The Nebraska Cornhuskers came out guns a blazin’ jumping all over Arizona in the first half en route to a dominating 33-0 Holiday Bowl victory. It was the Huskers first shutout in 46 bowl games as NU reached 10 wins in a season for the first time since 2003 by making it look easy as the Huskers dominated in every facet of the game.
First, the kicking game. Alex Henery booted four field goals of 47, 50, 41 and yards, drilling each one down the middle. The defense dominated as well allowing just 109 yards of offense. In the first half they limited Arizona to just one first down in their first seven possessions as the Wildcats never got past their own 41 yard line. The Wildcats punted five times and got picked off once while gaining just one first down.
That interception by Matt O’Hanlon set up a quick score just 1:15 into the game. Zac Lee ran it in from four yards out for a quick 7-0 lead. The Husker offense looked pretty solid. Zac Lee benefitted early from having time to throw as he found open receivers most of the night. However, that was all set up thanks to a strong running game. The Huskers ran zone reads, reverses, and offensive coordinator Shawn Watson used freshmen running back Rex Burkhead out of the Wildcat formation. Burkhead rattled off a 36 yard run, his longest of the season out of the Wildcat and scored untouched from five yards out in the first half.
The Huskers took a 23-0 lead into the locker room at halftime. Arizona had just 32 yards of offense in the first half. NU came out with the ball in the second half and drove the field for a 22 yard field goal from Henery. We saw it a handful of times where Ndamukong Suh lined up as a fullback. On a 2nd down play inside the 10, Suh went out for a pass and was open in the corner of the endzone, but Lee looked to another receiver and threw it right into the hands of an Arizona defender Devin Ross who dropped the ball. Ross had a rough game. He also dropped a would be interception off a Cody Green pass that was behind the receiver.
Late in the 3rd quarter, Lee hit Niles Paul for a 74 yard touchdown pass, burning Ross who slipped on the play. It was the longest pass of the season to make the score 33-0. Paul finished with 238 yards of total offense including four catches for 123 yards. Lee was 13 of 23 for 173 yards, while Burkhead had 93 yards on seventeen carries. Roy Helu had 18 for 65 yards for the game.
Postgame comments from Bo Pelini, Ndamukong Suh and Zac Lee.
Back to the Huskers defense. They preserved the shutout by stopping Arizona on a 4th and 3 play from the 8 yard line. It was Arizona’s best drive of the game as they covered 72 yards in 13 plays. Prior to their last drive of the game, the Wildcats managed just 37 yards of offense in 38 plays. Arizona only picked up six first downs with three of those coming on that final drive. Arizona QB Nick Foles for 9 for 30 for 48 yards.