Nebraska 25, Maine 7
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP)—Jordan Congdon kicked four field goals and Nebraska had 11 sacks and scored a defensive touchdown to make up for an uninspired offensive effort in a 25-7 win over Maine on Saturday night.
The Division I-AA Black Bears, bidding for a second upset of a I-A opponent in two years, never penetrated deeper than the Nebraska 44 until Ron Whitcomb’s 52-yard touchdown pass to Kevin McMahan drew them to 15-7 with 11:57 left.
Nebraska linebacker Bo Ruud ran back an interception 27 yards for a touchdown two minutes later and Congdon added a 23-yard field goal to break open the game.
The Huskers, coming off a 5-6 season that was their worst since 1961, turned over the ball five times, including twice inside the Maine 5 in the second quarter.
First-time starter Zac Taylor was 15-of-36 for 192 yards, with two interceptions, and Nebraska generated 313 total yards. Frantz Hardy caught seven balls for 152 yards, and Cory Ross led all rushers with 80 yards on 20 carries.
The Black Bears, who beat Mississippi State 9-7 last season, struggled mightily before a crowd of 77,469 that was more than double the total attendance of their five home games last season.
Whitcomb was rushed all game and was sacked four times in a span of eight plays in the second quarter. The 11 sacks tied the Nebraska record set in 1989 against Oregon State.
The Black Bears netted minus-6 yards rushing and finished with 145 total yards.
Whitcomb was 15-of-32 for 149 yards, with one interception.
The Huskers broke a scoreless tie in the middle of the second quarter, settling for Congdon’s 23-yard field goal after Taylor hit Hardy with a 73-yard pass on a post pattern to the Maine 8.
After Maine went three-and-out, Terrence Nunn returned a punt 62 yards to the Maine 1, and Ross scored on the next play. Congdon’s point-after kick was wide right.
The Huskers blew scoring opportunities two other times in the second quarter and went into halftime ahead just 9-0. Ross fumbled at the Maine 5 and Daren Stone intercepted Taylor at the Black Bears 2 after Nunn had run back a punt 45 yards.
Congdon kicked field goals of 38 and 33 yards in the third quarter to make it 15-0 before Maine tried to come back.
Defensive tackle Reginald Paramoure’s interception of a tipped pass set up Maine at its 48 before Whitcomb’s touchdown pass to McMahan.
Ross fumbled on Nebraska’s next series, but Maine couldn’t capitalize.
Maine had difficulty managing the 25-second play clock in the first half. The Black Bears used all three of their timeouts in the opening 13 minutes, and they were called for delay of game on two other occasions in the half.
The Huskers amassed 198 yards on 10 punt returns—17 more than they had on 31 returns last season.