LINCOLN, Neb. (AP)—In many ways, it was just like the old days at Nebraska, with a top-ranked team running all over an overmatched opponent in front of a crazy crowd at Memorial Stadium.
The difference was the Cornhuskers were the team getting pushed around Saturday night and No. 1 Southern California was doing the dominating.
The Trojans got physical with the No. 14 Nebraska in a 49-31 victory, piling up 313 yards on the ground. Stafon Johnson led USC’s tailback brigade with 144 yards and the Trojans averaged 8.2 yards per rush.
It was a thoroughly impressive performance by USC and more one-sided than the final score showed.
“I didn’t think there was any question we could run the ball at any time,” USC coach Pete Carroll said. “Anything we wanted to get done on the line of scrimmage we were able to get done.
“This game was clear that we had command of it. I love that we played the way we did today.”
The Trojans (2-0) won for the 61st time in 67 games, the best run in college football since Tom Osborne led the Huskers to three national titles in the 1990s.
USC lost some support to LSU on the polls last week, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the Trojans recoup some of those first-place votes when the new Top 25 comes out Sunday.
The Huskers (2-1), playing host to a No. 1-ranked team for the first time since 1978, came into the game in search of a breakthrough victory for fourth-year coach Bill Callahan. They’re still looking after dropping to 1-10 all-time against No. 1s and 0-6 under Callahan against teams ranked in the Top 10.
USC’s 49 points were the third-most scored by an opponent in Lincoln.
“We’ve got to get better. We’ve got to get better,” Callahan said.
The Trojans broke open the game by scoring three straight touchdowns in the second half, the first two set up by interceptions.
“Once we got going, geez, we just took control,” Carroll said.
USC led 49-17 in the fourth quarter, but Sam Keller led two touchdown drives against the Trojans’ prevent defense to close the gap.
USC running backs broke off 12 runs of 10 yards or more, including six of 20 or longer.
“We wanted to come in and play Trojan ball,” Johnson said. “The crowd was bananas, but we came in and played our way and got the win.”
The Trojans’ rushing total was their most since getting 403 against UCLA in 2005 and the most allowed by Nebraska since Texas had 353 in 2003. The 8.2 yards per carry was the most ever against Nebraska.
“It’s beyond disappointing,” linebacker Bo Ruud said. “This is a real bad performance by our team. It’s on the players. We didn’t do a good job on the defensive side of the ball. The defense did not show up today.”
Nebraska, which ran for 68 yards in a 28-10 loss at USC last year, netted just 31 yards on the ground.
The Trojans scored on back-to-back series in the second quarter to erase a 10-7 deficit.
C.J. Gable, who had 69 yards on four carries, had runs of 14 and 11 yards and Johnson a 16-yarder before Stanley Havili ran in from the 2.
Nebraska went three-and-out, and then John David Booty sprinkled in three short passes with five handoffs as the Trojans drove 73 yards in nine plays for a 21-10 halftime lead. Johnson broke off a 32-yard run to the Nebraska 25, and three plays later he scored from the 7 after his offensive line created a massive opening on a trap play.
Keller was intercepted on Nebraska’s first two series of the second half, and the Trojans capitalized both times during the middle of a 35-point run that made it 42-10.
Booty found tight end Anthony McCoy alone in the back of the end zone for a 2-yard TD, and Chauncey Washington scored to make it 35-10 after Kyle Moore ran back an interception 24 yards to the Nebraska 1.
USC established the run immediately, with Havili going for 50 yards and Gable for 40 on the Trojans’ first two plays. Booty finished the drive with a 5-yard pass to Havili.
Cody Glenn’s 2-yard touchdown tied it 7-all for Nebraska, and Alex Henery’s 37-yard field goal put Nebraska up 10-7.
The Trojans started their next possession at the Huskers’ 45 after Malcolm Smith picked up kick returner Vincent Joseph’s fumble and returned it 31 yards to set up Havili’s TD run.
Joseph, who lost the ball when hit by Ricky Thenarse, was taken off the field on a stretcher after being tended to for more than 10 minutes. He was hospitalized with a bruised larynx.
Booty was 19-for-30 for 144 yards. Keller was 36-for-54 for 389 yards, but 169 yards and two TDs came in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach. Maurice Purify caught seven passes for 80 yards for the Huskers.
“It’s not garbage time to us,” Keller said of the fourth quarter. “We’re going to try to score every time every play. We kept plugging away. We weren’t going to go into the tank just because things weren’t going our way.”