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Nebraska survives charge from Wyoming

The SportsXchange

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska players admitted they lost focus after building a big lead on Wyoming, and it nearly cost the Huskers.

Wyoming turned two fourth-quarter turnovers into touchdowns, but the Cowboys couldn't complete a stunning comeback as No. 18 Nebraska won 37-34 on Saturday night for its nation-leading 28th consecutive season-opening victory.

"We just got relaxed," said Nebraska senior cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste, whose first-half interception led to a touchdown. "On the sideline, everybody kept playing around, and we weren't taking everything serious. We just lost focus there."

Nebraska (1-0) used a punishing, ball-control running game in the second half to build a 37-21 lead, but its young defense couldn't slow Wyoming.

Junior quarterback Brett Smith completed 29-of-43 passes for 383 yards and four touchdowns, including a 47-yard strike to Robert Herron with 1:32 remaining that pulled the Cowboys within a field goal.

Nebraska recovered an onside kick but couldn't run out the clock and punted to give Wyoming possession at its 6-yard line with 1:07 remaining. The Cowboys, though, couldn't get the ball past their 31-yard line before time ran out.

"Our whole goal in this football game, and we talked about it all the way going into it, we needed to be in the football game going into the fourth quarter," Wyoming coach Dave Christensen said. "We didn't need to have a lead at halftime, we needed to be in the football game in the fourth quarter, because the pressure is not on us. The pressure was all on them, and we got it to where we wanted it, but we didn't take advantage and make the plays to get it done."

Sophomore running back Ameer Abdullah rushed for 114 yards on 19 carries to lead Nebraska but didn't have a rushing attempt after the third quarter.

Nebraska, with the help of sophomore Imani Cross and true freshman Terrell Newby, rushed for 375 yards and had touchdown drives of 15 plays, 67 yards and 13 plays, 82 yards in the second half. That took a combined 11 minutes, 44 seconds off the clock.

"We struggled to get off the field on defense in the second half, but we knew that would happen a little bit in the second half," Christensen said. "They (Nebraska) have a pretty darn good offensive line, and a pretty potent offense, and it will be potent this year."

Cross had two touchdown runs, including a 31-yard jaunt when he spun off two defenders, and Taylor Martinez had touchdown passes of 3 and 7 yards to Quincy Enunwa, as Nebraska built a 37-21 lead.

But Martinez threw an interception that led to a Wyoming touchdown, and fumbled on a fourth-and-1 play in Wyoming territory that would've all but sealed a Nebraska victory with 2:01 remaining.

Wyoming scored in only three plays, making a record Memorial Stadium crowd of 91,185 pretty nervous.

Nebraska trailed twice in the first half but held a 17-14 lead at halftime.

Wyoming used two big plays on both of its touchdown drives, gashing a young Nebraska defense. Running back Shaun Wick ran 37 yards on Wyoming's second drive of the game to set up Smith's 6-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Claiborne for a 7-0 lead.

Nebraska led 10-7 following Pat Smith's 24-yard field goal and Martinez's 17-yard touchdown pass to Jamal Turner on a fade route in the end zone.

Two possessions later, Brett Smith ran 47 yards on a draw play, sparking another touchdown drive that Wick capped with a 6-yard run for a 14-10 lead.

On its second-to-final possession of the first half, Nebraska needed only three plays to score, using a 62-yard run by Abdullah and consecutive runs of 17 yards and 1 yard by Cross to go in front 17-14.

NOTES: Wyoming, which averaged 125.2 rushing yards per game last season, surpassed that total less than 3 minutes into the second quarter. The Cowboys had 173 rushing yards at halftime. ... Abdullah had a career-long 62-yard run in the second quarter. ... Wyoming's Smith had a streak of 183 consecutive passes without an interception snapped in the second quarter when Stanley Jean-Baptiste picked him off at the goal line. Smith's streak dated to last October.
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