Official Husker Locker Blog
2009 Sep 12
ASU GAME: Lee Dazzles in 38-9 Win
By the time Nebraska’s defense started to bend Saturday against Arkansas State, NU junior Zac Lee’s right arm had already broken the Red Wolves with series of deep, accurate strikes in the heart of their secondary.
Lee completed 8 of his first 9 passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns to help stake NU to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter. From that point forward, the run-oriented Arkansas State couldn’t muster enough momentum to get much closer in a 38-9 Nebraska win.
“I really liked the way we came out,” head coach Bo Pelini said. “We attacked. I thought we played really well offensively. To start the game, I loved the energy we came out with.”
While Lee had a fair debut in a 49-3 win over Florida Atlantic, his play was overshadowed, to some extent, by a single 49-yard run from true freshman Cody Green.
No such dilemma on Saturday. Lee completed 27-of-35 passes for 340 yards and four touchdowns. He personally found 11 different receivers, and made every throw in the book – including a couple nifty shovel passes.
“It was a good day,” Lee understated. “Hopefully it’s that way every week. That’s kind of my goal.”
Lee and his teammates have a much stiffer test at Virginia Tech next Saturday. But for one game, he couldn’t have been much more efficient.
Said NU offensive coordinator Shawn Watson: “I loved everything that happened. Zac was just lights out. That’s a great performance.”
A crowd of 85,035 at Memorial Stadium sat thrilled and dazzled by Lee’s first-quarter performance. On Nebraska’s opening drive, he converted an early third down with an 11-yard pass to Mike McNeill, scrambled for 11 yards and threw a perfect 46-yard lob to receiver Curenski Gilleylen before finishing the drive with a three-yard flip to fullback Tyler Legate to cap the 80-yard touchdown march.
On the second drive, Lee hit all five passes for 54 yards, the last of which was another perfectly thrown lob to tight end Mike McNeill for a 13-yard touchdown.
“We had guys get open,” Lee said. “It’s easy to throw to open guys.”
Niles Paul then scored on a 30-yard reverse one minute into the second quarter for a 21-0 lead. Paul took the pitch from Lee and ran back toward NU’s sideline, toeing the chalk for the last ten yards.
“We had it on our script,” Paul said, “and I just blew it off like ‘we’re not going to run that, we have it on script every week since last year. But we finally ran it. And I was happy.”
Those first 16 minutes were NU’s best in recent memory, dating back, possibly, to 2006. Pelini said he challenged his team throughout the week, after another sluggish start vs. Florida Atlantic, to hit the ground running vs. ASU.
Mission accomplished. The Huskers outgained the Red Wolves 206-39 in that span, and left a run-based with little chance for a comeback.
“We came out of the gates well,” center Jacob Hickman said. “That’s something we wanted to make sure we did, to set the tempo of the game.”
Arkansas State then scored on a 32-yard touchdown drive after an NU punt and a 15-yard facemack penalty on safety Rickey Thenarse. The Red Wolves missed the extra point. The Huskers tacked on a 29-yard field goal from Alex Henery right before halftime.
In the second half, Nebraska scored quickly after an ASU punt, as Lee hit McNeill again, this time on a 32-yard fade route for a touchdown. In the fourth quarter, he found Paul for a two-yard score, setting up the touchdown with a 27-yard pass to tight end Dreu Young.
Nebraska had 494 total yards, the 16th time in 20 games, NU went over the 400-yard mark.
“They played a whole lot faster than we did overall,” ASU coach Steve Roberts said. “I think that was a big difference in the game, their speed advantage.”
The Red Wolves (1-1) averaged more than four yards per carry and amassed total yards, but only converted 2 of 10 third down attempts in the first three quarters.
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