Joe Ganz scored running, passing and receiving and Marlon Lucky helped revive the Big Red rushing attack with 103 yards in leading Nebraska to a 38-7 win over New Mexico State Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.
Lucky ran for two touchdowns and went over 2,000 yards for his career. The senior I-back also threw to Ganz for the third TD pass of his career.
Nebraska (3-0) came out determined to get its sputtering running game on track. The Huskers, who came in 82nd nationally in rushing at 118.5 yards a game, generated 330 on the ground.
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said his staff decided to simplify its offensive scheme because of the wide array of defensive looks the Aggies give in their 3-3-5 alignment. The Huskers, for the most part, used four or five running plays out of different formations. They even looked like Nebraska teams of yesteryear by mixing in some triple-option plays.
"They had a lot of guys on the line of scrimmage and we stayed committed to it," Pelini said. "It was a good effort."
New Mexico State (0-1) was playing its first game because its September 4th game against Nicholls State was canceled by Hurricane Gustav. The Aggies dropped to 1-19 against BCS opponents.
"You could tell this was our first game and it was their third," NMSU receiver Chris Williams said. "Rust is the biggest thing when you describe our play, in my mind. We're going to need some time to get this thing right."
Ganz finished with a career-high 69 yards rushing and he completed 13-of-17 passes for 158 yards. New Mexico State's Chase Holbrook was 15-for-30 for 142 yards. He was intercepted twice and sacked three times.
Lucky had a hand in Nebraska's first two touchdowns. He followed right guard Matt Slauson into the end zone from 8 yards out, then showed off his passing arm after Armando Murillo returned an interception 57 yards to set up the Huskers at the New Mexico State 20.
On the next play, Lucky took a handoff and ran to his right while Ganz released out of the backfield. Lucky pulled up and lofted a perfect spiral to Ganz on the throwback. Lucky also threw TD passes against Iowa State last year and against Texas in 2006.
"He hit me right in stride," Ganz said. "He's just money when you turn on the lights. Every time we run a trick play with him, he comes through."
Ganz also threw a touchdown pass and ran for another to become the third player in program history to score three different ways. Johnny Rodgers did it in the 1973 Orange Bowl against Notre Dame and Eric Crouch in 1999 against California. Both won the Heisman Trophy.
"It would have been a lot better if I were the first," Ganz said, "but those guys aren't bad company."
Nebraska led 21-0 at halftime after Ganz finished an 89-yard scoring drive with a career-long 33-yard run on an option keeper.
Lucky broke a career-long 58-yard run before scoring from 1 yard early in the third quarter and Ganz made it 35-0 with a 35-yard pass to tight end Mike McNeill. McNeill made a great run after catching the ball in open field. He stutter-stepped to make cornerback Chris Buckner miss and then did a somersault into the end zone after getting hit low by cornerback Davon House.
Nebraska shut out New Mexico State 57-0 in 1979 and 68-0 in 1982, and it looked as if the Huskers were destined to hold them scoreless again after the Aggies twice drove inside the 3-yard line.
The first threat ended when Zach Potter blocked Kyle Hughes' 20-yard field-goal attempt and the second when Matt O'Hanlon intercepted Holbrook.
"We had a really good opening drive," NMSU coach Hal Mumme said. "We'd probably like to have back a play call or two inside the 5-yard line. Our coaches have to get over the first-game jitters, too. I just didn't do a good job there. I put them in a bind and then our first-year guard gets blown up by a rally big tackle and we get the thing blocked. We hated to start that way."
New Mexico State finally broke through after Marvin Betts returned backup quarterback Patrick Witt's fumble 48 yards to the Nebraska 3 early in the fourth quarter. Marquell Colston scored on the next play.
The Aggies totaled 339 yards, with 77 coming on their first series. "It took us a minute to adjust," Pelini said. "Our guys, even when they had their backs to the wall, they kept fighting and making plays in the red zone. That's a pretty good, pretty experienced offense we played today. They're going to get their yards. What matters is points. I don't get caught up in yards. It's all about points."