LINCOLN, Neb.--- Junior running back Bobby Rainey had himself a career day.
Rainey rushed 30 times for 155 yards and a touchdown, while adding 36 yards receivign, all career highs. But at the end of the day, it didn't matter. Because Rainey's mistake epitomized the theme of WKU's 49-10 loss.
The Toppers trailed the No. 8 Corn Huskers 28-3 midway through the third quarter when WKU caught a break with a recovered fumble by junior safety Mark Santoro at the WKU 44-yard line. Three plays later, Rainey busted up the middle 46 yards towards the end zone. But just before he crossed the goal-line, he fumbled, with the Huskers recovering in the end zone for a touchback.
Nebraska ended the ensuing drive with a touchdown, for a 14-point turnaround.
"Basically, it doesn't matter if I didn't fumble or if I did or what I think I did," Rainey said. "I shouldn't leave the result in the referee's hands. That's all with that. I just need to take care of the ball better, so it won't have to come down to the referee making a decision."
Defensive lapses on Nebraska's first two drives didn't do the Toppers any favors. Nebraska led 14-0 with 6:11 left in the first quarter after touchdown runs by redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez (who got the last-minute start) and sophomore running back Rex Burkhead.
But the Toppers were a little caught off guard by the over 85,000 in attendance. Nebraska sold out the game for the 305th straight time.
"I just think we weren't prepared as a whole defense for the atmosphere and stuff," senior linebacker Thomas Majors said. "As we calmed down as a whole defense, we started to play better."
After those two early drives, the Toppers' defense allowed just 83 yards the rest of the first half to trail 21-0.
But for as many positives, there were also plenty of small things. In addition to Rainey's run, redshirt freshman punter Hendrix Brakefield shanked a punt off his foot that travelled just four yards to WKU's 13-yard line. Nebraska punched in a touchdown two plays later.
Then there were the lapses on defense, the missed tackles that also carried over to special teams coverage. Of Nebraska's seven touchdown drives, the average starting position was the Nebraska 45-yard line.
Coach Willie Taggart pointed to improving offensively to help special teams.
"We get some first downs, then we don't have to worry about those things," he said. "We've gotta get better offensively and get better defensively and we don't have to worry about those things. Again, it goes back to tackling. Guys were there, we just missed some tackles and they got some extra yards."
Nebraska rolled up 536 yards of total offense, many coming late in the game, but WKU's offense also showed signs with 299 yards of total offense, 179 yards rushing. That's the most Nebraska has allowed in two seasons.
"We did some good things," sophomore quarterback Kawaun Jakes said. "I think everyone saw the No. 8 team in the nation ok, but I feel like we can build on it. We did some good things, we did some bad things. We'll learn from it and move on to the next game.
Rainey in particular will be looking to add on after his big performance tonight. He had the ball on 33 of WKU's plays. But that one fumble looms largest.
"The yards, it doesn't matter, if we don't come out with a win," Rainey said. "As far as the yards I did have, the offense opened up holes and I took advantage of it. But I've gotta start off like that in the first half so we won't be in that position for three and out."