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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Taylor: It’s all KU’s fault

Nebraska QB calls Kansas debacle his turning point

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— Zac Taylor's career at Nebraska can be divided in two - before and after the Kansas game of 2005.

The No. 21 Cornhuskers have won six of seven since getting embarrassed 40-15 in Lawrence last November. When the Huskers (3-1) open Big 12 play at home against Kansas (3-1) on Saturday night, they'll enter the game off their best seven-game stretch since 2003.

Taylor said "something clicked" for him after the Jayhawks beat Nebraska for the first time since 1968.

He's completed 64 percent of his passes in the last seven games, with 15 touchdowns and four interceptions in 194 attempts.

"This is the most confident and comfortable I've felt the whole time I've played football," Taylor said Tuesday.

Taylor acknowledges that he struggled to grasp the West Coast offense after he transferred from Butler County (Kan.) Community College. He won the starting job over 2004 starter Joe Dailey.

The Kansas debacle was the low point. It was the Huskers' third straight loss and dropped them to 5-4. In those nine games, Taylor had hit 54 percent of his passes, with 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Taylor heads into Saturday having completed 71 percent of his passes and averaging 218 yards a game. He's thrown for eight touchdowns, been intercepted twice and is third nationally in passing efficiency.

Taylor said his goal is to complete 65 to 70 percent for the season.

"If I just play smart, I have a good opportunity to do that," he said. "We're going to play some good defenses. That said, people are going to always be open in this offense."

Why?

"On most plays, we're going to have at least four guys going out for a route," Taylor said. "Defenses can cover four guys, but a lot of teams tend to keep the backs uncovered. It takes discipline for a quarterback to come off your first three guys and come back and hit that guy."

Taylor said he's gotten better at finding those open receivers because of the NFL-style coaching he's received from ex-Raiders coach Bill Callahan and offensive coordinator Jay Norvell.

"In high school, you're throwing the ball and not looking at the defense," Taylor said. "Now I'm really well-coached. They're really on me about hitting my backs and knowing what coverage the defense is in."

Unlike last year, Taylor said, he's willing to settle for the safe short pass instead of forcing the ball down the field.

"You can take the 6-yard completions and you'll move the ball," he said. "That's the thing you see when you look at old film of (Rich) Gannon and Tom Brady. Tom Brady might hit three checkdowns on a drive and get 4 or 5 yards on a play. Second-and-6 isn't bad to be in. That's something I'm trying to learn from."

Taylor's worst outing was in the 28-10 loss at Southern California on Sept. 16. Callahan relied on the run against the Trojans, and Taylor completed just 8-of-16 passes for 115 yards.

He came back last week to hit 14-of-17 for 268 yards and a touchdown in a 56-0 win over Troy.

Taylor will be in position to put up more big numbers against a Kansas defense that is 95th against the pass (231.5 ypg).

"We really know our team's identity and we're really playing well together," Taylor said. "We've made some mistakes, but we're making great progress. It was tough to see that progress at this point last year."

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