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Huskers see chance to tie bow on perfect home record

November 19, 2016 GMT

LINCOLN — Brandon Reilly grew up walking the aisles of Memorial Stadium selling pop.

Though the now-Husker senior will tell you, “I’d get in trouble because I wouldn’t sell, I’d just watch.”

From carrying Pepsi to hauling in a game-winning catch to knock off Sparty, Memorial Stadium indeed has a special place in Reilly’s heart.

That’s probably why Reilly calls Saturday’s opportunity to cap an unbeaten home record “big.”

“Especially just coming off those two losses and still seeing all our fans show up and how into the game they were,” the Lincoln Southwest graduate said. “They come support us, we better put a good performance on.”

The No. 18 Huskers have defeated Fresno State, Wyoming, Oregon, Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota in front of the Sea of Red this season, and a win against Maryland would tie a bow on a 7-0 home record.

Husker head coach Mike Riley used the word “significant” in describing what it would mean.

“One of the factors that I’ve always kind of believed in, you can have a pretty good season if you win all your home games. That’s a pretty good starting point,” the coach said. “Of course we have to do way more than that. ... But it’s really fun to play here. It’s fun to play well here. It’s fun to win here.”

If accomplished, it would mark the Huskers’ first perfect season at home since 2012 and just the second since 2001.

“It’s a huge opportunity for us,” senior wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp said. “Even with those tough losses to Ohio State and Wisconsin, we still have so much to play for, and having an undefeated record at home would be awesome. That’s something we want to do, it’s one of our goals.”

That 6-0 home record hasn’t been short on drama. Nebraska has trailed at halftime in four of those contests — Oregon, Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota. The Huskers outscored those four foes by a combined 73-15 in the second half.

Nebraska will take it. After all, it was just a year ago when the Huskers finished 3-4 at Memorial Stadium, which included last-second defeats against BYU and Wisconsin. It was their first four-loss home season since 1961, and it led to a 6-7 finish.

“It’s something we talked about in the offseason, this senior class,” Reilly said. “We didn’t want to go out like that, we got to kind of make a statement, especially our walk-on class. People say we might be the best walk-on class, but they can’t say that if we have five wins our senior year.”

Nebraska has come close to other perfect home marks. The Huskers finished 6-1 at home in 2010, 2011 and 2014. Texas (2010), Northwestern (2011) and Minnesota (2014) stood in the way, and in each case, a ranked Husker team lost to an unranked foe.

If Nebraska beats Maryland, it would wrap up the Huskers’ 11th perfect home record since 1990. Nine of those came in a 10-season stretch (1992-2001).

NU has won at least six home games in 24 of its past 30 seasons.

“Playing at home, it’s a special feeling,” senior center Dylan Utter said. “We’ve been playing at a lot of great places. Memorial Stadium still is the best one I’ve been to.”