Big 12 Sports.com Correspondent
LINCOLN, Neb. - Break out the leisure suits and the platform shoes. Crank up a little disco. And don't forget to feed your pet rock.
That's What's Happening - hey, it was a 1970s sitcom, folks - with Missouri's football team. The third-ranked Tigers pranced into Memorial Stadium and boogied to a little Saturday Night Fever. Missouri's 52-17 deconstruction of Nebraska was Mizzou's first victory here since 1978.
On a day when five of the Big 12's six ranked teams took to the road, Missouri's visit to Corn Country figured to be the most dangerous trip. The Tigers, though, made sure that the first week of conference play would produce no upsets.
After last season's 41-6 loss in Columbia, the Huskers had reason for revenge. New coach Bo Pelini and his brother Carl, the team's defensive coordinator, figured to have something special cooked up for the Tigers' offense and quarterback Chase Daniel.
Mike Ekeler, Nebraska's linebackers coach, told a Big Red Breakfast crowd on Thursday that, "I'm jacked about this game plan. ... Very excited. And I know our kids are chomping at the bit."
The Huskers also talked about their weekly defensive goal - shutting out their opponent. And last year's post-game comment by Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel - he said Nebraska's game plan was high school simple - also was dug up as bulletin board material.
Turns out the Tigers also had incentive. This was homecoming at Nebraska.
"Hey, in high school, you always schedule the worst team you can for homecoming," said Missouri running back Derrick Washington, who gained 139 yards on 14 carries and scored two touchdowns. "
Daniel's competitive fires were stoked before the game. As the players strolled the field, a Nebraska defensive player spit on Daniel.
"I've never had that happen before," said Daniel, who completed 18-of-23 passes for 253 yards and three touchdowns. "I'm not going to say who it was. He knows who he is. That's bush league. That's blatant disrespect.
"Nebraska was one of the dirtiest teams I've played. They were throwing balls at us during the pre-game, they hit me late a lot. That's football."
Your humble correspondent is no football expert, but it's difficult to figure the magic of Nebraska's defensive game plan. The Huskers used three defensive linemen with about five yards of space between each. Linebackers darted in and out of the gaps, showing blitz and then dropping back.
The scheme didn't produce pressure on Daniel (he wasn't sacked) and the gaps in the defensive line allowed the Tigers to average nearly six yards per carry.
"We wanted to get pressure on them and started to do that early," said Bo Pelini, whose team was penalized 14 times for 101 yards. "(We) started to get hits on the guy (Chase Daniel), but I thought we needed to make some things happen. We didn't execute. We had some busts. Our guys weren't well enough prepared to execute the plan and the plan we laid out wasn't good enough."
On Missouri's third play of the game, Nebraska blitzed off the right edge. Daniel found Jeremy Maclin on a short pass across the middle, toward the area vacated by the blitz. Maclin broke a tackle and went 58 yards for a touchdown 59 seconds into the game.
The Huskers answered with a touchdown and Missouri held serve when Washington scored on a three-yard run to make it 14-7. Nebraska drove to the Tigers' 26 on its next possession but quarterback Joe Ganz was sacked on consecutive plays, forcing a punt.
"That was a huge statement by our defense," said Missorui coach Gary Pinkel, whose team went on to score 38 of the next 41 points.
Missouri's offense was unstoppable. The Tigers scored on eight of nine possessions with Daniel at the controls. The only "failure" was a 59-yard field goal attempt by Jeff Woolfert on the last play of the first half. It missed, his first misfire in 28 field goal tries in Big 12 games.
Before Woolfert's miss, the Tigers had a 31-10 lead and the ball at their 40 with 16 seconds remaining. Most teams would have taken a knee and headed to the locker room.
"The guy we've got at quarterback is a very special player," Pinkel said of the decision to go for more points. "We're gonna use what he's got."
And what Missouri's got is its two most impressive victories over Nebraska. The victories the last two seasons (the school's first back-to-back defeats of the Huskers since 1973-74) came by a combined score of 93-23. The previous best for consecutive defeats of Nebaska was 80-12 (47-6 in 1947 and 33-6 in 1948).
Conveniently, that was 60 years ago. And after 30 years, Missouri's trip home from Lincoln was happy one.