No. 4 Nebraska 56, La. Tech 27
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ New coach, same old story for the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
The Frank Solich era opened with No. 4 Nebraska beating Louisiana Tech 56-27 in the Eddie Robinson Classic on Saturday, although the Bulldogs made a record-setting impression in defeat.
Wide receiver Troy Edwards broke the NCAA all-divisions record for receiving yards by catching 21 passes for 405 yards and three touchdowns. Quarterback Tim Rattay rocked the Huskers by completing 46-of-68 passes for 590 yards _ all record numbers against Nebraska. Edwards had TD catches of 94, 80 and 52 yards in the second half.
The previous all-divisions record for receiving yards was 370 yards, shared by Michael Lerch of Princeton (1991, vs. Brown) and Barry Wagner of Alabama A&M (1989, vs. Clark). The major-college record of 363 was set by UNLV’s Randy Gatewood against Idaho in 1994.
Nebraska set no records in its first game in 26 seasons without Tom Osborne as coach, but Bobby Newcombe made an impressive debut at quarterback. He ran for two touchdowns and passed for one as the Huskers scored TDs on all five first-half possessions in taking a 35-6 lead.
Newcombe finished 9-of-10 for 168 yards and carried 12 times for 12 yards. The teams combined for 1,031 yards, with Louisiana Tech outgaining Nebraska 569-462.
Solich, the Huskers’ 19-year assistant who replaced Osborne eight months ago, pumped his right fist in the air several times after Newcombe threw a 46-yard TD pass to Sheldon Jackson on the third play of the game.
Newcombe then ran over to Solich near the sidelines and the two embraced for a few seconds. Solich even smiled, something Osborne did rarely in 25 years as coach.
Red balloons soared into the sky as the 221st consecutive sellout crowd at Memorial Stadium celebrated the Huskers’ first score for their new coach.
On a hot and sticky day, with temperatures in the 90s, the crowd of 76,021 had plenty to cheer about as the Cornhuskers won their 43rd consecutive home game and extended the nation’s longest major-college winning streak to 15 games.
With the Bulldogs passing their way back into the game in the second half, Nebraska kept countering with touchdowns on the ground. After Louisiana Tech cut the lead to 35-21, Dan Alexander and Correll Buckhalter each ran 4 yards for scores. And when Rattay hit Edwards on an 80-yard scoring play to make it 49-27 with 12:55 left, Buckhalter ran 43 yards for a TD with 1:24 left. Buckhalter finished with 143 yards om 19 carries.
When the game ended, Solich walked to midfield and shook hands with Bulldogs coach Gary Crowton, and probably wiped his brow.
Rattay, the nation’s total offense leader in ’97, had four TD passes, tying the record for the most ever against the Cornhuskers. After his first scoring pass, a 1-yarder to Sean Cangelosi, made the score 21-6, Huskers defensive back Joe Walker returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a TD.
The 94-yard TD hookup between Rattay and Edwards was the longest allowed by the Huskers since a 98-yarder by Missouri in 1976.
Osborne wasn’t at the game and he wasn’t missed. The 5-foot-8 Solich ran onto the field with his team, took up his sideline position near midfield but was often lost in a sea of red Nebraska jerseys as his players dwarfed him.
Louisiana Tech, with alum Terry Bradshaw acting as honorary captain, won the toss but deferred. The Huskers took the opening kickoff and five plays later it was 7-0.
Newcombe scored from a yard out on the next possession and Willie Miller scored on an 8-yard run to give Nebraska a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter.