LINCOLN — Leave it to the Lord to answer prayers of Nebraska fans concerned about their quarterback.
Fast feet helped Jammal Lord make his first start under center a success during Nebraska's 48-10 win against Arizona State on Saturday in the Black Coaches Association Classic. Lord rushed for a game-high 103 yards and threw a touchdown pass as the Huskers continued their season-opening dominance before a Memorial Stadium crowd of 77,779.
"I probably slept less before this game than any game in my career as a high school and college coach because of so many unknowns,” said Nebraska coach Frank Solich. "People around the country have kind of related to that in terms of a lot of new faces on our team. We do have to prove ourselves. There's no question about that.”
Lord impressed Solich while showing that he is going to be a more than adequate replacement for Eric Crouch, last year's Heisman Trophy winner. His play helped No. 8/10 Nebraska (1-0) take control in the second half of a game that was watched by a national TV audience on ESPN.
"I thought Jammal Lord did a great job,” Solich said. "I don't know that he could have under the pressure he was under come in and do any better than what he did. He made big plays time and time again.”
Lord completed the first two passes he threw while also tossing a 9-yard touchdown strike to split end Wilson Thomas. His ability to elude tacklers also proved to be a big asset on his 17 rushing attempts.
"The key is no turnovers,” Lord said. "Also the key is we didn't lose. That was my main concern.”
Surprisingly, Lord said he didn't feel any pressure leading up to his first career start despite having to replace an icon like Crouch.
"There really isn't any pressure on me,” Lord said. "It's you guys that say, 'He has pressure on him.' I just go out there, play football and have fun.”
Lord's ability to change direction in a hurry enabled him to rip off a long run of 33 yards. He finished the first half with 71 yards on 12 carries.
"He had a great first start rushing for over a hundred yards,” said Arizona State defensive end Terrell Suggs. "That's good for him but bad for us.”
The final rushing numbers posted by the junior from Bayonne, N.J., surpassed the ground-game totals of three of Nebraska's best quarterbacks in their first career start. Besides Crouch, the players that Lord outperformed are Scott Frost and Tommie Frazier.
"He did not exceed my expectations. All along I felt he was capable of coming out and having that kind of game,” Solich said. "I think the players believed that, too.”
Lord's 33-yard run helped stake Nebraska to a 10-3 lead at halftime. It set up a 2-yard run by fullback Judd Davies with 12 minutes, 52 seconds left in the second quarter.
"It was exciting to see what Jammal did out there,” said Nebraska center John Garrison. "He kind of lights up the field with some of the things he does.”
Lord took advantage of a shanked punt and threw his touchdown pass to Thomas that extended Nebraska's lead to 17-3. The drive began at the Arizona State 20-yard line following a 19-yard punt by Tim Parker.
Linebacker Scott Shanle then extended the Huskers' lead to 24-3 with a six-yard punt return for a touchdown. The punt was blocked by linebacker Demorrio Williams.
"I felt great out there,” Williams said. "The defense has great chemistry and it showed.
"We started well and came out and got the things done that we needed to get done. From that point on, it was just fun.”
Solich said a few minor adjustments helped Nebraska take control in the second half.
"They're a team that brings a lot of pressure. They'll do it from up the middle. They'll also do it from bringing people wide,” Solich said. "It gets to be a little bit of a guessing game.
"What we tried to do was get back to where we could establish a little bit of a ground game and then try to mix in some throws with Jammal.”
Two blocked punts and an interception by freshman Fabian Washington that led to Nebraska's final score ruined what had been a solid effort by Arizona State.
"I think for the most part we played hard,” said Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter. "Nebraska does a good job of wearing you down. I looked out there the third series of the game and they had their second offensive line out there. We have seven offensive lineman ready to play right now.
"Nebraska does a good job of trying to wear you down like that. They did that to us in the second half.”
Washington intercepted a pass thrown by Arizona State quarterback Andy Goodenough and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown.
"It meant a lot to me,” Washington said. "It was my college debut. I just read the quarterback and got to where I needed to be.”
Solich expects the win to serve as a nice foundation for a 13-game season that could be extended by the Big 12 championship game and a bowl bid. The win was Nebraska's 17th straight in a season opener.
"We'll take a look at this tape,” Solich said. "We're going to like a lot of things we saw but we're also going to see that we need to get a lot better. We need to do that in all phases of our game.”