The Jackrabbits came to play, but Nebraska found a way to regain the momentum and create some cushion.
It happened rather quickly, too.
The Huskers took a 21-17 lead on Ameer Abdullah’s 1-yard run at the 12:30 mark. And after a four-play drive by South Dakota State ended with a punt, they got the ball back again. The lead was extended to 28-17 five minutes later.
Then Stanley Jean-Baptiste intercepted his fourth pass of the season and Ron Kellogg found Tyler Wullenwaber for a 23-yard touchdown pass to put Nebraska up 35-17 with 4:16 left before halftime.
And just for good measure, the Huskers tacked on one more score right before the break: A 22-yard field goal by Mauro Bondi. NU out-scored South Dakota State 24-0 in the second quarter.
Now, can the Huskers keep it up? They haven’t played well with a lead all year.
Other observations are below…
>> OK, it’s a little odd to see Tommy Armstrong and Ron Kellogg tag-team at quarterback for Nebraska. Armstrong began with two series and Kellogg got the next two — then Armstrong came in for a drive and Kellogg was in for the final two. It appears that was the predetermined plan coming in. And while one would assume the constant changes at quarterback would disrupt the fluidity of this offense, that hasn’t happened. The Huskers are just better, more talented and fully focused. The result: 401 yards on 44 plays (9.1 yards per snap) and five touchdowns.
>> Armstrong’s numbers: 7-of-10 for 117 yards and one touchdown. Also, four rushing attempts for 34 yards. … He runs that option play like a natural. Looks so comfortable doing it.
>> Kellogg’s stats: 7-of-8 for 117 yards and one touchdown … The minor stain on his first-half performance was his final drive. He led Nebraska down inside the 10 on a well-run two-minute drill (with no timeouts). But instead of throwing the ball away, Kellogg was tackled on a 1-yard scramble play. After a spike, only 10 seconds remained.
>> Both quarterbacks have confidence. They’re staring receivers down, yes, but they’re also releasing throws with a purpose, trusting their superior athletes to make plays in one-on-one scenarios. Neither has been pressured much at all, though, so it’s difficult to get a full assessment of either guy’s potential against a defense with better talent.
>> Redshirt freshman Jordan Westerkamp (who took over for Jamal Turner last week) is still Nebraska’s top punt returner.
>> Junior Kenny Bell landed awkwardly while attempting to haul in a deep pass in the end zone midway through the second quarter. He stayed on the turf for a good while as medical staff examined him. Bell returned to the game a couple plays later, but walked to the locker room after the drive.
>> South Dakota State’s offensive plan: Spread the Huskers out and force Nebraska to empty the box. It puts lots of pressure on NU’s D-line and middle linebacker, and those guys haven’t quite responded well. … Not sure why running back Zach Zenner had just five carries in the second quarter, but he’s still on pace for an incredibly productive day: 164 rushing yards on 15 carries (also has a 21-yard reception).
>> Jean Baptiste’s second-quarter pick is his fourth in four games (he came into Saturday tied for the nation lead). He’s the first Husker to intercept a pass in four straight games since Josh Bullocks in 2003.