The Nebraska vs. K-State game was not played in the mid 1990s, but the final score looked as if it was actually played in the decade that the Cornhuskers dominated. The Wildcats were whipped by the Big Red, 73-31.
It didn’t look that bad in the first quarter, when senior wide receiver Jordy Nelson capped off a 10-play, 72-yard drive with a 21-yard touchdown catch from sophomore quarterback Josh Freeman. That put the Wildcats up 7-0.
The following kickoff, though, was a key play in the game. It was returned 94 yards by Nebraska’s Cortney Grixby to tie the game at 7-7 and foreshadowed what was going to happen the rest of the game.
K-State kicked a field goal on the next possession, but that would be the last points the Wildcats scored in the first half.
Meanwhile, Nebraska (5-6, 2-5 Big 12) would go on to score 31 more.
“Obviously, it was a big play,” Nelson said of the kickoff return. “When you get a lead, you can’t give seven points right back to them.”
The Cornhuskers scored in a variety of ways. They had a 73-yard drive where they ran the ball every single down. Another drive was only one play, a 36-yard strike from junior quarterback Joe Ganz to senior Frantz Hardy.
K-State’s defense was torched all day. It gave up a total of 702 yards and 15 plays that went for more than 20 yards. Nebraska was controlling the line of scrimmage on almost every play. The Wildcats looked as if they couldn’t match the physicality of the game.
“Tackling, not holding your gaps, we’re not getting to the quarterback enough,” junior Ian Campbell said of the issues plaguing the defense.
Ganz threw for 510 yards and seven touchdowns during his second career start. He completed 30 of 40 passes and broke the single game Nebraska record for yards and touchdowns.
“It’s pretty clear that the quarterback was the key to this thing,” Prince said of Ganz’s role in the loss. “He was absolutely spectacular.”
The K-State offense’s day wasn’t terrible statistically. Freeman finished 26 of 44 for 320 yards and two touchdowns. Nelson continued his amazing season with nine catches for 125 yards. He also set the season record for K-State in receiving yards on a 21-yard catch in the first quarter.
But coach Ron Prince said that those offensive stats were misleading.
“From a yardage standpoint, we had some yards here and there, but this was about as a thoroughly of a defeat as I’ve ever experienced,” Prince said.
One of the few moments where K-State (5-5, 3-4 Big 12) could have grabbed some momentum, or at least not lose anymore of it, happened in the final 30 seconds of the first half. The Wildcats had a fourth and 24 at Nebraska’s 46-yard line. Instead of punting, Prince decided to go for it. Freeman’s pass sailed out of bounds over junior Deon Murphy’s head, giving the ball to Nebraska with 22 seconds left. All it took was two long pass plays over the middle for the Huskers to score, putting them up 38-10 going into halftime.
“That was on me,” Prince said. “I wanted to try to give us an opportunity to get a score. Backfired on us completely.”
Being down by so much, many would have expected the Wildcats to quit at some point during the game, but quitting is not something that Prince endorses in his team.
“They may get outplayed,” he said. “They get matched up against some thing that are difficult for us to deal with, but we don’t know anything about (quitting).”