September 8, 2013 2:35:37 AM
LINCOLN, Neb. -- A familiar start turned into a familiar finish for the University of Southern Mississippi football team.
Allan Bridgford had his second pass intercepted and returned 43 yards for a touchdown, starting USM on its way to a 56-13 loss to No. 22 University Nebraska on Saturday night.
Last week, USM fell behind early on a fumble recovery Texas State University ran back 44 yards for a score.
After committing six turnovers in their opener, Bridgford and Nick Mullens combined for four interceptions against the Huskers.
Bridgford's second pick was returned 22 yards for a touchdown and put USM in a 21-3 hole late in the first quarter.
"I'm disappointed in the way we played to start the football game," Eagles coach Todd Monken said. "When you come to a tough place to play and start the opening series and get a first down and then turn the ball over, let alone it leads to a score. It is the second week in a row that we have done that early in the game. It really makes it difficult coming back from that."
Stanley Jean-Baptiste ran back the first interception for Nebraska and Ciante Evans the second.
Taylor Martinez threw for three touchdowns and Ameer Abdullah ran for two more for the Cornhuskers (2-0), who now turn their attention to next week's home game against No. 18 UCLA.
The Golden Eagles (0-2) lost their 14th straight, the longest losing streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Nebraska held USM (0-2) to 284 total yards. It was Nebraska's most picks in a game since it had five against the University of Idaho in 2010.
Abdullah went over 100 yards for the second straight game, finishing with 114 on 17 carries, and the Huskers generated 285 yards on the ground.
The Huskers finished off the Golden Eagles after Bridgford's 41-yard touchdown pass to Bradley made it 35-13 early in the third quarter.
Kenny Bell ran back the kickoff 63 yards, and Abdullah scored from 37 yards on the next play.
Evans intercepted Bridgford on the first play of USM's following possession, and Martinez threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Sam Burtch to make it 49-13.
That was it for Martinez, who completed 15 of 23 passes for 170 yards. Ron Kellogg III and Tommy Armstrong Jr. quarterbacked the Huskers the rest of the way.
Nebraska's two interception returns for touchdowns marked the first time the Huskers have had two defensive scores in a game since they had two picks for TDs against Idaho in 2010.
Jean-Baptiste was recruited as a receiver and switched to cornerback early his sophomore season. It's been a good move. The senior has two interceptions in two games and five for his career. Last year he ran back a pick for a TD against Minnesota.
Evans also has two picks this season, and the touchdown was his first since he ran back an interception against Idaho State University last year.
Nebraska's defense needed a boost of confidence after Wyoming skewered it for 28 plays of 10 yards or longer last week. The Huskers tinkered with the lineup, starting junior-college transfer Randy Gregory at end, freshman Josh Banderas at middle linebacker and Nathan Gerry as an extra defensive back in the dime package. Nebraska hadn't started a true freshman on defense since Evans in 2010.
USM totaled 132 yards in the first quarter and had a touchdown erased by a penalty. The Huskers limited the Eagles to 94 yards over the second and third quarters and began substituting in the fourth.
Bridgford, who threw for 377 yards last week in a loss to Texas State, was 21 of 35 for 222 yards. But Bridgford and the Eagles, who turned over the ball six times last week, couldn't overcome the four interceptions -- the last one thrown by Nick Mullens.
The game started a stretch of three straight road games for USM, which goes to the University of Arkansas next week and to Boise State University on Sept. 28.
The schedule originally called for USM to host the Huskers in Hattiesburg, but the Eagles agreed to move the game to Lincoln in exchange for $2.1 million.