Not a typical cupcake

Drue Aman

Drue AmanSports Editor

Some of the hyperbole reached outrageous levels. One person proclaimed that anything less than winning 100-0 would be considered a loss.

The team heard one radio station predict 63-7. One fan conjectured 69-0 while walking into the stadium. All of them predicted a Cornhuskers blowout.

The score was 0-0 after the first quarter – with a Jackrabbit drive stopped on Nebraska’s one-yard line – saving the score from being 6-0 in favor of SDSU heading into the second quarter and effectively draining any belief of an uncontested game.

Nebraska strung together two quick scoring drives in the second quarter and moderated the SDSU offense – which frequently moved the ball but failed to finish – in a 17-3 win for the No. 6 ranked Cornhuskers and a loss for the now 0-3 Jackrabbits.

A notion of a moral victory, or a “loss,” was nonsense to the visiting Jackrabbits, playing against the BCS contending Cornhuskers and Memorial Stadium’s 10th largest crowd ever.

“It’s more depressing than a moral victory knowing what could have happened,” said senior Ryan Mcknight, who moved to guard instead of his usual position, center, on Saturday. “We didn’t listen to the spread, didn’t read newspapers … but we knew we had to fight.”

SDSU had the observable body language of a team poised to compete, capitalizing on Cornhuskers mistakes. Nebraska’s first offensive play from scrimmage was a forced fumble by Jacks safety Anthony Wise on upstart freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez. Winston Wright recovered the ball at Nebraska’s 24-yard line – only seven seconds after an 8-play, 29-yard drive resulting in an SDSU that ran off four minutes of play clock.

But the Jacks failed to score, stopped on the one-yard line twice by a Nebraska defense even stingier than SDSU’s on the night.

Within five minutes of the second quarter, the complexion of the ballgame had completely changed. Nebraska exploited blown coverage for a 64-yard catch by Mike Mcneill that led to a touchdown on the following play and a 33-yard touchdown catch by Kyler Reed stretching the lead to 14.

“Up front, they were what we expected, tough as nails,” said senior lineman Ryan Mcknight of the team’s expectations of Nebraska. “I’d probably say they were the toughest (we’ve played).”

There were no glaring statistical disparities in Nebraska’s favor. The Cornhuskers rushed for 205 yards – the least amount of rushing yards they have gained this season – compared to 141 yards for the Jacks. Most of those rushing yards were accounted for by Kyle Minett, who rushed for 112 yards on 28 attempts. Only one attempt was stopped for negative yardage. Those yards were the second most a player has run for against No. 6 ranked Nebraska all season. Quarterback Thomas O’Brien was also never sacked in the game over 28 passing attempts.

SDSU also won the turnover battle, forcing three turnovers – two of those interceptions by Tyrel Kool and Derek Domino – while O’Brien threw two late interceptions of his own late in the fourth quarter cementing a Nebraska home win. Domino’s interception was returned to the end zone but was called back on an illegal blocking penalty that took away a temporary 17-9 score.

“This hurts worse than about any loss, besides maybe the Montana game” said O’Brien, who fared better statistically than highly-touted Washington quarterback Jake Locker did the week before against the Cornhusker defense.

SDSU’s defense proved to be nothing mediocre either, forcing Martinez into mistakes and eventually forcing Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini to make a quarterback change in the fourth quarter.

“We didn’t come out and play the way we wanted to, but you have to give credit to South Dakota State,” said Nebraska sophomore linebacker Alonzo Whaley. “They came out and played hard. They outplayed us and they out-coached us.”

It was the type of low-scoring game SDSU hoped to establish.

“We knew if we won this football game it wasn’t going to be 44-43,” said John Stiegelmeier, who moved to 0-3 in games against FBS opponents with the loss.

Minett relished the opportunity, but was quick to dismiss any notion of a moral victory. Instead, he thought SDSU did more than simply play along with one of nation’s top ranked teams.

“A lot of times we played with them, a lot of times I think we outplayed them,” Minett said.

#1.1655787:1994232816.jpg:Colin Cochart reaches for a catch with Thomas O?Brien looking on in the second of SDSU?s 17-3 loss:Colin Cochart reaches for a catch with Thomas O?Brien looking on in the second of SDSU?s 17-3 loss Saturday. Cochart finished with two catches for 24 yards.:Collegian Photo by Robby Gallagher#1.1655790:343287847.jpg:Skyler Luxa defends Kyler Reed at Memorial Stadium Saturday. The Jacks defense allowed only 140 yard:Skyler Luxa defends Kyler Reed at Memorial Stadium Saturday. The Jacks defense allowed only 140 yards passing and held Nebraska to 17 points.:Collegian Photo by Aaron Stoneberger#1.1655793:2752042358.jpg:Zacharia Bowers brings down Cornhusker quarterback Taylor Martinez in Lincoln Saturday.:Zacharia Bowers brings down Cornhusker quarterback Taylor Martinez in Lincoln Saturday. SDSU?s defense forced Martinez out of the game, in favor of backup Cody Green.:Collegian Photo by Robby Gallagher