Nebraska sacked South Carolina’s Todd Ellis six times Saturday, and the No. 2 Cornhuskers got in some more licks after escaping with a 30-21 victory.
Ellis passed for two touchdowns, but he also threw three interceptions, including one to safety Mark Blazek that set up Nebraska’s clinching field goal.
It was the second straight close call for Nebraska against the underdog Gamecocks (2-2).
Ellis threw for 286 yards in last year’s game, but Nebraska safety Bryan Siebler intercepted his pass with 38 seconds left to preserve a 27-24 victory.
“Todd really likes Nebraska safeties,” Husker defensive coordinator Charlie McBride said after the game. “He’s thrown right at them two years in a row.”
Ellis also connected on touchdown pass plays of 35 yards to Ryan Bethea and 80 yards to Sterling Sharpe as the Gamecocks built a 21-13 lead midway through the third quarter before Nebraska rallied.
The Huskers (4-0) used 18 plays and 9 minutes to drive 96 yards and score on a 3-yard run by Keith (End Zone) Jones, who rushed for 51 yards in the drive. The Cornhuskers’ try for a two-point conversion failed, leaving South Carolina ahead, 21-19, with 9:58 remaining.
Nebraska linebacker Steve Forch then stripped the ball from Keith Bing on the second play after the kickoff, and the Huskers’ Jeff Tomjack recovered at the South Carolina 27. Nebraska scored four plays later on Jones’ 4-yard run, and he ran for the two-point conversion.
The Gamecocks marched to the Nebraska 39 before Blazek intercepted Ellis’ pass and raced 46 yards to the South Carolina 29. Four plays later, Chris Drennan kicked his third field goal, a 43-yarder.
Ellis was philosophical about Blazek’s interception.
“Toward the end of the game, they know what we’re going to do, and guys can kind of pin their ears back and come after me,” he said.
“People see passes downfield and they see the interceptions, but they don’t see the pressure and they don’t see me trying to make the big plays. Sometimes I’ve just got to make a judgment and throw it.”
Ellis finished with 17 completions in 36 attempts for 256 yards, but South Carolina was held to minus-14 yards rushing.
“Our defense overall did a great job,” Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne said. “We gave up some big plays, but they have some big play people.”
Jones finished with 129 yards rushing in 25 carries as the Cornhuskers rallied in the fourth quarter without starting quarterback Steve Taylor. Taylor, who combined with Richard Bell on a 78-yard touchdown play to give Nebraska a 13-7 halftime lead, was injured on the final play of the third quarter and left the game with a sore shoulder and headache.