After Close Call At Wake, Huskers Gird For Trojans

Sunday, September 9th 2007, 6:43 pm
By: News On 6

After escaping Wake Forest with a narrow victory, Nebraska can now turn its full attention to Saturday's long-awaited meeting with Southern California.

The Trojans will be the first top-ranked opponent to visit Memorial Stadium in Lincoln since Oklahoma in 1978.

``Everybody's saying this is the biggest weekend in Lincoln ever, and that Hollywood's coming to town,'' safety Ben Eisenhart said.

Eisenhart, a walk-on from Culbertson, Neb., compared the Trojans with the Cornhusker teams he grew up watching in the mid 1990s. Those Nebraska teams earned all or part of three national titles in four years and won a school-record 26 consecutive games while going 60-3 from 1993 to 1997.

The Trojans, who won national championships in 2003 and 2004, come to Lincoln with the swagger that goes along with winning 60 of their last 66 games since 2002.

``They say that's how Nebraska was to everybody,'' Eisenhart said, hearkening to the 1990s. ``They've got good players, we've got good players. We're just going to line up and going to play and see what happens.''

Just like last year, the game will be used as a measuring stick for Nebraska's progress under fourth-year coach Bill Callahan.

Last year in Los Angeles, the Trojans limited Nebraska to 211 total yards while winning 28-10. The Huskers managed only 68 rushing yards on 36 carries, an average of 1.9 yards per carry, and Callahan was criticized for being too conservative in his offensive game plan.

The 14th-ranked Huskers will face the Trojans on Saturday with a quarterback who has played against them twice before.

Sam Keller, who transferred from Arizona State last year, entered the Sun Devils' 45-7 loss in 2004 in relief of ASU starter Andrew Walter. Keller completed 2 of 3 passes for 20 yards.

Keller started against the Trojans in 2005 and staked the Sun Devils to a 21-3 halftime lead. But Keller was intercepted five times and sacked five times, and USC outscored the Sun Devils 35-7 in the second half to win 38-28.

Saturday, Keller was 24 of 41 for 258 yards and a touchdown in Nebraska's 20-17 win at Wake Forest. One of his two interceptions came deep in his own territory, but the Nebraska defense got a pickoff of its own to preserve a three-point lead in the middle of the fourth quarter.

``Coming out of a fight like that, with a win, that's something to get on the plane and feel good about,'' Keller said.

When then-No. 1 Oklahoma visited Nebraska in 1978, the Huskers won 17-14 for Tom Osborne's first win in six tries against the Sooners.

For Callahan, this is his opportunity for a breakthrough victory. Nebraska and USC have combined for 16 national titles and eight Heisman Trophy winners. USC won 31-21 in its only previous visit to Lincoln in 1969.

``I think the game against SC is pretty well established, pretty well talked about in our part of the country,'' Callahan said. ``We're going to have to have our best effort on Saturday night.''