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Wake Forest loses to Nebraska, 31-3

Posted Sunday, September 11, 2005

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Lincoln, NE - The Nebraska Blackshirts returned two interceptions for touchdowns and a fumble for another in a 31-3 victory over Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Saturday night.

Playing in front of a crowd of 77,380, the Husker defense fueled Nebraska to a 2-0 start on the season by not only slowing Wake Forest's potent running game, but by providing plenty of offensive punch.

Sophomore linebacker Corey McKeon opened the Blackshirts' onslaught by intercepting a Benjamin Mauk pass and racing 38 yards to paydirt to give the Huskers a 7-0 lead with 6:24 remaining in the first quarter. Sophomore linebacker Bo Ruud, who scored on a fourth-quarter interception in NU's season-opening win over Maine, provided the pressure on Mauk that led to his ill-advised throw to the center of the field that was snagged on the dead run by McKeon. McKeon finished the night with 10 total tackles including two for a loss of eleven yards.

Less than four minutes later, senior strong safety Daniel Bullocks, who led the defense with 13 total tackles, gave the Blackshirts their third touchdown in two quarters by forcing a fumble by Demon Deacon running back Micah Andrews and racing 30 yards untouched into the end zone to give the Huskers a 14-0 lead. The two defensive touchdowns in the first quarter represented the first time in more than 40 years that Nebraska had produced a pair of defensive scores in the same quarter.

In the fourth quarter, linebacker Stewart Bradley intercepted another Mauk pass and raced 43 yards into the end zone with 10:23 left in the game to produce the final margin. The Blackshirts' history-making performance stretched the NU record book. It was the fifth time in school history that the Huskers had scored twice in the same game on interception returns, most recently against Texas A&M in 2003.

The Blackshirts' scoring barrage also marked the first time in school history that the defense had scored three return touchdowns in a game and the first. It was also the first time in history that the NU defense scored two touchdowns in the same quarter.

The Blackshirts have returned three interceptions for touchdowns in their first two games of 2005, providing a serious threat to the school record of five interception returns for touchdowns in the Huskers' national championship seasons of 1971 and 1995.

Senior free safety Blake Tiedtke forced a fourth Wake Forest turnover with his first interception on the Demon Deacons' opening possession of the second quarter. Tiedtke raced 28 yards on the return to give the Huskers 139 yards in defensive returns on the night.

While the Blackshirts owned the first half, the Husker offense came alive on the opening drive of the second half. Junior quarterback Zac Taylor converted on third down by hitting sophomore wide receiver Terrence Nunn for a 13-yard gain.

On the next play, senior I-back Cory Ross ran into the Nebraska record book by sprinting 57 yards down the Wake Forest sideline to go over 100 yards on the night and 2,000 yards in his career. Ross finished the night with 20 carries for 123 yards for his 10th career 100-yard game.

After connecting with Nunn again on a short gain, Taylor hooked up with sophomore wide receiver Frantz Hardy on a four-yard touchdown for the first touchdowns of their Nebraska careers by the former Butler County Community College teammates. Jordon Congdon's PAT pushed the Huskers' lead to 21-3.

Taylor continued to heat up in the third quarter, completing six consecutive passes to four different receivers, including two each to Hardy and Grant Mulkey, who made a highlight-reel 25-yard grab to spark the Husker march. NU's drive stalled at the Wake Forest four yard line with a pair of incompletions, but Congdon increased Nebraska's lead to 24-3 with a 21-yard field goal with 1:41 left in the third quarter.

The Huskers thoroughly controlled the third quarter, piling up 160 yards of total offense while owning the ball for 8:38 to carry their 24-3 lead into the fourth quarter, before Bradley produced the final margin with his fourth quarter interception return.

Wake Forest place-kicker Sam Swank provided the lone highlight for the Demon Deacons with his 51-yard field goal in the final second of the first half. Swank's field goal tied for the second-longest kick by an opponent at Memorial Stadium, trailing only a 52-yard field goal by Auburn's Al Del Greco on Oct. 3, 1981, and sent the teams to halftime with Nebraska leading 14-3.

The game marked the first time since Nov. 11, 2000 that Wake Forest went without scoring a touchdown in a game.

Wake Forest helped the Huskers jump to an early lead with a pair of miscues by its kickoff return team. After the Huskers won the opening toss and deferred for the second straight week, the Demon Deacons fumbled the kickoff at the goal line and were buried at the two yard line. After McKeon's touchdown, Congdon's second kickoff was mishandled in the end zone and was carried into the field of play, where the Demon Deacons were forced to start their drive at the one yard line.

Taylor finished the night with completing 14 of 33 pass attempts for a total of 114 passing yards. The Huskers put up 234 total yards of offense on the Demon Deacons, who recorded a total of 247 yards of offense.

Jim Grobe Quotes
On Nebraska's early scores putting Wake Forest in a hole
"I think it did. It was so early in the game and all that crazy stuff happened so fast that our guys were just kind of reacting and playing. I felt we were so fortunate when we kicked the field goal to go in at halftime and make it 14-3. Our guys in the locker room were fired up. I think we felt like offensively that giving up two scores, we weren't playing very well. Defensively, we felt like we were playing pretty good football and felt like we could come back out and win a football game. They came out of the locker room at halftime really encouraged that we weren't further out of the game than we were with how bad we played offensively in the first half."

On the impact of Nebraska's opening drive in the second half
"I thought that would really discourage our defense but they came back and played a great game the rest of the way. I thought that opening drive of the second half, they just got (Cory) Ross out on the perimeter and our defensive back got cut and got knocked off his feet and went down, and we ended up in a foot race there. Other than that run, we played pretty good defense for four quarters. I'm disappointed that we played that good of defense and not win the football game."

On Wake Forest's turnovers
"Turnovers kill you but turnover for scores are just ridiculous. We had three of them of them tonight. That is a season or two seasons worth of turnovers for scores. We just didn't give ourselves a chance. We haven't played well together as a team."

On the difficulty of coming from behind when the passing game was struggling
"Our bigger problem was that we couldn't consistently run the football. We had a couple first downs on a couple different series but I think we needed to be able to throw the football a little more. But I think this is the best defensive football team I've ever played against that blitzes as much as these guys. Most teams that blitz you like they do, you get them a little bit. You find creases, it's hard for players to be disciplined and hit gaps. And these guys just come at you and come at you and come at you. We tried to have Ben (Mauk) in the pocket some. I thought the one series we came out and just kind of stayed in a two-minute book and just kind of threw the ball down the field pretty good. But then we took a sack and it took us out of that series. So, I think we were just kind of a hodge-podge tonight and really didn't do anything effectively."

On the play of his running backs
"I thought both those guys gave good efforts tonight. I thought Chris (Barclay) made some mistakes he typically won't make. He just needed some life. We put him back in just because he needed some fire in him. But he did some nice things. Those guys will be working 1-2 and I don't know which way it will go."

On looking back at the game at what changed the outcome the most
"No question, the most disappointing thing to me was three scores off turnovers. I've never had that happen to me as a head coach or assistant coach. I've never seen that happen. An interception run back for a touchdown. That happens once in a while and a fumble picked up and run back. But to have the ball taken from your running back and have two interceptions ran back? The one, we tried to check to the slant and got the ball tipped up in the air. Tonight our defense batted about five or six balls up in the air but we didn't get any of them. It was just the way the night went. I think what we're going to do is go back and look at 31-3 and know that if we take care of the football we are in the horse race right to the wire."

Game Notes
Statistical Oddity... Despite losing 31-3 and not scoring a touchdown, Wake Forest actually outgained Nebraska 247-234. The Deacons were doomed by four turnovers, three of which went the other way for touchdowns.

Today's Captains: The captains were Goryal Scales and Steve Vallos. Nebraska won the toss and deferred to the second half.

The Loss Today... ... gives Wake Forest an 0-2 start for the first time since the 2000 season. ... makes Wake Forest 5-2 in non-conference games away from Groves Stadium under Jim Grobe. ... gives Nebraska a 2-0 lead in the all-time series. ... makes four straight road losses (Nebraska in 2005; Maryland, Miami and NC State in 2004) ... drops Wake Forest's all-time record on national television to 6-13. ... makes Wake Forest 1-12 all-time against schools currently in the Big 12. ... drops Grobe's record at Wake Forest 22-27 in five seasons and his all-time record to 55-60-1 in 11 seasons. ... drops Grobe's Wake Forest record to 10-14 in road games. ... drops Grobe's Wake Forest record to 12-5 in non-conference games. ... drops Grobe's Wake Forest record to 9-9 in September games. ... drops Grobe's Wake Forest record to 8-9 in night games. ... drops Wake Forest's all-time record to 378-576-33.

For Starters... Wake Forest had two linebackers make their first career start as redshirt freshmen Eric Berry and Aaron Curry started in place of the injured Jon Abbate and Pierre Easley. Defensively, the Deacons started four freshmen, four sophomores, one junior and two seniors. Offensively, the Deacons started one freshman, five sophomores, three juniors and two seniors.

Starters, Part Two... A couple of long streaks of consecutive starts continued as Ryan Plackemeier started his 32nd straight game, Steve Vallos his 25th, Patrick Ghee his 13th and Matt Robinson his 12th.

Husker Attendance Note... Today's attendance of 77,380 was the ninth-largest crowd to witness a Wake Forest game, the biggest since last year's Clemson game when 78,500 watched the Tigers beat the Deacons in double overtime.

Swank Drills 51-Yarder... Sam Swank's 51-yard field goal on the final play of the first half was not only a career-long for the freshman, but tied for the third-longest field goal in Deacon history. It was the longest since Matthew Burdick made a 53-yarder in 1998. It tied for the second longest field goal by a Husker opponent in Memorial Stadium, the longest in 24 years.

Belton Makes First Career Reception... Richard Belton's catch on a third down conversion in the second half marked his first career reception.

Barclay Record Book Update... Chris Barclay finished with 60 yards to up his career rushing total to (2,965). He stands 360 yards behind Micahel Ramseur for second place on the Wake Forest all-time rushing chart. James McDougald is the school's all-time rushing leader with 3,811 yards.

Plack Booms Another 60-Yarder... Ryan Plackemeier hammered a 50-yard punt in the first quarter, a 61-yarder in the second quarter with a return of minus-one yard and a 53-yarder in the third quarter. The 60-yarder was the ninth in the career of the Ray Guy Award candidate. Plackemeier now has 48 career punts of 50 or more yards.

Grobe Era Lows... - 1st in fewest points (3); previous: 7, three times (most recently at Maryland in 2004) - T-1st in fewest 3rd down converstions (3); previous: 3 at Maryland in 2002 - 4th in least total offense (247)

No Touchdowns... Wake Forst failed to score a touchdown for the first time since 2000 (at Florida State), the first time in the Grobe era.

Turnover Trouble... Wake Forest's minus-three in the turnover department was the worst for the Deacons since the 2002 Clemson game. In that contest, Wake Forest was a minus-five, throwing three interceptions and fumbling twice. The Tigers didn't turn it over.

Mauk's Three Interceptions... Benjamin Mauk's three interceptions were the most by a Deacon quarterback since James MacPherson's three during the 2002 Virginia game.

Taking It The Other Way... Nebraska's first quarter interception return for a touchdown was a rarity for Deacon opponents. Wake Forest had not a interception returned for a score since 2001 at Duke. The first quarter fumble return for a touchdown was Nebraska's second defensive score, the first time Wake Forest allowed two defensive scores since the Duke game in 1994.

Three Defensive Touchdowns... Nebraska's three defensive touchdowns are the most by a Deacon opponent in one game since at least 1980.

After Further Review... Jyles Tucker appeared to have his second career interception when he caught deflection off Patrick Ghee's shoe. But after the replay official viewed the play, the call was overturned and ruled an incomplete pass. It was the second instant replay situation involving the Deacons this season and the first call overturned.

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Wake Forest loses to Nebraska, 31-3
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