Roy Helu Jr. ran for 156 yards and three touchdowns, as Nebraska beat Kansas 31-17 for a share of the Big 12 North lead. K-State lost to Missouri earlier in the day.
Along the way, the Huskers opened up some big plays against a KU defense that has been vulnerable all year. Niles Paul started with a 35 yard pass play from Zac Lee on the first play from scrimmage. Paul had 244 total yards, including a key 44-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter to set up the go-ahead score shortly after Kansas had taken the lead.
Helu recovered a fumble in the end zone in the first quarter, scored on runs of 20 and 14 yards in the fourth. Lee played smart throwing for 13 for 21 for 196 yards in his first start in three games and Alex Henery kicked three field goals to give Nebraska its first four game conference road winning streak since 1999-2000.
The Big 12 North will all come down to next Saturday in Lincoln when K-State shows up. Back to today, the once Heisman Trophy candidate looked anything but his old self. KU’s Todd Reesing threw for 236 yards and a touchdown and ran for another as he finished 19 for 41.
Tim Marlowe returned the opening kickoff 40 yards, Lee hit Paul on the 35-yard pass, then Helu recovered Lee’s fumble in the end zone. Three minutes, 7-0.
The Huskers put together a couple more big plays — Lee’s 32-yard run, his 37-yard pass to Paul — early in the second quarter, setting up Henery’s 25-yard field goal that made it 10-0.
Henery also hit from 34, set up by another big Lee to Pau pass, a 45 yarder. That made the score 16-10. Prior to that in the first half, KU battled back Reesing led Kansas down the field for his 5-yard score on a quarterback draw, the first offensive touchdown allowed by Nebraska in 11 quarters. Reesing moved the Jayhawks quickly again to end the half, setting up Jacob Branstetter’s 33-yard field goal as time expired that tied the game at 10-10.
The first drive of the second half ended inside Nebraska’s 5-yard line after Kerry Meier had the ball poked away from behind, but Kansas took the lead on Reesing’s 21-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Dezmon Briscoe early in the fourth quarter.
Then Paul returned the ensuing kickoff 44 yards to the Kansas 31, and a facemask penalty kept the drive alive and Helu ran up the middle for a 20-yard touchdown. Lee hit Paul on a 2-point conversion to cap the four-play drive, putting the Cornhuskers up 24-17 with just over 6 minutes left.
Nebraska’s defense held Kansas to a three and out, then Helu sealed the victory with a 14-yard run in the closing seconds.