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September 17, 2011LINCOLN, Neb. - Another time, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini would have been enraged by his defense's performance.
Not this time.
No. 11 Nebraska defeated Washington 51-38 in a wild game Saturday in which the teams combined for 884 yards of offense - and the usually defensive-minded Pelini was all smiles.
He wouldn't say it during the week, but this game was about revenge.
``I would hope our football team took personal what happened out in San Diego, losing that football game,'' Pelini said. ``End of the day, we all wanted a win. I don't care what the score is.''
The Cornhuskers (3-0) won the third meeting of the teams in 364 days. Nebraska won 56-21 in Seattle last September but lost 19-7 in a rematch at the Holiday Bowl.
Taylor Martinez threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third in the fourth quarter that looked to put away the Huskies (2-1).
But the Huskies wouldn't quit in the mist at Memorial Stadium, with Keith Price passing 52 yards to James Johnson for his fourth TD toss to make it a 13-point game with 4:27 left.
``I think we could have easily cashed it in there when the game was out of hand,'' Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said, ``and I thought our guys competed for four quarters.''
The Huskies (2-1), who had their six-game winning streak ended, kept coming back after big mistakes allowed Nebraska to quickly increase its 20-17 halftime lead to 34-17.
Washington's Chris Polk ran 22 times for 130 yards, and Nebraska's Rex Burkhead had 22 carries for 120.
Price was 21 of 37 for 274 yards. He was intercepted twice, with his last one allowing Nebraska to go into victory formation with just over a minute to play.
Martinez completed 10 of 21 passes for 155 yards, and he ran for 83 yards on 17 carries.
It looked as if the Huskers would take control after Washington, as Sarkisian said, had a ``complete meltdown'' in the third quarter.
The Huskies gave Nebraska a short field when Desmond Trufant was penalized 15 yards for interfering with Burkhead as he tried to catch a punt, and they were charged another 5 yards for sideline interference.
Nebraska started at its 44 and ran on seven of eight plays before Burkhead bulled into the end zone from the 1.
The Huskers were set up at the Washington 1 seconds later. Bishop Sankey, a true freshman, dropped the kickoff, and teammate Kevin Smith couldn't come up with the ball as a horde of Huskers converged. Mathew May recovered, and Burkhead punched it in for his second touchdown in 9 seconds.
``It's a present in your hands,'' Burkhead said of Washington's turnover. ``It's a great feeling. You just scored a touchdown, and you realize you've got another opportunity right there.''
Pelini said it was a great effort by May, who lunged for the ball over teammate Eric Martin.
``You feel for that kid from Washington,'' Pelini said.
At the time, some Nebraska players thought the win had been secured.
``I didn't personally think we put them away,'' Martinez said, ``but I kind of think our team did.''
Linebacker Lavonte David said, ``We kind of let down a little bit.''
Nebraska was up 44-17 after Aaron Green's 6-yard TD run with 12:18 left, but within five minutes it was a 13-point game. Polk scored on a 2-yard run, and Price hit Johnson for a 10-yard TD.
"I'm proud of our football team for battling and competing and showing resolve," Sarkisian said.
``I didn't like the way we finished defensively,'' Pelini said. ``We relaxed a little and did a couple boneheaded things there at the end. But I like where we are right now. We're 3-0 and the process continues.''
Martinez threw for two touchdown passes in the first half, marking the second time in his career he has thrown for more than one TD in a game.
Martinez connected with Kenny Bell, who beat Quenton Richardson, for 50 yards on the game's first play from scrimmage before flipping a 3-yarder to fullback Tyler Legate for a touchdown. It was Nebraska's first on an opening series in nine games.
After Ameer Abdullah's 66-yard kick return set up the Huskers at the Washington 34 in the second quarter, Martinez threw a 25-yard TD pass to Green.
Washington copied from Fresno State's game plan a week ago against Nebraska and had Price roll the pocket to the outside. He and Jermaine Kearse teamed up for two touchdown passes, a 38-yarder on the Huskies' first series and a 6-yarder after Abdullah muffed a punt.
Nebraska has scored at least 40 points in each of its first three games for the first time since the 1995 national championship season.
``It was a good win for our football team,'' Pelini said. ``I told the team that the beautiful part about it is there's a lot more out there for us. We can get a lot better in every phase.''