2006 Nebraska Cornhuskers

Posted Dec 30, 2006

2006 Nebraska Cornhuskers Season, Game Recaps, Scores and Reviews

Jan. 1
Cotton Bowl
Auburn 17 ... Nebraska 14

Auburn managed just 178 total yards and did absolutely nothing in the first half, but scored on a Carl Stewart nine-yard catch and a one-yard run converting off a fumbled fake punt attempt and an interception return deep into Husker territory. Nebraska dominated the first half getting a 13-yard Nate Swift touchdown catch and a 20-yard Brandon Jackson scoring run, but was shut out in the second with the passing game struggling to get moving. Auburn's offense wasn't much better, but it did just enough to get a 42-yard John Vaughn field goal. The Huskers had a chance late, but chose to go for it on fourth and 11 instead of a long field goal. Zac Taylor's pass went out of bounds, and Auburn had the game in hand.
Player of the game ... Auburn CB David Irons made three tackles, one tackle for loss, and broke up one pass that led to the early interception. He also did a great job of putting the clamps down on the Husker receivers.
Stat Leaders: Auburn - Passing: Brandon Cox, 10-21, 111 yds
Rushing: Kenny Irons, 24-72  Receiving: Courtney Taylor, 6-70
Nebraska - Passing: Zac Taylor, 14-25, 126 yds, 1, TD, 1 INT
Marlon Lucky, 25-88  Receiving:
Marlon Lucky, 6-67
Notes & Thoughts ... Quarter by quarter game notes
 ... It wasn't exactly the prettiest Cotton Bowl. Auburn finished up its season with 11 wins despite the lack of a consistent offense, while Nebraska ended with two major disappointments in losses in the Big 12 title game and now in the Cotton. ... Nebraska's offense seemingly pulled out every play in the book, but it didn't seem to matter. The receivers couldn't get open against the speedy Auburn defensive back seven, while the running game wasn't used enough in the second half to take control. ... As soon as Auburn got out of the first half tied, it seemed like it was going to be its day. It's hard to play that poorly, get that thoroughly dominated and come away tied. ... Brandon Cox had a better second half than the stats will show, while Zac Taylor struggled to get anything going. ... Nebraska didn't necessarily get outcoached, but it was almost like the Bill Callahan and his crew tried to hard and outthought itself. There were several bizarre, ill-timed, and curious play calls.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2006 Record:
Preview 2006 predicted wins

9/2 Louisiana Tech W 49-10
9/9 Nicholls State W 56-7
9/16 at USC L 28-10
9/23 Troy W 56-0
9/30 Kansas W 39-32 OT
10/7 at Iowa State W 28-14
10/14 at Kansas State W 21-3
10/21 Texas L 22-20
10/28 at Oklahoma St L 41-29
11/4 Missouri W 34-20
11/11 at Texas A&M W 28-27
11/24 Colorado W 37-14
12/2 Big 12 Championship
Oklahoma L 21-7
1/1 Cotton Bowl
Auburn L 17-14

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2005 Record:
Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/3 Maine W 25-7
9/10 Wake Forest W 31-3
9/17 Pittsburgh W 7-6
10/1 Iowa State W 27-20 2OT
10/8 Texas Tech L 34-31
10/15 at Baylor W 23-14
10/22 at Missouri L 41-24
10/29 Oklahoma L 31-24
11/5 at Kansas L 40-15
11/12 Kansas State W 27-25
11/25 at Colorado W 30-3
12/28 Alamo Bowl
Michigan W 32-28

Dec. 2
Big 12 Championship
Oklahoma 21 ... Nebraska 7

Oklahoma forced five Nebraska turnovers, including Marcus Walker forcing a Maurice Purify fumble on the second play from scrimmage, leading to a two-yard Allen Patrick touchdown run. A Malcolm Kelly 66-yard touchdown catch later in the first quarter put the game out of reach. Zac Taylor and Hunter Teafatiller connected on a 14-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, but the turnovers and the lack of a balanced offense proved to be too much to overcome. Kelly closed out the scoring with a three-yard touchdown catch late in the third. Neither team ran the ball well, and Nebraska gained OU 282 yards to 265 through the air, but the Sooners came through with the bigger plays.
Player of the game ... Oklahoma WR Malcolm Kelly caught ten passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Oklahoma - Passing: Paul Thompson, 19-34, 265 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Allen Patrick, 15-35, 1 TD  Receiving: Malcolm Kelly, 10-142, 2 TD
Nebraska - Passing: Zac Taylor, 23-50, 282 yds, 1 TD, 3 INT
Brandon Jackson, 13-70  Receiving: Brandon Jackson, 5-28

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean Basil? ... All of Nebraska's issues were exposed by Oklahoma. Mediocre secondary: check. Inconsistent running game: check. Not enough big plays from the receivers against a good defense: check, too. Of course, the biggest problem from the start was the inability to hang on to the ball killing too many chances to change the momentum around. The run defense did a great job of keeping OU in check, but nothing else worked well enough to pull off the win.

Nov. 24
Nebraska 37 ... Colorado 14
Nebraska used a variety of trick plays and a huge day from Brandon Jackson to put Colorado away. Tied at 14 late in the third quarter after a 45-yard Mell Holliday touchdown run, the Huskers scored the final 23 points of the game on a two-yard Jackson run, an 18-yard Jackson catch, a seven-yard Kenny Wilson scoring run, and a safety on a sack of CU QB Bernard Jackson. Jackson connected with Riar Geer for a 14-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter to answer a 7-0 Husker lead off a 15-yard Terrence Nunn catch.
Player of the game ... Nebraska RB Brandon Jackson ran 34 times for 142 yards and a touchdown and caught six passes for 42 yards and a score
Stat Leaders: Nebraska - Passing: Zac Taylor, 19-28, 249 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Brandon Jackson, 34-142, 1 TD. Receiving: Brandon Jackson, 6-42, 1 TD
Colorado - Passing: Bernard Jackson, 11-23, 131 yds, 1 TD
Mell Holliday, 8-67, 1 TD  Receiving: Cody Crawford, 5-79
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean Basil? ... Shouldn't Nebraska have saved a little something for the Big 12 title game? Either Bill Callahan and his coaching staff were giving the South team more to think about by running so many trick plays, or it might have ruined the surprise on several good ideas and schemes. Brandon Jackson did a little of everything well and Zac Taylor was razor sharp, but the big key was the play of the defensive line that came up with four sacks, and outside of a few big runs, consistently stopped the CU ground game. On a three-game winning streak, this looked like a team with confidence.

Nov. 11
Nebraska 28 ... Texas A&M 27
Nebraska turned a blocked field goal into an 11-play, 75-yard drive finishing with a nine-yard Zac Taylor lob to Maurice Purify for the game-winning score with :21 to play. The Huskers got up 21-7 in the first half on two Cody Glenn touchdown runs and a four-yard Todd Peterson catch. Then the Aggies went on a 20-point run highlighted by a 57-yard touchdown run from Stephen McGee, but when they had a chance to put the game away with a 42-yard Layne Neumann field goal, the Huskers got the block to keep the game alive. With the win, the Huskers clinched the Big 12 North title.
Player of the game ... In the loss, Texas A&M LB Mark Dodge made 17 tackles, an interception and a tackle for loss
Stat Leaders: Nebraska - Passing: Zac Taylor, 21-35, 267 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Marlon Lucky, 12-52. Receiving: Todd Peterson, 7-82, 1 TD
Texas A&M - Passing: Stephen McGee, 18-31, 244 yds
Mike Goodson, 11-80, 1 TD  Receiving: Martel Bennett, 6-67
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean Basil? ... Nebraska's win over Missouri last week was huge, but on a national scale, the win this week over Texas A&M might have been bigger. This was a true, big-time road win that showed heart, clutch play, and great defensive pressure over and over again getting into the Aggie backfield all game long. Taylor set the Nebraska record for career passing yards and set the school's single-season record for touchdown passes with 22. It helps that the program almost never threw the ball, but Taylor's two-year career is still impressive.

Nov. 4
Nebraska 34 ... Missouri 20
Nebraska efficiently took control of the Big 12 North race getting up 17-0 on a trick play with Maurice Purify throwing a 28-yard touchdown pass to Terrence Nunn and catching a seven-yard pass. Missouri got on the board in the first half on two Jeff Wolfert field goals and got within 14 on a six-yard touchdown pass to Martin Rucker, but the Huskers put it out of reach with a 13-play, 85-yard drive finished off by a two-yard Brandon Jackson run. The Tigers managed one more score on a 19-yard Chase Coffman touchdown catch midway through the fourth.
Player of the game ... Nebraska RB Brandon Jackson ran 32 times for 111 yards and a touchdown and caught three passes for 61 yards
Stat Leaders: Nebraska - Passing: Zac Taylor, 13-21, 208 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Brandon Jackson, 32-111, 1 TD. Receiving: Marlon Lucky, 4-46
Missouri - Passing: Chase Daniel, 20-38, 244 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Tony Temple, 18-99  Receiving: Dana Alexander, 4-84
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean Basil? ... Talk about bouncing back. Nebraska did a great job of tightening up on the Missouri passing game early while the offense coolly and calmly took care of business with a balanced attack that converted 11 of 17 third down chances. Brandon Jackson has been the star of the offense over the last few weeks doing a little of everything well with his ability as a receiver bailing the offense out of a few jams. Now the North title is there for the taking needing to beat either Texas A&M or Colorado in the final two games to get into the Big12 title game.

Oct. 28
Oklahoma State 41 ... Nebraska 29
Nebraska got up 23-13 on two Brandon Jackson touchdown runs and a 22-yard pass play from Zac Taylor to Maurice Purify, and then Oklahoma State kicked it in with a 45-yard touchdown pass to Adarius Bowman with :16 left in the first half as part of a 28-point run with Dantrell Savage scoring his second rushing touchdown of the game, Julius Crosslin pounding it in from one-yard out, and Nathan Peterson putting a cap on things with a 19-yard fumble recovery for a score. Nebraska managed a five-yard touchdown pass to Purify with five seconds to play, but it was way too late.
Player of the game ... Oklahoma State QB Bobby Reid completed 13 of 21 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. He also ran eight times for 61 yards.
Stat Leaders: Nebraska - Passing: Zac Taylor, 21-39, 241 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Brandon Jackson, 21-182, 2 TD. Receiving: Maurice Purify, 6-66, 2 TD
Oklahoma State - Passing: Bobby Reid, 13-21, 229 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Dantrell Savage, 17-117, 2 TD  Receiving: D'Juan Woods, 4-87
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean Basil? ... Nebraska's secondary was going to be an issue against Oklahoma State, but no one thought the D was going to get its doors blown off by the Cowboy running game. The offensive line couldn't protect Zac Taylor, there wasn't any consistent offense in the second half, and the secondary, as expected, allowed too many big plays. The Huskers must have a short memory with Missouri coming up next week. This game, in the scheme of the Big 12 race, won't mean anything if Nebraska beats the Tigers, Texas A&M and Colorado.

Oct. 21
Texas 22 ... Nebraska 20
On his first attempt of his career, Ryan Bailey hit a 22-yard field goal with 23 seconds to play and the defense broke up two Hail Mary passes in the end zone as Texas came back to beat Nebraska. The Huskers were up 20-19 late and were trying to run down the clock, but Texas CB Aaron Ross forced a fumble with 1:45 to play leading the way to the game-winning drive. The Huskers got three big plays with a 63-yard touchdown pass to Maurice Purify in the first quarter, a 49-yard score from Brandon Jackson off a shovel pass, and with just under five minutes to play, a 25-yard halfback pass from Marlon Lucky to Nate Swift. Texas moved the ball, but had problems with the kicking game as Greg Johnson got an extra point blocked and missed from 39 and 31 yards out. Colt McCoy threw two touchdown passes with a six-yard strike to Quan Cosby and a 55-yard throw to Limas Sweed.
Player of the game ... Texas CB Aaron Ross made four tackles and forced the fumble that led to the game-winning score
Stat Leaders: Texas - Passing: Colt McCoy, 25-39, 220 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Jamaal Charles, 9-63. Receiving: Limas Sweed, 8-119, 1 TD
Nebraska - Passing: Zac Taylor, 15-28, 277 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Brandon Jackson, 7-40 Receiving: Terrence Nunn, 5-84
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean Basil? ...
Nebraska was just this close to coming up with a huge, corner-turning win under Bill Callahan. The Huskers have nation respect, but a win over Texas would've put the team into top ten territory. The offense wasn't afraid to open it up and pull out all the stops; Husker fans have to be wondering where this offense was against USC earlier in the year. To beat the best, you need a few breaks, and Nebraska had a hard time getting enough of them with Texas falling on four of its own fumbles. The defense failed to get the big stop it needed at the end of the game after the Terrence Nunn fumble. Don't fret too much Big Red fans; win out, and you'll get a second shot at the Horns.

Oct. 14
Nebraska 21 ... Kansas State 3
Nebraska only ran for 22 yards and only managed a 53-yard Jeff Snodgrass as Nebraska dominated from start to finish. The Huskers got a 17-yard touchdown catch from Hunter Teafatiller off a fake field goal to kick off the scoring, and then let the offensive guys do the rest with Zac Taylor throwing a three-yard scoring pass to Josh Mueller in the third and Marlon Lucky running for a 40-yard score in the third. The Huskers only gained 356 yards, but managed to hold on to the ball for almost 35 minutes.
Player of the game ... Nebraska LB Stewart Bradley led the defense with ten tackles and a tackle for loss
Stat Leaders: Kansas State - Passing: Josh Freeman, 23-47, 272 yds, 2 INT
Daniel Gonzalez, 1-38  Receiving: Jermaine Moreira, 6-86
Nebraska - Passing: Zac Taylor, 12-21, 149 yds, 1 TD
Brandon Jackson, 16-92  Receiving: Maurice Purify, 4-73
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean Basil? ...
Nebraska appears to have settled into the role of being workmanlike and efficient against mediocre teams. Outside of an awful second half against Kansas, there haven't been any problems over the last four weeks with an easy win over Kansas State the latest solid performance. However, to beat Texas next week, there will have to be more pop. The gloves have to come off and there must be more big plays from the passing game. Playing it safe and letting the defense control the game won't work over the next few weeks.

Oct. 7
Nebraska 28 ... Iowa State 14
Nebraska outrushed Iowa State 251 yards to 53 with Brandon Jackson rushing for 120 yards and a score and Cody Glenn tearing off 148 yards with scoring runs from three and five yards out. A one-yard Bret Meyer touchdown run tied it at seven, but the Cyclones didn't get back on the board until a 13-yard scoring pass to Todd Blythe with six seconds to play. The Husker passing game got into the act with a 27-yard scoring play to Maurice Purify, while the offense held on to the ball for almost 37 minutes.
Player of the game ... Nebraska RBs Cody Glenn and Brandon Jackson combined for 264 yards and three touchdowns on 41 carries
Stat Leaders: Iowa State - Passing: Bret Meyer, 18-39, 262 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Bret Meyer, 13-26, 1 TD. Receiving: Todd Blythe, 6-96, 1 TD
Nebraska - Passing: Zac Taylor, 17-21, 131 yds, 1 TD
Cody Glenn, 19-148, 2 TD  Receiving: Marlon Lucky, 3-28
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean Basil? ... Nebraska's secondary was saved by the offense and the running game. It was an impressive gameplan against Iowa State running the ball, running the ball, and running some more with Zac Taylor coming up with one of his most efficient passing games of the season. It might not always have been exciting, but in a hostile environment, the ball control game worked. There's still a stunning lack of pressure into the backfield and the pass defense is still a concern, but Nebraska is 5-1 going into a date with Kansas State before the Texas showdown. There can't be too many complaints from Husker fans at the moment.

Sept. 30
Nebraska 39 ... Kansas 32 OT
Nebraska got a one-yard Cody Glenn touchdown run in overtime, and then the defense held as Kansas stalled on the nine-yard line. The Huskers got up 17-0 early with a 75 yard Terrence Nunn touchdown and a six-yard Todd Peterson catch,, but Kansas slowly crept its way back until it finally took the lead 25-24 late in the fourth on a one-yard Derek Fine touchdown catch. Nebraska responded with a 75-yard touchdown pass to Frantz Hardy, but the defense couldn't hold as KU went 81 yard in 11 played culminating in a 26-yard touchdown grab from Brian Murph, who took the pass and sprinted his way into the left side of the end zone. KU outgained Nebraska 574 yards to 511 thanks to a 405-yard passing day from Adam Barmann.
Player of the game ... Nebraska QB Zac Tayor completed 15 of 33 passes for 394 yards and four touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Kansas - Passing: Adam Barmann, 27-54, 405 yds, 2 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Jon Cornish, 31-145, 1 TD. Receiving: Brian Murph, 8-129, 1 TD
Nebraska - Passing: Zac Taylor, 15-33, 395 yds, 4 TD
Marlon Lucky, 13-40  Receiving: Maurice Purify, 4-91
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean Basil? ... Nebraska's secondary is a weak point, everyone knew that, but to get ripped up by Kansas is cause for major concern with good passing games coming up on the schedule. Zac Taylor might not have been efficient, but he bombed away with two huge pass plays, and he kept his composure when things started to go south. Three fumbles and an ineffective ground game, along with a huge passing day from QB Adam Barmann, helped allow KU to get back in the game, but the Huskers survived. They needed to prove they could come up with a close win like this when things weren't going quite as well as planned.

Sept. 23
Nebraska 56 ... Troy 0
Nebraska cranked out 597 yards of total offense and scored 14 points in each quarter highlighted by touchdown runs from from Marlon Lucky from 34, 45, and 51 yards out. Kenny Wilson added scoring runs from three and eight yards out, and Zac Taylor connected with J.B. Phillips for a six-yard score. The Huskers cranked out 316 rushing yards and held Troy to 48 rushing yards and 1.8 yards per carry. Troy only converted one of 11 third down conversions and committed ten penalties.
Player of the game ... Nebraska RB Marlon Lucky ran ten times for 156 yards and three touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Troy - Passing: Omar Haugabook, 12-21, 88 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Josh Allen, 4-39. Receiving: Smokey Hampton, 4-16
Nebraska - Passing: Zac Taylor, 14-17, 268 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Marlon Lucky, 10-156, 3 TD  Receiving: Terrence Nunn, 4-102
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean Basil? ... We know Nebraska is good enough to blast the Troys and Louisiana Tech's of the world, but it's time for this team to show up against a good team. To be fair, USC has been the only test so far, but there's no reason this offense should be held down by Kansas, Iowa State, or Kansas State over the coming weeks. The running game was terrific against a Troy D, that's been solid so far. Finally, the great Husker defensive front generated some pressure.

Sept. 16
USC 28 ... Nebraska 10
John David Booty threw three touchdown passes, with two to Dwayne Jarrett, and Chauncey Washington ran for a seven-yard score as USC wasn't pretty, but won easily. Nebraska got up early on a 38-yard Jordan Congdon field goal, but wasn't able to get the offense moving in the first half and only managed a one-yard Zac Taylor touchdown run in the fourth quarter. The Trojans outgained the Huskers 399 yards to 211.
Player of the game ... USC WR Dwayne Jarrett caught 11 passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: USC- Passing: John David Booty, 25-36, 257 yds, 3 TD
Rushing: Emmanuel Moody, 9-70. Receiving: Dwayne Jarrett, 11-136, 2 TD
Nebraska - Passing: Zac Taylor, 8-16, 115 yds
Kenny Wilson, 19-46  Receiving: Brandon Jackson, 4-36
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean Basil? ...
Nebraska didn't get any pass rush on USC QB John David Booty ... ball game. The secondary simply wasn't good enough to stay with the Trojan receivers. The bigger problem was the Husker passing game; there wasn't any. Where was the West Coast offense? How could Zac Taylor only throw the ball 16 times? It was almost like the Huskers were playing not to get blown out instead of taking full advantage of the national spotlight and the opportunity to make a statement. This is still a good enough team to win the Big 12 title and potentially run the table along the way, but it proved that it's not back among the elite.

Sept. 9
Nebraska 56 ... Nicholls State 7
Nebraska had no problems against Nicholls State showing a balanced offense and a little bit of explosion. NSU didn't complete a pass and was outgained 261 yards to 187 on the ground. The Huskers scored 14 points in each quarter with Zac Taylor throwing four touchdown passes including a 19-yarder to Matt Herian and a 42-yard strike to Maurice Purify. Toney Edison and Kareem Moore combined for 31 tackles for NSU.
Player of the game ... Nebraska QB Zac Taylor completed 19 of 23 passes for 202 yards and four touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Nebraska - Passing: Zac Taylor, 19-23, 202 yds, 4 TD
Rushing: Marlon Lucky, 18-103, 1 TD Receiving: Matt Herian, 4-38, 1 TD
Nicholls State - Passing: Chris Bunch, 0-3
Grant Thorne, 3-65. Receiving: None
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean Basil? ... It was only against Nicholls State, but Nebraska showed excellent offensive balance for the second week in a row getting Marlon Lucky and the running game going to take some of the workload away from a razor-sharp Zac Taylor. To beat USC next week, all the parts have to be working on offense and Taylor has to spread it around every bit as well as he has over the last two weeks. Just a guess: Nebraska's secondary won't hold the Trojans to no passing yards like it did against the Nichols State passing attack.

Sept. 2
Nebraska 49 ... Louisiana Tech 10
Nebraska spread the ball around to ten different receivers with seven different players scoring. Matt Herian, in his first game back from a devastating leg injury, started the scoring on a 13-yard touchdown grab late in the first quarter. Following a 13-yard touchdown run by Nebraska's Marlon Lucky, Tech got a brilliant one-handed 39-yard touchdown catch fro Johnathan Holland to pull within four. That was it for the Bulldogs as the Huskers scored 35 unanswered points.
Player of the game ... Nebraska QB Zac Taylor completed 22 of 33 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns with an interception.
Stat Leaders: Nebraska - Passing: Zac Taylor, 22-33, 287 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Cody Glenn, 13-88, 1 TD. Receiving: Terrence Nunn, 5-54
Louisiana Tech - Passing: Zac Champion, 12-27, 231 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Patrick Jackson, 9-43. Receiving: Johnathan Holland, 7-139, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean Basil? ... Who says Nebraska doesn't have a running game anymore? Gaining 252 yards rushing and 332 passing yards on Louisiana Tech will make the Husker faithful happy, while holding on to the ball for over 35 minutes will make the coaches sleep well. Converting 11 of 16 third down chances will make the overall stats look great. Now the defense has to crank up the sacks again after getting good pressure, but not enough big plays. Expect ten sacks next week against Nicholls State.

2006 Nebraska Preview

Nebraska Preview | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

It's amazing how one big win can change the entire attitude of a program.

Everyone knew it would take a few years for Nebraska to go from being one of the purest running teams in all of football to a West Coast attack that, despite cries to the contrary, would become too heavily reliant on the passing game. But the Big Red Nation was still getting a bit gruff and grumbly as the Huskers became the worst running team in the Big 12 while going through some big growing pains in blowout losses to Missouri and Kansas. And them came the Alamo Bowl.

With the 32-28 win over Michigan, the defense confirmed that it could get into the backfield any time it wanted to against anyone, while the offense found a little bit of confidence with several big plays and three touchdown passes. Quarterback Zac Taylor didn't have his best game passing, but he threw for three touchdowns while the ground game had its third best game of the season rushing for 151 yards. That game was the spark for what Husker fans hope is a return to the glory days, albeit in a vastly different way.

However, the question still has to be asked; was the 180-degree change in offensive philosophy really necessary?

While everyone likes to talk about the Husker offense, the real noise has been made by a defense that led the nation with a whopping 50 sacks to go along with a ridiculous 140 tackles for loss. With a defense like this one, and a power, grinding running game like the Nebraska of old, this could've been a national title caliber season. Of course, this isn't the Nebraska of old.

That's not to say this year's offense doesn't have the potential to be explosive in a way far different than from what Nebraska has ever done. Taylor knows what he's doing now and should set all sorts of school passing records with an improved line in front of him, speedy backs, and a receiving corps full of veterans and superstar newcomers. Getting tight end Matt Herian back from a brutal broken leg adds yet another dimension to the attack.

The defensive front seven will be as good as any in America with talented backups at each spot, too many good linebackers to get on the field at any one time, and, perhaps, the nation's best defensive ends in Adam Carriker and Jay Moore. If the secondary is merely competent, there's no reason the Huskers can't have a top ten D.

High expectations never left Lincoln over the last few seasons, but they were held in check a little bit. No more. It's Big 12 title or bust as the program makes it return to national prominence. At least, it had better return to the spotlight.

The Schedule: The Huskers get two warmups before what could be the game that truly turns the corner in the Bill Callahan era at USC. Even with a loss against the Trojans, things look promising with a likely 4-1 start before not-that-bad road trips to Iowa State and Kansas State to try to get North title hopes rolling. Not only do the Huskers get one player in the 2006 Rose Bowl, it gets the other when Texas comes to town. However, that might be a good thing. No matter where the Huskers are ranked in the preseason, if they beat the Trojans and Longhorns on the way to an unbeaten season, they're in the national title game no matter how many other teams are unbeaten. They get a huge break playing Oklahoma State and Texas A&M from the South while missing Oklahoma and Texas Tech, but those two games are on the road.

Best Offensive Player: Senior QB Zac Taylor. Actually, if he's back to the player he was two years ago, tight end Matt Herian is the team's best offensive player and will be a threat to win the Mackey Award. Taylor is an average talent who'll blossom into a statistical star this year with all the rising talent around him. He's a heady leader who appears to have the offense and the speed of the D-I game under control.

Best Defensive Player: Senior DEs Adam Carriker and Jay Moore. Outside of injuries, the only thing that can stop these two from combining for at least 15 sacks and about 30 tackles for loss would be the play of some excellent backups that'll demand time in the rotation. The NFL tends to like huge ends who can rush the passer. Carriker goes 295 pounds while Moore checks in at 280.

Key player to a successful season: The entire offensive line. Tackles Chris Patrick, Matt Slauson and Lydon Murtha, guards Greg Austin, Mike Huff and Andy Christensen, and center Kurt Mann can't hold a candle to any of the great Husker offensive lines of the past, but they'll form a much better unit than the one that got Taylor battered and couldn't open up a hole for the running game. The skill players are there to blow up if they get time to operate.

The season will be a success if ... the Huskers win the Big 12 North. While many will set the sights on winning the league championship, this isn't as good a team as Oklahoma or Texas. Just getting to the title game for the first time since 1999 would be a fantastic step forward.

Key game: Sept. 16 at USC. Talk about your tone-setters. If Nebraska can pull off the win over a Trojan team that might be the best in America, it'll set the table for a potentially monster season complete with national title dreams. Outside of the home date with Texas, the Huskers will be the favorites the rest of the way.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Sacks: Nebraska 50 for 381 yards - Opponents 38 for 253 yards
- Average yards per carry: Opponents 3.2 - Nebraska 2.7
- Fumbles: Opponents 31, lost 9 - Nebraska 27, lost 11

The Last Time Nebraska…
…played in a bowl game…2005 (Alamo Bowl vs. Michigan)
…missed a bowl game…2004
…pitched a shutout…2003 (Iowa State)
…was shutout…1996 (Arizona State)
…scored 50 points…2004 (Baylor)
…went undefeated…1997
…won a conference title…1999 (Big 12)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…never
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2004 (Cory Ross)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…never
…had a first-round draft choice…2005 (DB Fabian Washington)