A week after needing a last second touchdown to defeat McNeese State, Nebraska buried their opponent early to move to 3-0 on the season.
Head coach Bo Pelini was pleased that his team jumped out to an early lead against Fresno State and never looked back en route to a dominating 55-19 win over the Bulldogs.
“Starting out well helps,” Pelini said. “The crowd was pretty into the game and it kind of took the wind out of their sails a bit.”
Quarterback Tommy Armstrong led a balanced Huskers offense by throwing for 260 yards and three touchdowns as Nebraska was never threatened by the Bulldogs. Armstrong connected with Jordan Westerkamp for a 70-yard touchdown strike less than two minutes into the game and added touchdown tosses to tight ends Cethan Carter and Sam Cotton to help the Huskers overwhelm the Bulldogs in their first road game of the 2014 season. Running back Ameer Abdullah topped the 100-yard mark for the 19th time in his illustrious Nebraska career with 19 carries for 110 yards and a touchdown to lead a balanced offense that returned to form after a bumpy ride against FCS-level McNeese State last week in Lincoln.
It didn’t take long for Nebraska to jump on Fresno State and put the game out of reach. On the game’s third play from scrimmage, Armstrong his Westerkamp down the middle of the field and the redshirt sophomore raced 70 yards untouched for the game’s first score at the 13:14 mark of the first quarter. On Nebraska’s next offensive series, Abdullah raced 57 yards for a touchdown and the Huskers found themselves quickly ahead 14-0. True freshman wide receiver De’Mornay Pierson-El also got into the end zone with an 86-yard punt return for a touchdown as the Huskers pulled away from a weary Fresno State squad that’s been blown out in all three of its contests this season.
Despite the win, Pelini says there’s a bit to improve for his 3-0 squad.
“We need to keep getting better,” Pelini said. “What happened to us last week, happens a lot. We won the football game. We’re 3-0. Our next goal is to be 4-0.”
Westerkamp led Nebraska with two catches for 85 yards and the touchdown barely two minutes into the game, while Kenny Bell returned from a groin injury to catch five passes for 84 yards. A week after the inability to shake upstart McNeese State, Nebraska buried the Bulldogs with big plays in the running, passing, and punt return games. The Blackshirts didn’t force any turnovers, but harassed Bulldogs’ quarterback Brian Burrell and limited Fresno State’s running game, which was held to just 105 yards on the night. The Huskers rolled up 562 yards of total offense and were never threatened after the first quarter, dispatching Fresno State with relative ease.
Pierson-El’s punt return for a touchdown was Nebraska’s first since Abdullah’s 81-yard punt return touchdown against Idaho State in 2012. The true freshman was excited to get a chance to shine and he certainly did on Saturday night, who returned five punts for a total of 150 yards.
“I was real happy. Coach Pelini told me: ‘we can get one this week.’ That’s what he kept telling me,” Pierson-El noted.
“I just wanted to attack and go full speed and make the right decisions and everything. I was excited I could get that.”
Nebraska’s dominating win moves the Big Red to 3-0 on the season, with only a non-conference game against Miami standing between them and a 4-0 start to the season for the first time since 2011. The loss drops Fresno State to 0-3 on the season, after giving up 52 points to Southern California, 59 points to Utah, and now 55 points to Nebraska on Saturday night. Miami comes to Lincoln next week on the heels of a 41-20 win over Arkansas State. The Huskers also find themselves in a strange position just three games into the season–Nebraska joins Penn State as the only Big Ten teams that remain undefeated, after six conference mates suffered their first loss of the season on Saturday–Rutgers, Maryland, Iowa, Minnesota, Indiana, and Illinois.