One week after Missouri knocked off then No. 1 ranked Oklahoma, Nebraska put an end to the Tigers' undefeated season Saturday, rolling past the Tigers 31-17 in Lincoln.
"It's the first loss of the year, so it's pretty difficult for all of us," coach Gary Pinkel said. "It's a big game an you need to play your very best, and we didn't play good enough and they did."
The Cornhuskers got on the scoreboard early, as senior tailback Helu Jr. rushed for a 66-yard score on Nebraska's first offensive play of the game. After a Missouri three-and-out, Nebraska increased the lead to 10-0 on a 41-yard field goal by senior kicker Alex Henery.
Nebraska continued to capitalize on Missouri's offensive and defensive woes. After another stalled Tiger drive, redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez connected with sophomore wideout Kyler Reed for a 40-yard touchdown reception, pushing the Husker lead to 17-0. Helu Jr. added to the lead three minutes later, breaking loose for 73-yard touchdown run, his second of the game.
The Tigers got on the board early in the second quarter. On 4th and 1 Missouri set up for what looked like a quarterback sneak. Junior quarterback Blaine Gabbert received the snap and pitched it to junior tailback De'Vion Moore, who rushed 33 yards to cut the deficit to 17 points going into halftime.
Missouri showed signs of life early in the second half. Gabbert found sophomore wideout T.J. Moe for a 23-yard touchdown score, cutting the Nebraska lead to 10 points.
However, the Huskers would answer back two plays later, as Helu Jr. burned the Tiger defense for a 53-yard touchdown run, his third of the game.
With the game slipping out of reach, the Tigers put together a much-needed drive that put them on the Nebraska 1-yard line on 1st and goal. For the second straight week, the Tigers were stopped for three consecutive downs, forcing a 23-yard field goal. The kick put the score at 31-17, which would be the final after both teams were shut out in the fourth quarter. Pinkel said he was frustrated with the execution of the plays called on the goal line.
"We try to get the ball in," Pinkel said. "We call plays that we think are the best plays. We analyze a lot of films to see that, I've been doing this for a long time."
The Nebraska defense was impressive throughout the game, constantly blanketing all Missouri receivers and putting pressure on Gabbert. The junior was sacked six times, and finished a dismal 18 for 42 for 199 yards with a touchdown and interception.
Although the Missouri defense came into the game ranked No. 5 in the NCAA in scoring defense, the Tigers were unable to contain Helu Jr. The senior set the Nebraska school record with 307 rushing yards, including touchdown runs of 66, 73, and 53 yards. Senior linebacker Andrew Gachkar said the defense couldn't make the tackles it needed to stop the big plays.
"They did a good job of putting guys in one-on-one situations," Gachkar said. "Obviously we missed some tackles, and they scored 60-yard touchdowns off of them."
Missouri (7-1, 3-1) heads to Lubbock, Texas to take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders next weekend. With the loss to Nebraska, Missouri could possibly need to win out to have a chance at a Big 12 Championship. Moe acknowledged the importance of every conference game on the schedule.
"We just have to come out there a fight like we always do," Moe said. "When you play in the Big 12, I think it's a little bit easier because everybody's good, so if you let your guard down you can come out flat and lose the football game."