Saturday, October 30, 2010
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska fans butchered the pronunciation of Roy Helu Jr.’s last name.
No matter. They’ll be talking about him for a long time to come.
Chants of “HAY-loo, HAY-loo” poured from the Memorial Stadium stands after the senior running back set a Nebraska record with 307 yards rushing Saturday to lead the 14th-ranked Cornhuskers to a 31-17 victory that knocked No. 7 Missouri from the ranks of the unbeatens.
“They called me ‘HAY-loo’?” he said. “It’s Roy ‘HEL-lou’ Jr.”
The low-key Helu had water dumped on him by teammates on the sideline after the public-address announcer said he’d broken the record of 294 yards by Calvin Jones against Kansas in 1991.
“They were acting like we won the Super Bowl,” he said.
However you say it, Helu’s name now ranks among a long line of running back greats at Nebraska, guys like Mike Rozier, Ahman Green, Keith Jones.
The Huskers (7-1, 3-1 Big 12) held off Missouri after building a 24-0 lead and moved into a first-place tie with the Tigers in the Big 12 North. Nebraska, which ended a 13-game losing streak against Top 10 teams, earned the inside track to the division title by winning the head-to-head meeting.
Missouri (7-1, 3-1) was off to its best start since 1960. The Tigers have lost 17 straight road games against Top 25 opponents since 1997.
“No one likes to lose,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “We’ve got to coach better. We lost all of our timeouts in the third quarter. Shoot, are you kidding me? That starts with me.
“It’s our first loss of the year. It’s very difficult for all of us. We’re battlers and competitors. We’ll get up tomorrow, lessons learned, and move on.”
Helu ran for touchdowns of 66, 73 and 53 yards and had 228 yards on his first 10 carries.
“I can’t explain how much I feel for my linemen and fullback,” Helu said. “They deserve as much credit as I do. I know the focus is on the record and the individual, but it’s a team sport.”
The Huskers played without quarterback Taylor Martinez in the second half after he came up hobbling following a hit from Kenji Jackson on a run late in the second quarter. Zac Lee took over to start the third quarter.
Coach Bo Pelini said Martinez had a bruised right leg and should be able to play next week at Iowa State.
Pelini had been concerned about flat performances in recent home games, including a 20-13 loss to Texas two weeks ago, but that wasn’t an issue Saturday.
Helu was sensational carrying the offensive load whether Martinez was in or out of the game.
“You break a school record for single-game rushing at this place, the tradition around here, it’s a pretty big deal,” Pelini said.
Nebraska showed a three-man defensive front for the first time and put heavy pressure on Blaine Gabbert, holding him to 18-of-42 passing for 199 yards. He was sacked six times.
“They have a really good defensive front,” Gabbert said. “We knew that coming in, and knew we’d have to play well. I don’t think we played as well as we’d hoped to, and they threw some different things at us early that caught us off guard.”
Helu’s third touchdown eased some anxiety that crept into Memorial Stadium after Missouri pulled to 24-14 in the middle of the third quarter.
Helu took a handoff from Lee and sliced through a wide gap in the middle of the line to start his 53-yard TD, which was his sixth scoring run of longer than 50 yards this season and extended Nebraska’s lead to 31-14.
Nebraska made a goal-line stand after the Tigers drove from their 20 to inside the 1, forcing Grant Ressel to kick a 23-yard field goal that made it 31-17.
The Tigers’ comeback was hindered after they burned their last timeout of the second half less than 10 minutes into the third quarter. They punted on fourth-and-10 from their 44 with 8:40 left, and Nebraska ran out the clock by, predictably, handing off mostly to Helu.
The Tigers, trying for their first back-to-back wins in Lincoln since 1976-78, found themselves playing from behind right away after Helu busted through a wide opening in the left side of the line and ran 66 yards untouched on Nebraska’s first play from scrimmage.
Alex Henery kicked his school-record 18th field goal in a row, from 41 yards, and Martinez threw a 40-yard TD to Kyler Reed before Helu went untouched again, this time 73 yards for a 24-0 lead late in the first quarter.
De’Vion Moore took a pitch 33 yards to cut Nebraska’s lead to 24-7 early in the second quarter, and Gabbert threw a 23-yard TD pass to T.J. Moe midway through the third quarter.
Nebraska and Missouri have played 89 straight years and 104 times overall since 1892. The series goes on hiatus with Nebraska joining the Big Ten next year.
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