The longest play Kansas managed came with about six minutes remaining in the third quarter of its 20-3 loss against Nebraska, when running back James Sims gained 23 yards over left end. The gain was nullified by a holding penalty on the Jayhawks. Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini referred to the play afterward. Kansas had lined up in the Wildcat formation, in a way “very different than anything we’d seen,” he said. “But we adjusted and hit it for a 2-yard gain the next time.” That wasn’t the only instance of the Huskers’ defense adjusting, just the most dramatic. The Jayhawks ran from different formations and different personnel groupings. They did all sorts of offensive things they hadn’t done previously, “things (that) to the naked eye may not be obvious, but it requires our guys to adjust, to fit things very differently, coverage-wise and run-wise,” said Pelini. On the play after the holding penalty Kansas quarterback Quinn Mecham threw a pass. Husker cornerback Alfonzo Dennard intercepted at the Nebraska 44-yard line. That’s how the evening went for the Jayhawks offensively. They had 13 possessions total, and nine of the possessions ended with punts. Alfonzo Rojas averaged 40.3 yards per punt, the ball often low and turning end-over-end. And Nebraska didn’t return a one of them. Mecham went into the game having completed 17 consecutive passes, dating to the second quarter of the previous game, a dramatic, come-from-behind, 52-45 victory against Colorado. Mecham completed his first two passes against the Huskers and then only one more, finishing 3-of-13 for 15 yards and the Dennard interception. He was sacked six times. “I’m very impressed (with the sacks). But also I knew we could do that,” said Nebraska defensive tackle Jared Crick, who was credited with two of the sacks. The junior from Cozad leads the team with 6.5 sacks for the season and has 16 for his career, tying Jared Tomich and Kenny Walker for 10th on the Huskers’ all-time list. The key to the sacks was stopping Kansas on first and second down, leaving the Jayhawks with third-and-long situations. “We’re a scary group come third-and-long,” Crick said. At its best, Nebraska’s defense is a scary group in most any situation. Kansas finished with a meager 87 yards of total offense. The Jayhawks picked up only five first downs, and one of those was a result of a holding penalty. “We were spot-on today,” said Pelini. “I can’t think of a mistake we made in terms of our run fits.” Stopping the run is always a priority, forcing offenses to be one-dimensional. Statistically speaking, Nebraska’s defense hadn’t turned in such an effort since 2000, when the Blackshirts held Baylor to 84 yards on 56 plays, in a 59-0 victory. The Husker offense was clicking that day as well. Not so this time, not consistently anyhow, which is why, according to Coach Bo Pelini, the first-team offense was still on the field at the end. “I didn’t like how we played at times offensively in the game,” he said. “I didn’t like our execution. “That just gave us more reps to keep working and getting better.” He was asked if it might have had something to do with BCS style points. “I could care less about the BCS,” Bo Pelini said. “I could care less about anything else. It’s about getting your football team better, and at that point, I wasn’t very happy about how we played offensively. So we’re going to keep playing and get the reps we need to get.” Some fans might have wondered why, with the outcome long since decided, Pelini hadn’t sent in the reserves, especially considering former Husker player and assistant Turner Gill was returning to Memorial Stadium for the first (and last in the immediate future) time as Kansas head coach. As it turned out, because of Nebraska’s offensive inconsistency, the final score wasn’t as lopsided as it easily could have been given the play of the defense. “When we got that last three-and-out, someone said I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of holding a team under 100 yards,” said Carl Pelini. That the defense would turn in such a performance was probably appropriate. One of the considerations in hiring Bo Pelini instead of Gill, who also was a candidate for the job after Bill Callahan was fired, was the defensive background, Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne said. Had offense been the problem, Gill might have been the frontrunner. But the Husker defense was seriously deficient. And the Pelini brothers have rectified that, as the Kansas game showed.

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