LINCOLN, Neb - Quarterback Taylor Martinez passed for 354 yards and five touchdowns and No. 17 Nebraska overcame the loss of Rex Burkhead to defeat Southern Mississippi, 49-20, on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
Burkhead, a senior running back, left the game in the first quarter because of an MCL sprain of his left knee and did not return. He'd scored on the game's fourth play, a 57-yard touchdown run, to stake Nebraska to a 7-0 lead, and had only two carries thereafter.
Without him, Nebraska relied on backup running back Ameer Abdullah, who ran 15 times for 81 yards, and the improved arm of Martinez, a junior and third-year starter who completed 26-of-34 passes with no interceptions.
Martinez completed passes to 10 receivers, hitting each one before halftime, and had touchdown throws of 26 yards to Kenny Bell, nine yards to Jake Long and 29 yards to Steven Osborne to put Nebraska ahead, 28-17, at halftime.
The Huskers had a 14-0 lead after Martinez's scoring pass to Bell, but Tracy Lampley returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a Southern Miss touchdown.
Southern Miss tied the game, 14-14, on Chris Campbell's 24-yard pass to Dominique Sullivan, who caught the ball near the 10-yard line and escaped a tackle to run into the end zone. That capped an 11-play, 73-yard drive that began after Nebraska's Brett Maher missed a 44-yard field goal attempt.
Nebraska responded with an 11-play touchdown drive, on which Martinez completed all four of his passes, including the touchdown of nine yards to Long, and Abdullah ran six times for 20 yards.
Corey Acosta kicked a 45-yard field goal to cut the lead to 21-17 with 1:37 remaining in the half, and Martinez directed Nebraska's two-minute offense with precision, going 4-of-5 passing for 77 yards in 34 seconds for a touchdown.
Southern Miss, behind the running of backup quarterback Anthony Alford, drove into Nebraska territory to begin the second half, but the Huskers' Alonzo Whaley recovered a fumble at the Nebraska 40.
Nebraska punted on the ensuing possession, its and only punt of the game, but scored touchdowns the next three times it touched the football. Martinez had touchdown passes of 18 and 11 yards, and Braylon Heard had a 10-yard touchdown run.
Notes: Rex Burkhead's 57-yard run in the first quarter was the longest of his career. His previous best was 52. ... Southern Miss played three quarterbacks, none of whom had played a college snap before Saturday. ... Nebraska has won 27 straight season openers, the longest current streak in the nation. ... The 100-yard return by Tracy Lampley was the first Southern Miss kickoff return for a touchdown since Lampley accomplished the feat in 2010. ... Nebraska wide receiver Tim Marlowe left the game in the first half because of a separated shoulder.