If there was any question about Nebraska's motivation going into the Holiday Bowl, it was answered within the first couple minutes of the game. Matt O'Hanlon, playing in his last game as a Husker, intercepted a Nick Foles pass on the third play of the game, and returned it to the Arizona five-yard line. Two plays later, Zac Lee scored the only points Nebraska would need as they blanked Arizona 33-0. The score took only 75 seconds, the fastest score in Holiday Bowl history, one of many Holiday Bowl records Nebraska would set.
The quick score was the start of a good performance by an offense that sputtered all season. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson ditched the conservative heavy formations, instead spending most of the night in a spread formation. Zac Lee had a good night, going 13-for-23 for 173 yards passing and a touchdown. Lee ran with more determination than he'd shown previously this season, picking up 65 yards on 18 carries and scored that early touchdown.
At the start of the second quarter, Burkhead ran for 34 yards out of the Wildcat formation, a new wrinkle by Watson. Tossing away conservative play-calling, on the next play Niles Paul picked up 20 yards on a reverse. After a couple short runs by Lee and Burkhead, Lee hit Paul for a 23-yard gain. Then Burkhead scored on the ground from the five yard-line as Nebraska took a 17-0 lead.
The Blackshirt defense was simply dominating. By the second quarter, Arizona looked shell-shocked and lifeless, and by half-time their offense had managed only ten yards and one first down. The third quarter wasn't much better as they managed 17 total yards with another first down. Wildcat quarterback Foles was harassed all night and sacked twice, one of those being crunched by a combination of Ndamukong Suh, Jared Crick, and Barry Turner. Noles would finish the night 6-for-20 for 28 yards and an interception.
The Wildcats ended up with 109 total yards of offense, with 72 of that coming on their last drive. They had the fewest points (0), yards (109), offensive plays (51), and first downs (6) along with having the most punts (9), in Holiday Bowl history. The game was the first-ever shutout for the Holiday Bowl in it's 32-year history, and the first-ever for a Big 12 team in a bowl game, an honor fitting one of the best defenses in Husker football history.
Alex Henery got into the record-setting zone by kicking a Holiday Bowl record four field goals from 47, 50, 41, and 22 yards.
A Holiday Bowl beatdown was a perfect ending for several Husker players who had seen their share of diversity over the past three years, and it's already a Happy New Year for Husker fans as they head into the offseason thinking of what lies ahead rather than what could have been. Despite the loss of some great players, Nebraska should be highly-ranked and heavily-favored as Big 12 title contenders next season. That should be enough to start 2010 off with a cheery attitude. The only sad note is that the next season is several months away.