It's 'Sam Time' All The Time For Huskers

Wednesday, September 26th 2007, 2:29 pm
By: News On 6

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ Sam Keller likes to call the few hours he spends relaxing ``Sam Time.''

On the football field, ``Sam Time'' takes on a much different meaning.

It's been ``Sam Time'' all the time for Nebraska, with the quarterback carrying the workload as the defense and running game struggle.

``I think Coach Callahan understands that his quarterback will do that if he needs him to,'' Keller said. ``I will go out and take that role and make it happen for this team and this program.''

The fifth-year senior delivered for coach Bill Callahan and the Huskers last week against Ball State, bringing them back from deficits four times before they prevailed 41-40 against the 23-point underdog Cardinals. He threw for a school-record 438 yards, his last pass going 11 yards to Maurice Purify for the winning touchdown.

Keller, who had 389 yards on a school-record 36 completions in the 49-31 loss to Southern California the week before, is the first Nebraska quarterback to pass for more than 300 in consecutive games.

The 25th-ranked Huskers (3-1) go into Saturday's Big 12 opener against Iowa State (1-3) as the No. 12 passing team in the nation, with Keller averaging 319.5 yards.

Keller has completed 65.6 percent and thrown for seven touchdowns. A conference-high six interceptions has chinked his overall passer rating.

``He does not accept being good,'' Purify said. ``He wants to be great and he wants to get better and better every week. So I expect something bigger this week than last week.''

When Keller transferred from Arizona State last fall, he was hailed as an upgrade from last season's starter, Zac Taylor _ and Taylor was the Big 12's offensive player of the year.

Keller dutifully performed his scout team duties and laid low. He knew his time would come.

``You do not have the right to take leadership of a team until you have actually gone in and done something to back it up,'' Keller said. ``Now that I have a few games under my belt, I can assert myself where I'm needed. But there are enough leaders on the team where I am not the only one. There are a lot of guys. I only do it when it is necessary.''

It was necessary against Ball State, which owned leads of 10-7, 17-14, 24-21 and 37-28.

After halftime, the Huskers all but abandoned the run, and Keller completed 18 of 23 passes for 322 yards and three TDs.

``The game was moving so fast, and we had to answer quickly with the way they were putting points on the board,'' Keller said. ``That caused our passing to open up the game and keep the rate at what it was.''

Keller was at his best on the winning drive, completing all seven of his passes as the Huskers covered 82 yards in nine plays.

Nebraska may need Keller's arm a lot more if the running game goes nowhere. After rushing for 413 yards against overmatched Nevada, the Huskers have averaged 87 yards the past three games.

Keller said he's confident Nebraska can be a strong running team. The nature of the past three games has required Callahan to rely on the pass.

Of course, that's fine with Keller.

``If you are a good quarterback and you want to play, you have to have that little bit of 'I can complete every ball' mentality,'' Keller said. ``Throwing the ball is fun. That's my job, but my job is also to manage the offense. If it is running the ball that is getting it done, I am just as pleased doing that.''

Callahan said Keller's leadership shows up off the field. He spends hours studying video of coming opponents, often on his days off when he's supposed to be enjoying some of that personal ``Sam Time.''

Keller describes himself as a football junkie, his thoughts consumed with the sport when he's not asleep or in class.

``He's always wired up to get the next play and wants to know what we're going to do, how we're going to do it and what we have for him today,'' Callahan said. ``Here's a guy that loves football. He just loves football, and it's great to be around a guy like that.''