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Sunday, November 10, 2002

NU tough on KU punt team

Huskers block 2 kicks; Kansas changes snapper

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— After suffering a concussion last week against Texas, Nebraska rover Lannie Hopkins returned to action against Kansas showing no ill effects.

Hopkins deflected a Curtis Ansel punt in the first half and blocked one in the second half that Aaron Terpening returned 30 yards for a touchdown.

"I just found a crease, and was able to get to the punter," Hopkins said. "It's nice to get the two blocked punts, but I just want to do whatever I can to help this team."

Hopkins' deflection in the first quarter resulted in a 26-yard punt out of bounds at the Kansas 47-yard line.

"I got a low snap," Ansel said, "and I just tried to get it off. He happened to get a hand on it."

Nebraska couldn't score on the ensuing drive, but DeJuan Groce returned Ansel's next punt 24 yards to the Kansas 47. Jammal Lord threw a 27-yard completion to Wilson Thomas in the end zone as the Cornhuskers took a 21-7 lead.

Nebraska gained 116 yards on eight punt returns. Groce accounted for five returns for 61 yards.

Ansel said he was trying to kick away from the returners instead of punting to them and letting the cover team make a tackle.

Ansel didn't get a chance to kick at or away from anyone on Hopkins' block in the third quarter, the first time Ansel was blocked this year. The ball flew right at Terpening, who had only a teammate between himself and the end zone.

"It was just a routine block," Hopkins said. "The guy wouldn't let me counter in the whole night. He just stayed in, so I just went out and I blocked it."

Ansel averages 42.5 yards per punt and is a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Punter of the Year Award, but the punting team has had problems the past two games with low snaps and blocking. Coach Mark Mangino replaced long snapper Greg Nicks with Andy Coffman late in the second quarter. It was Coffman's first game action of the year.

"The last two weeks the punt team has kind of been our nemesis," said Mangino. "We had been pretty good at it all year."

After last week's injury, the Cornhuskers are just glad to have Hopkins back for the rest of the year.

"He's an exciting player," Terpening said. "I'm glad I'm not on the wing trying to block him on the other team, because he's hard to block."

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