Penalties are red flag for Huskers heading into Oregon game

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Nebraska has four personal fouls and four unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in its first two games, a major red flag as the Cornhuskers prepare for this week's home matchup with No. 22 Oregon.

The Huskers (2-0) outscored Fresno State and Wyoming by a combined 95-27, so the penalties didn't have much bearing on the outcomes.

But what if the 15-yard penalties keep piling up on Saturday?

''No, no, not this game,'' defensive lineman Carlos Davis said, waving off the question Monday. ''We've got to keep the penalties to a minimum for this game.''

Three personal fouls came in the 52-17 win over Wyoming in a continuation of a pattern from last year, when the Huskers had 12 personal fouls and eight unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in their 13 games.

Oregon (2-0) has penalty problems of its own. The Ducks average the eighth-most penalty yards in the nation, at 94 a game, and the Huskers the 15th-most, at 86.5. The Ducks had four personal fouls in their 44-26 win over Virginia after none in their opener against UC Davis.

''Too many silly penalties, too many things we can control,'' coach Mark Helfrich said. ''So that's the double-edge sword. It's great to win and great to do a lot of good things. It's frustrating when the easy stuff is stubbing our toe.''

Two of Nebraska's personal fouls against Wyoming were committed by defensive linemen - Davis for roughing the passer and Ross Dzuris for a late hit - and the other by offensive lineman Nick Gates for unnecessary roughness.

Coach Mike Riley responds to avoidable penalties such as those by pulling the offending player out of the game immediately and discussing with him how his actions hurt the team.

''You start with the idea that you educate them,'' Riley said. ''In this time right now, the protection of the quarterback or a person deemed defenseless is a major, major issue.''

On Davis' roughing-the-passer penalty, the 15 yards tacked on at the end of the play put Wyoming on the Huskers' 12-yard line, and the Cowboys kicked a field goal. Davis said he got a brief lecture from Riley when he reached the sideline.

''Look where they are, look at their position,'' the coach said, according to Davis.

Safety Nate Gerry was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after intercepting a pass with Nebraska leading 38-17 early in the fourth quarter. His offense: flipping the ball at Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen as he got up from being tackled.

''I got up and thought it was the referee,'' Gerry said. ''I was so pumped, I threw the ball into a white shirt, and it was the wrong guy.''

Riley wasn't impressed.

''We've got to eliminate it,'' he said. ''Those things changed the game the other day, and we ended up winning comfortably, but it wasn't comfortable for a long time and we were our own worst enemy in a lot of that.''

---

Online:

AP college football website: http://collegefootball.ap.org

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.