AMES, Iowa — After giving up a whopping 594 yards in a narrow escape against Kansas at home last week, the Nebraska defense entered Saturday's game against Iowa State looking to redeem itself.
And despite facing a spread offense with more big-play potential than the Jayhawk crew that tore them up in Lincoln, NU's Blackshirts accomplished what they set out to do.
In their 28-14 win at Jack Trice Stadium, the Huskers took away the Cyclones' running game early and put the heat on ISU quarterback Bret Meyer in one of their best efforts of the season.
"I'm really proud, especially of our defense, of how they rose to the occasion all day long," Nebraska coach Bill Callahan said. "I thought they played excellent against an offense that is outstanding, potent and has a lot of quality players on it."
The Huskers set the tone in the first half Saturday, holding Iowa State to just 91 total yards through the first two quarters. In fact, outside of its lone scoring drive before the half, the Cyclones managed just one first down because Nebraska didn't let their playmakers get involved on offense.
Through two periods, ISU had just 39 rushing yards on 15 carries. Its leading rusher, senior Stevie Hicks, had just three touches for 17 yards. And the Cyclones' top receiver, Todd Blythe, who torched Nebraska a year ago, went the entire first half without a catch.
The reason? The Blackshirts were dominant up front — completely shutting down the running game while keeping Meyer from getting comfortable.
"I just thought our pass rush was instrumental today in putting pressure on Meyer," Callahan said. "He's an outstanding quarterback, and you just can't allow him to set his feet. He's got the uncanny ability to escape and make plays on the move. He's a double threat. He's tough to control in the pocket.
"And to come away with a victory against this offense, and have the defense play a big part of it, is huge for our defensive confidence."
That's especially true after a week ago.
After looking good early, Nebraska gave up 405 passing yards to KU backup quarterback Adam Barmann and 145 rushing yards to Jon Cornish in its worst defensive performance in a win in school history.
"Last week, we lapsed," NU linebacker Stewart Bradley said. "We weren't mentally in the game as well. We got distracted, and we just didn't play our best ball. This week, we fought to get it back and we did a much better job."
The Huskers held Iowa State to only 53 rushing yards on 24 attempts in the game, making their opponent completely one-dimensional on offense. And, for the most part, they did the job they needed to do against the Cyclone passing attack.
Meyer finished with 262 passing yards but completed less than 50 percent of his passes while constantly being pressured. Blythe had six catches for 96 yards and a touchdown but was a nonfactor for more than half of the game.
ISU had one drive with a short field for a score in the first half but was turned away inside the Husker 25 three times after the break without a point.
Its final score came with six seconds left in the game. For the rest of the night, the Cyclone offense couldn't do much against an inspired NU defense.
"We really didn't play well last week," Nebraska defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove said. "We know what we're capable of doing. We knew it was important on the road to put a complete game together. And I thought we put a complete game together. We had some tough situations that we battled through."