September 12, 2009

NU stays focused for 38-9 win over Red Wolves

In what could have been a potential trap game, Nebraska made sure it didn't take any steps backward on Saturday.


It wasn't a perfect effort by any means, but the No. 22 Huskers (2-0) took care of business with a 38-6 win over Arkansas State (1-1). Junior quarterback Zac Lee finished with a career day, completing 27-of-35 passes for 340 yards and four touchdowns - all career highs.


All together, 14 different players caught a pass in the game, led by six receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown by junior Niles Paul. Junior tight end Mike McNeill also had a big day with five catches for 57 yards and two touchdowns.


Defensively, the Huskers turned in another solid effort, holding the Red Wolves to just one touchdown and 274 yards of total offense.


There were a few areas where things could've been better for NU, specifically in the running game and stopping the run. Junior running back Roy Helu ended the day with only 60 yards on 14 carries and no touchdowns, while the Huskers rushed for just 136 yards as a team.


On the other side, Arkansas State was finished143 yards on the ground, including a game-high 83 yards and a touchdown by running back Reggie Arnold.


Head coach Bo Pelini said he was happy with his team's effort overall, but still wanted to see a more consistent performance on the day.


"Overall, it was OK," Pelini said. "Defensively, I thought we were inconsistent, sloppy and we missed tackles at times. But I saw some good things too all the way across the board. I thought we played better than we did a week ago, but we're not where we need to be."


With a big showdown with Virginia Tech looming only a week away, Nebraska definitely didn't show any lack of focus to open the game, as the Huskers reached the end zone on their first three drives and led 24-6 at the half.


While the defense held ASU to just 118 yards of total offense in the first half, Lee was spot on, connecting on 15-of-19 passes for 183 yards and a pair of first-quarter touchdowns to fullback Tyler Legate and tight end Mike McNeill.


Lee's numbers could've been even better had a 70-yard touchdown pass to Paul in the second quarter not been negated by a questionable holding penalty. Paul was still able to find the end zone on a 30-yard reverse early in the second quarter for his first touchdown of the season.


After the first two drives, Lee was 8-of-9 passing for 111 yards and two touchdowns.


"He's playing at a high level," Pelini said. "I really like how he's playing. I thought he spread the ball around well and he played really well. I thought he made a couple of mistakes, a couple of bad decisions, but it didn't hurt us. Overall, he played really well."


Nebraska did plenty of things well in their final warm-up before next week's highly anticipated trip to take on the No. 14 Hokies, but it is far from a finished product.


The verdict is still out on just how improved the Huskers are from last season, but when they arrive in Blacksburg, Va., next Saturday, they should finally get some real answers.


"In all areas, we weren't as consistent as we have to be to play at the level we want to," Pelini said. "It's week two. We have a long season ahead. We just have to keep working. That's why you practice. There's not a football team out there that's the "Steel Curtain" and the Super Bowl champion with execution.


"It's week two. It's why you practice. It's why you keep developing. I expect our team to be fully prepared to go on the road and meet the challenge that's ahead."

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