From The Sports Network
By Ralph Lauro, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The ninth-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers meet the Kansas Jayhawks for the 105th straight season, as the Big 12 rivals come together this weekend at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.
The two programs have met every season since 1906, but this is the final installment of the nation's longest continuous series, as the Huskers are set to leave the Big 12. Nebraska holds a commanding 90-23-3 lead in the all-time series and the Huskers have won the past 20 meetings at Memorial Stadium dating back to a 23-13 loss in 1968.
To the present, the Huskers were nearly tripped up by a pesky Iowa State club last weekend, but were able to survive a fake extra-point try in overtime for a 31-30 victory. It marked the third consecutive victory for the Nebraska, which remains in control of the North Division with a 4-1 league mark.
Kansas meanwhile, logged its first conference victory in a dramatic fashion, rallying from a 45-17 fourth-quarter deficit for a 52-45 win over Colorado last weekend.
"I'm so proud of these players; they showed a lot of character<" said head coach Turner Gill. "It means a lot for our football program. It think it also means a lot for our home and our fans and all of the people who came out. I'm proud and it means a lot."
The 35-point fourth-quarter comeback was the second biggest in NCAA history, helping Kansas to snap an 11-game Big 12 losing streak.
The Jayhawks hadn't scored more then 16 points in any of their first four Big 12 games before erupting for 52 in an incredible come-from-behind victory over Colorado last weekend. Freshman TB James Sims scored three of the team's five fourth-quarter TDs, including the game-winner on a 28-yard run with 52 seconds left. He finished the game with 123 yards and four scores on 20 carries.
"It felt great," said Sims. "I would just like to thank my offensive line. They blocked for me, and they believed in me and I believed in them."
Sims has been a bright spot for the Jayhawks, leading the team with 558 yards and seven TDs. QB Quinn Mecham got the nod under center last weekend due to injuries to both Jordan Webb (shoulder) and Kale Pick (concussion) and he responded by throwing for 252 yards and two TDs on 23-of-28 pass attempts. He was picked twice, but it was a good enough of a performance to put him in line for another start.
Daymond Patterson is the team's top target with 52 catches and 413 receiving yards, and he paced the club with eight receptions for 75 yards last weekend.
The Jayhawks' defense was beat for 464 total yards, but the unit came up with several big plays in the fourth quarter to help the team rally for the win. One of the biggest plays was a forced fumble that Tyler Patmon returned 28 yards for a TD. It was part of a three takeaway performance from a defense that had forced just five turnovers previously.
Despite the strong finish last weekend, Kansas has had serious issues on the defensive side of the ball this season, allowing 34.4 ppg and 415.7 total ypg. The run defense has been just dreadful for the Jayhawks, who are surrendering 202.8 ypg on the ground. The defense has given up 21 rushing TDs and that includes three last weekend.
Justin Springer leads the defense with 69 stops, including seven for a loss, while Jake Laptad has a team-high three sacks to his credit.
The Huskers ran 52 times for 235 yards and three TDs, as they edged Iowa State last weekend. Rex Burkhead led the charge with 129 yards and two TDs, while Roy Helu Jr. followed up a record performance with 99 yards and a score. Helu Jr. has rushed for a team-high 906 yards, to go with nine TDs, and Burkhead ranks third with 570 yards and five scores. Nebraska, as a team, is managing an impressive 288.1 ypg on the ground, with a 6.4 yard per carry average.
QB Taylor Martinez has played a big part in the success on the ground, rushing for 886 yards and a team-best 12 TDs. The freshman sensation however, was limited to one snap with a sprained ankle last weekend and is listed as questionable for this game. Cody Green got the start in place of Martinez last weekend and threw for just 79 yards on 7-of-12 attempts. He isn't nearly the playmaker Martinez is, but he did a decent job managing the offense.
"We have great depth across the board," head coach Bo Pelini said. "Everybody gets nicks and people get banged up late in the season. You have to have people willing and ready to step up. Fortunately, we have that. People have stepped in and played well."
Iowa State tried to fool Nebraska on a PAT in the first overtime, but Eric Hagg came up with a leaping INT on the fake attempt to preserve the victory for the Huskers.
It was a big play from a defense that still allowed 20 points between the fourth quarter and overtime. The Huskers gave up 360 total yards in all to Iowa State, but did come up with three turnovers and a pair of sacks. The defense has fared better this season and is limiting opponents to just 315.8 total ypg, while recording 15 INTs and 20 sacks.
Hagg tops the club with four INTs, while Lavont David's 96 tackles are a team- high. Both players were a factor last weekend, as David had 10 stops and Hagg of course saved the day.