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Overmatched Nebraska falters defensively in 49-14 loss to No. 6 Oklahoma

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Oklahoma vs. Nebraska, 9.17

Oklahoma's Jalen Redmond (31) throws the bones after sacking Nebraska quarterback Casey Thompson (not pictured) on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

There was a buzz in the air Saturday morning.

Whether it was due to the return of an old rival or because of the new man in charge of the Husker football program, the mood around Nebraska’s final nonconference game felt different than its first three contests of the year.

But, when the clouds gave way to sunshine, the on-field product looked all too familiar.

The Nebraska defense was far overmatched against the elite athletes from Oklahoma, and the No. 6 Sooners rolled to a 49-14 win over Nebraska on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

In every sense, it was an ideal start to the game for Nebraska (1-3).

A thunderous Memorial Stadium roared when a sack, tackle for loss and incompletion led to an Oklahoma (3-0) punt on its opening drive of the game, while Nebraska came out firing on all cylinders offensively. The Huskers’ first three plays all went for touchdowns, and when quarterback Casey Thompson found Trey Palmer for a 32-yard touchdown pass, NU’s 7-0 lead represented hope.

It didn’t take long for the Sooners to take it right away.

Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel turned a mere draw play into an explosive 61-yard run as he evaded several would-be tacklers on his way to the end zone — and a 7-7 tie game.

After its successful opening drive, Nebraska failed to find the same offensive rhythm for the rest of the half. NU’s next 16 plays resulted in a net gain of three yards as four-straight drives ended in punts.

Oklahoma took advantage of Nebraska’s struggles by continuing to push the pace offensively. Its second touchdown drive lasted 2:17 as Gabriel tossed a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jalil Farooq, and the Sooners also got a big boost from a Marvin Mims 34-yard punt return that set up a short field.

Oklahoma needed five plays to punch in its next touchdown, a 1-yard run from Marcus Major. The junior running back was also the source of OU’s next touchdown on a trick play where tight end Brayden Willis threw the 24-yard touchdown pass to Major.

In less than 15 in-game minutes, Nebraska’s 7-0 lead had turned into a 28-7 deficit. And things didn’t get any easier from there for Nebraska.

Even a strong 11-play drive that chewed up over four minutes of clock didn’t end successfully for Nebraska, as Anthony Grant’s fourth-down carry was stopped short of a first down. Oklahoma had one more touchdown drive left in it, a 16-yard Eric Gray touchdown run that capped a 1:10 drive for the Sooners and put them up 35-7.

After giving up 642 yards of total offense last week, NU surrendered another 355 in the first half alone. Oklahoma sacked Thompson four times, including several on third downs, and Nebraska’s final seven possessions of the first half all ended without points.

Trailing by 28 points, a quick score to start the second half would have been absolutely necessary to any chances of a Nebraska comeback. Instead, a 21-yard catch-and-run from Palmer on the first play of the half ended with him fumbling near midfield, and Oklahoma pounced on the loose ball for its first takeaway of the game.

Less than two minutes later, Gray split a pair of would-be tacklers on his way to the end zone as his 21-yard touchdown run extended Oklahoma’s lead to 42-7. After a Husker three-and-out, Oklahoma kept its foot on the gas with a nine-play, 60-yard drive that ended with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Gabriel to Theo Wease.

The fast-paced scoring ceased late in the second half as both teams rotated their backups into the fold, but no further fortune awaited Nebraska. After its game-opening touchdown drive, the Huskers failed to score on their next 12 possessions.

Backup quarterback Chubba Purdy ensured NU wouldn't end the game with 49 unanswered points against it, as he ran in an 8-yard touchdown with 3:17 left to go in the game.

Defensively, even the Sooners taking their foot off the gas couldn’t cover up another poor performance. The Huskers entered the game ranking No. 124 nationally in team defense with 492 yards allowed per game, and they won’t be any better off after allowing the Sooners to rack up 580 yards of total offense.

With the loss, Nebraska drops 1-3 on the season. The Huskers will have a bye week before returning to Memorial Stadium on Oct. 1 to face Indiana.

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