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Defense leads Nebraska to 56-13 rout of Southern Miss

The SportsXchange

LINCOLN, Neb. - Nebraska's much-maligned defense intercepted four passes, three of them leading to touchdowns, and the No. 22 Huskers routed Southern Miss 56-13 on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

One week after surrendering 602 yards in a narrow victory over Wyoming, Nebraska held Southern Miss to 281 yards.

What's more, the Huskers' defense set the tone early, scoring a touchdown off an interception on the game's third play, and returning another interception for a touchdown later in the first quarter.

Senior cornerback Ciante Evans intercepted a pass in the third quarter, setting up a Taylor Martinez touchdown pass that put Nebraska (2-0) ahead 49-13. It was one of two one-play scoring drives in the third quarter for the Huskers.

Martinez was 15-of-23 passing for 170 yards and three touchdowns before giving way to backups in the third quarter. Running back Ameer Abdullah rushed 17 times for 114 yards, his second 100-yard rushing performance in as many games.

Southern Miss (0-2) stretched its losing streak to 14 games, the longest current losing streak among FBS teams. The Golden Eagles' streak began with a 49-20 season-opening loss to Nebraska in Lincoln last season.

Quarterback Allan Bridgford was 21-of-35 passing for 222 yards and a third-quarter touchdown, but threw three of the interceptions. Southern Miss has committed 10 turnovers in two games, and five have come in the first quarter.

The Golden Eagles, who had a touchdown called back because of a penalty in the first half, easily drove 66 yards in four plays for a touchdown to start the second half.

But Nebraska's Kenny Bell returned the ensuing kickoff 73 yards, and Abdullah, squeezing through a hole on the right side, darted 37 yards for a touchdown, and Nebraska pulled away.

The Huskers' fourth interception, by safety Corey Cooper in the fourth quarter, came after Southern Miss had first-and-goal at the 5.

Nebraska led 35-6 at halftime with the help of two defensive touchdowns and three long scoring drives that covered 10 plays or more.

The Huskers didn't take long to jump on top.

On the game's third play, senior cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste jumped an out route and intercepted an Allan Bridgford pass intended for Rickey Bradley and returned it untouched 43 yards for a touchdown.

Two series later, Southern Miss, behind a 34-yard pass from Bridgford to a wide-open Tyre'oune Holmes, moved to the Nebraska 5-yard-line but had to settle for a 32-yard field goal by Corey Acosta. The Golden Eagles had a touchdown called back because of an illegal formation penalty.

Nebraska responded with a 10-play, 68-yard drive that Taylor Martinez capped with a 16-yard pass over the middle to Quincy Enunwa.

Ciante Evans returned an interception 22 yards for a touchdown and a 21-3 Nebraska lead in the first quarter, and the Cornhuskers had touchdown drives of 14 plays and 11 plays in the second quarter to break the game open.

NOTES: Southern Miss has a combined five first-quarter turnovers in two games this season. ... Jean-Baptiste's interception return with 13:47 remaining in the first quarter was Nebraska's quickest defensive touchdown in a game since Terrell Farley scored on a fumble return seven seconds into the game at Texas Tech in 1996. ... The last time Nebraska had two interception returns for touchdowns in the same game was against Idaho in 2010.
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