AMES, Iowa — The effort may have been better, but the final results were nearly the same for Nebraska's defense.
Behind senior quarterback Seneca Wallace, Iowa State rolled up 412 yards of total offense in leading the No. 19-ranked Cyclones to a 36-14 win over No. 20 Nebraska Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium.
The Huskers held the Cyclones without a first down on just one possession in the first half and simply couldn't get off the field as ISU enjoyed a 37:31 to 22:29 edge in time of possession.
Fresh off a 40-7 loss at Penn State on Sept. 14, Nebraska defensive coordinator Craig Bohl and his unit knew they had their hands full. Iowa State came into the game with the country's 10th-ranked scoring offense (42.4 points per game) and 15th-ranked total offense (447.8 yards per game).
Despite Wallace's slow start passing, Nebraska's defense could do little to derail the Cyclones. The Iowa State signal-caller finished 19-of-32 passing for 220 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions while Michael Wagner gained 107 of ISU's 192 rushing yards.
Wallace, who struggled last year in Iowa State's 48-14 loss at Lincoln, proved to be as good as advertised. Although he didn't have his "A" game, he still managed to make play after play when it mattered, including a 30-yard scramble to keep a drive alive and a 7-yard touchdown run with 13:21 to play that put his team ahead 33-14.
"Our plan was to try to be disruptive as we could for him," Bohl said. "We got a little bit of a mixed review on that."
In hopes of a better performance, the Huskers simplified their defensive game plan. Nebraska senior rush end Chris Kelsay said the Huskers stuck with their base 4-3 alignment, played mostly man-to-man pass coverage with a little bit of zone and prepared three or four "special packages" for Iowa State.
"We simplified it down a tremendous amount compared to what we'd been running the first couple of games," Kelsay said. "The effort was there, I thought, but we just didn't execute well enough."
"Without question, I think our guys came out playing with a great deal of passion," Bohl said. "They never quit. They flew around and they were trying.
"I take my hat off to our defensive guys and our football team. I felt like they scrapped, fought and clawed. I think anybody that would make a comment or observation that the guys were not out there trying would be pretty inaccurate."
Still, it wasn't enough.
"The defense, at times, I thought played hard and played fairly well in stretches," Nebraska head coach Frank Solich said. "But they're a big-play team and they got big plays."
Bohl said the Huskers hurt themselves with key penalties. Several offside calls and a pass interference infraction against the Blackshirts helped keep Iowa State drives alive, as did a personal foul on rush end Demoine Adams on the Cyclones first possession of the game.
"I really felt like we shot ourselves way too many times at critical times with penalties," Bohl said. "That really had a big impact in the first half."
Kelsay said some of Nebraska's mistakes might have come from trying to crank up the intensity level.
"If you're playing hard, you're going to make a few mistakes here or there," Kelsay said. "You're going to jump offside, if you're playing aggressive football. You've just got to be disciplined."
In the end, it was just too much Wallace.
Iowa State scored on four of its first five possessions to take a 19-7 halftime lead.
The Cyclones then opened the second half by marching 80 yards on 11 plays and scored when Wallace sneaked in from the 1-yard line on a fourth-and-goal play to make it 26-7 with 10:22 left in the third quarter.
"My hat's off to Seneca Wallace," Kelsay said. "He's a phenomenal player. I give him a lot of props."
Said Bohl: "The issues of the day were that they had a great player who made plays. We had an opportunity to make plays and we didn't get it done."