LINCOLN, Neb. (AP)—The party at Memorial Stadium turned into quite a blowout.
Nebraska wore throwback jerseys and honored members of its 1962 team Saturday night in celebration of its 300th consecutive sellout. The Cornhuskers’ 55-0 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette was almost a sideshow.
Zac Lee passed for 238 yards and a touchdown, Roy Helu Jr. scored twice and the Huskers beat up on an opponent from the Sun Belt Conference for the third time one week after a devastating 16-15 loss at Virginia Tech.
“Now the season starts. Right now. That’s the way we look at it,” coach Bo Pelini said. “Time to put the foot on the gas pedal and go. We have a long season and challenges in front of us.”
The Huskers (3-1) certainly weren’t challenged in the games they’ve won. They beat Florida Atlantic, Arkansas State and Lafayette by a combined 142-12. Now the Big 12 North favorites get a week off before opening conference play at Missouri on Oct. 8.
Nebraska scored on its first five possessions against the Ragin’ Cajuns (2-2) before Larry Asante ran back an interception 74 yards to make it 34-0 in the middle of the second quarter.
The Ragin’ Cajuns generated only 222 yards and penetrated the Nebraska 20-yard line once, losing the ball on one of their three turnovers.
The Huskers’ uniforms—with script numbers on the jerseys and numbers rather than the traditional ‘N’ on the helmets—matched those worn in 1962, when the NCAA-record sellout streak began. Figures associated with Nebraska’s tradition—retired sportscaster Keith Jackson, ex-Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer, ex-Nebraska coach and player Frank Solich among them—gave video tributes to the fans.
“We knew there would be a lot of hoopla,” said receiver Chris Brooks, who caught a touchdown pass. “There have been so many good players here, so many who were building blocks, and we wanted to hold up our end of the deal and get the job done.”
The Huskers, playing before a stadium-record crowd of 86,304, posted their first shutout since a 56-0 win over Troy in 2006. The Cajuns, 1-23 against ranked opponents, were held scoreless for the first time since a 27-0 loss to North Texas in 2002.
“Any time you shut someone out, it’s not easy to accomplish,” Pelini said. “But I said before that our football team would come out and play with great passion. I like the attitude of this team after the trouble we hit last week. We didn’t play perfect, but we did some good things in all phases.”
Lee, who struggled against Virginia Tech, had no problems despite playing with a broken left thumb. He throws right-handed, though, and he completed 15 of 18 passes.
“That was important for me personally after the Virginia Tech game,” Lee said. “I wanted to come out sharp and get back on track.”
Lee left in the middle of the third quarter, and backup Cody Green hit 7 of 8 passes for 62 yards and led the Huskers’ last two scoring drives.
“It just kind of snowballed on us tonight,” Lafayette coach Rickey Bustle said. “That’s a good football team out there. You hand them some plays on a silver platter and they’re going to beat you to death.”
Nebraska’s first TD came when Helu, who ran for 83 yards, fumbled into the end zone on first-and-goal from the Ragin’ Cajuns 4 and tight end Ben Cotton recovered.
Helu scored from 2 yards for a 27-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Chris Masson completed five straight passes in moving the Cajuns from their 20 to the Nebraska 29, but Asante stepped in front of a ball intended for Luke Aubrey, cut to the inside and then outran Masson to the end zone.
Undrea Sails led Lafayette with 41 yards rushing, and Masson completed 13 of 22 passes for 102 yards.
“It was very frustrating because if we can’t move the ball and put up points and put our defense in bad positions, it’s going to be a long night,” Sails said. “We thought we were going to come in here and play better than that.”