Oct. 30, 2010
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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Roy Helu Jr. rushed for a school-record 307 yards, and No. 14 Nebraska knocked No. 7 Missouri from the ranks of the unbeatens with a 31-17 victory Saturday.
The Cornhuskers (7-1, 3-1 Big 12) held off Missouri after building a 24-0 lead and moved into a first-place tie with the Tigers in the Big 12 North. Nebraska, which ended a 13-game losing streak against Top 10 teams, earned the inside track to the division title by winning the head-to-head meeting.
Missouri (7-1, 3-1) was off to its best start since 1960. The Tigers have lost 17 straight road games against Top 25 opponents since 1997.
Helu ran for touchdowns of 66, 73 and 53 yards. The Cornhuskers played without quarterback Taylor Martinez in the second half after he came up hobbling following a hit from Kenji Jackson on a run late in the second quarter. Zac Lee took over to start the third quarter.
Coach Bo Pelini said Martinez had a bruised right leg and should be able to play next week at Iowa State.
Pelini had been concerned about flat performances in recent home games, including a 20-13 loss to Texas two weeks ago, but that wasn't an issue Saturday.
Helu was sensational carrying the offensive load whether Martinez was in or out of the game. He totaled 228 yards after his first 10 carries on his way to breaking the Nebraska record of 294 yards set by Calvin Jones against Kansas in 1991.
Nebraska put heavy pressure on Blaine Gabbert and held him to 18-of-42 passing for 199 yards. He was sacked six times.
Helu's third touchdown eased some anxiety that crept into Memorial Stadium after Missouri pulled to 24-14 in the middle of the third quarter.
Helu took a handoff from Lee and sliced through a wide gap in the middle of the line to start his 53-yard TD, which was his sixth scoring run of longer than 50 yards this season and extended Nebraska's lead to 31-14.
Nebraska made a goal-line stand after the Tigers drove from their 20 to inside the 1. Gabbert couldn't get enough push on a quarterback sneak, Henry Josey was stopped short and Gabbert couldn't get in when he tried to run around left end.
Josey was called for a false start after he flinched on fourth down, forcing Grant Ressel to kick a 23-yard field goal that made it 31-17.
The Tigers' comeback was hindered after they burned their last timeout of the second half less than 10 minutes into the third quarter. They punted on fourth-and-10 from their 44 with 8:40 left, and Nebraska ran out the clock by, predictably, handing off mostly to Helu.
Martinez ran 12 times for 16 yards and completed 6 of 9 passes for 115 yards before leaving. He came into the game as the top freshman rusher in the nation at 124.3 yards a game. His 8.7 yards per carry ranked first among the top 100 rushers nationally.
The Tigers, trying for their first back-to-back wins in Lincoln since 1976-78, found themselves playing from behind right away after Helu busted through a wide opening in the left side of the line and ran 66 yards untouched on Nebraska's first play from scrimmage.
Alex Henery kicked his school-record 18th field goal in a row, from 41 yards, and Martinez threw a 40-yard TD to Kyler Reed before Helu went untouched again, this time 73 yards for a 24-0 lead late in the first quarter.
Missouri, which rushed for 178 yards while knocking off Oklahoma last week, went to the air on six of its first eight plays. The Tigers' opening four possessions ended with punts - they went three-and-out on three of them - and Gabbert threw his first interception in four games to end their fifth series.
De'Vion Moore took a pitch 33 yards to cut Nebraska's lead to 24-7 early in the second quarter, and the Tigers' defense began to slow down Martinez and the Huskers after they amassed 256 yards in the first 15 minutes.
Missouri failed to convert its first 10 third downs before Gabbert scrambled for 25 yards to keep alive a 12-play, 78-yard touchdown drive that he ended with his 23-yard pass to T.J. Moe midway through the third quarter.
Nebraska and Missouri have played 89 straight years and 104 times overall since 1892. The series goes on hiatus with Nebraska joining the Big Ten next year.