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Open Field Tackle Illustrates Nebraska Prowess

November 18, 1996 GMT

AMES, Iowa (AP) _ It was just one play out of many, one run and one tackle out of dozens on a cold, soggy afternoon. But it illustrated perfectly what Iowa State’s Troy Davis faced against Nebraska.

Iowa State had sprung Davis to the outside and he was about to turn upfield. Such plays normally produce big gains as Davis leaves a cornerback sprawled helplessly on the turf. But Mike Fullman, only 5-foot-7 and 170 pounds, met Davis head-on and dropped him on the spot after a 1-yard gain.

On most other plays, Nebraska swarmed Davis with a horde of tacklers and the result was the same. The fifth-ranked Cornhuskers held Davis in check Saturday and beat Iowa State 49-14.

``We didn’t think there would be any long runs because they recover and they play close to the ball so well,″ Iowa State coach Dan McCarney said. ``They just don’t give up easy, cheap plays. But we thought we’d be able to move the football.″

The Cyclones couldn’t because Nebraska’s defense was as good as advertised. And the offense wasn’t bad either. Ahman Green rushed for a career-high 214 yards in only three quarters and Nebraska scored on six of its first seven possessions in building a 42-7 lead.

It was the eighth straight victory for the Cornhuskers (9-1 overall, 7-0 Big 12), who’ll play Colorado in two weeks for the Big 12′s North Division championship. The winner meets the South Division champion in the title game in St. Louis on Dec. 7.

``I think we’ve played well this year,″ Nebraska coach Tom Osborne said. ``I like our chances.″

Osborne’s team had geared up to stop Davis, who entered the game as the nation’s leading rusher and needed 178 yards to become the first major-college back to rush for 2,000 twice. He fell 40 yards short.

Davis carried 34 times for 138 yards, which would be a strong game for most backs. But he had been averaging 202.4 yards and got 55 of his yards in the fourth quarter when Nebraska was using reserves.

``He gets the ball so much and every time he gets it, you just hold our breath,″ Nebraska defensive coordinator Charlie McBride said. ``You look at the films and people shut him down for a while and then, all of a sudden, he’s running in the end zone.

``He had a couple of big runs against us and both were on defensive errors. I was really proud of the way the kids played.″

Davis’ longest run was a 35-yarder in the fourth quarter. Eighteen of his runs went for 3 yards or less.

``They’ve got a real disciplined defense,″ Iowa State tackle Tim Kohn said. ``They took away every gap and didn’t allow Troy to cut back. They’re undoubtedly the best defense in the Big 12 and that says a lot.″

Green had no such problems running against Iowa State’s defense. Slowed earlier this season by a nagging turf toe injury, the 6-foot, 215-pound sophomore appears to be returning to his form of last year, when he set a Nebraska freshman record by running for 1,086 yards.

He had 161 yards in only 12 carries against Missouri a week ago and Saturday, he carried 29 times in topping his previous best of 176 yards against Iowa State and Washington State last year.

``That was the most carries I ever had in my career playing football, from Little League, high school to now,″ Green said. ``I earned my yards and I earned my scholarship out there.″

Green and his backup, Damon Benning, each scored a touchdown. Scott Frost threw two touchdown passes to tight end Vershan Jackson and ran for two more scores.

``We talked all week about getting more physical and playing Nebraska football,″ Frost said. ``We haven’t done that as much as Nebraska teams of the past. But we did today.″

With 1,960 yards, Davis should reach 2,000 in Iowa State’s season finale at Kansas State next Saturday. His 3,970 yards over the last two years are the best back-to-back seasons in NCAA history. Marcus Allen had the previous best of 3,905 yards at Southern Cal in 1980 and 1981.