LINCOLN, NEB. - Nebraska overpowered Fresno State in the second half and won its opener in the easy fashion that was expected.
The lasting memory of Saturday night’s 43-10 win will be how everyone inside Memorial Stadium came together to remember the Cornhuskers’ fallen punter, Sam Foltz, who died in a July car crash along with former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler.
The Huskers draped Foltz’s No. 27 jersey at the end of their bench, and after they went three-and-out on their first possession, they lined up with 10 players and no punter.
The crowd stood and responded with loud cheers and applause as the play clock wound down, with Fresno State’s players joining them in the salute. When Nebraska was flagged for delay of game after the play clock expired, Fresno State declined the penalty.
“It was an incredible feeling, knowing how much he meant to the team and the community and all the fans out there,” quarterback Tommy Armstrong said. “It touched my heart a bit, just looking out there.”
Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter was told beforehand that the Huskers would line up without a punter, and he said there was no question that the penalty would be declined.
“If we can’t teach our guys something classy like that, what’s college for?” he said.
Armstrong Jr. ran for two touchdowns and threw a perfect deep ball to Alonzo Moore for another as Nebraska took control of the game and gave Mike Riley his 100th win as a college coach.
The Huskers pounded away at the Bulldogs with runs on 51 of their 64 plays, and Devine Ozigbo ran for a career-high 103 yards and two touchdowns. The biggest of Armstrong’s few passes came two plays after Kieron Williams’ first career interception, when Moore beat his man to catch in stride a 57-yard TD early in the fourth quarter.
“When we run it that well, we open up a lot for the receivers,” Armstrong said. “When we get a chance to throw it, we have to complete them.”
Fresno State’s Chason Virgil, who missed the last nine games in 2015 with a broken clavicle, completed his first five passes and 11 of his first 14. The Bulldogs got a scare when he banged up his left shoulder late in the first half after being driven out of bounds by linebacker Luke Gifford, who was ejected for targeting.
Virgil returned to start the third quarter but didn’t get much done the rest of the night against a Nebraska defense that got better as the game went on.
“I thought our guys went toe-to-toe with them for a pretty good bit, and then they broke our will in the fourth quarter,” DeRuyter said.
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