-kicker Josh Brown gave NU breathing room with a 42-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.

The NU running game and the Blackshirt defense took control from there. The Huskers controlled the ball in the final two quarters with a 20:20-9:40 advantage in second-half time of possession. Nebraska also totaled 177 of its 325 rushing yards after halftime.

Meanwhile, the defense kept quarterback Brad Smith and the Tiger offense under wraps. Mizzou gained just 28 total yards and picked up two first downs in the second half and had only 51 yards after grabbing the 13-7 advantage in the second quarter.


Game notes
  • DeJuan Groce scored his third punt return touchdown of the season on an 89-yard return in the third quarter. The touchdown was the third-longest punt return in NU history, and the second of 89 yards or more in the past three seasons against Missouri, joining Bobby Newcombe’s school-record 94-yard TD in 2000. Groce’s three punt return TDs this season tie NU’s school record, set by Johnny Rodgers in 1971. Groce is just one off the NCAA record of four, held by eight players. With 114 punt return yards on Saturday, Groce moved his career total to 885 yards and passed Larry Wachholtz (788 yards), Tyrone Hughes (817) and Newcombe (829) to move into second on the NU chart. Groce trails only Rodgers’ 1,515 yards from 1970 to 1972.
  • Junior Josh Davis had four kickoff returns for 111 yards before leaving with a left quadricep injury in the second quarter. Davis and Groce keyed the Huskers to a 225-29 advantage in return yards.
  • Quarterback Jammal Lord led Nebraska in rushing for the fifth time this season with 98 yards on 17 carries, including a 35-yard scamper in the third quarter.
  • Tight end Aaron Golliday caught a one-yard TD pass from Lord to put the Huskers up 14-13 just before halftime. It was his first TD reception in a regular-season game and second in his career, as he also had a 13-yard TD reception vs. Tennessee in the 2000 Fiesta Bowl.
  • Freshman split end Ross Pilkington has caught at least one pass in each of the last five games. Pilkington had a 17-yard catch for a first down on NU’s first scoring drive.
  • I-back David Horne had a career-best 88 yards rushing, including 10 carries for 72 yards before halftime. Horne had 81 yards in his debut vs. McNeese State the previous week. Horne had four carries for 46 yards on NU’s go-ahead drive at the end of the second quarter, including a career-long 30- yard scamper on the first play of the drive.
  • Nebraska trailed by nearly five minutes in possession time at halftime, but held the ball for more than 20 minutes in the second half to finish with a 32:58 to 27:02 advantage for the game. Missouri ran just 23 plays in the second half.
  • Senior place-kicker Josh Brown kicked a 42-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, his sixth field goal of the season, including four of 40 yards or longer. Brown’s streak of consecutive field goals ended with a missed 35-yarder late in the game. Brown scored six points in the game to move past Ahman Green into fourth place on the NU career scoring list with 271 career points.
  • The Husker defense limited Missouri to just 220 total yards, half of the Tigers’ 441-yard average entering the game. Tiger QB Brad Smith was held to 157 total yards, well under his average of 332 total yards entering the game. NU’s Blackshirts allowed just 11 first downs, including just one by rush.
  • The Husker defense recorded four sacks in the game, including two for five yards lost by senior rush end Demoine Adams. Rush end Trevor Johnson and defensive tackle Patrick Kabongo split a sack and rover Lannie Hopkins accounted for Nebraska’s final sack.
  • Nebraska’s victory was its 26th straight home win and the 252nd straight sellout at Memorial Stadium. It also marked the 25th straight year the Huskers have won their conference home opener.