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No. 2 Nebraska 27, Colorado 24

Holding On: Huskers survive Colorado comeback

Ahman has another big day
AP Photo
Nebraska I-back Ahman Green (30) tries to break free of Colorado defender George Jones, bottom, as Damen Wheeler (2) moves in to assist on the tackle during second quarter action.

Making it close
AP Photo
Colorado wide receiver Robert Toler pulls in an 18-yard touchdown pass as Nebraska cornerback Ralph Brown tries to get to the ball during the fourth quarter. The score brought the Buffaloes to within three with 2:36 to play.

NU lockerroom somber after Buffs mount furious fourth-quarter assault

By Mike Kluck
The Independent

BOULDER, Colo. - There were no smiles, high fives or hugs exchanged by the Nebraska players and coaches as they left Folsom Field.

No watches or caps were given out proclaiming Nebraska as the Big 12 North Division champion.

It was even hard to realize the Cornhuskers had just swept up an perfect 11-0 regular season, just their fifth under coach Tom Osborne, completed an 8-0 conference season, won the Big 12 North title and kept their sights set on the Orange Bowl.

But it was the closeness the 27-24 victory over Colorado (5-6, overall, 3-5 in the Big 12) before 52,738 fans at Folsom Field that turned Husker smiles into frowns.

"In the locker room afterwards, the guys were somber and kind of moping around and it looked like we had kind of almost lost the game," Nebraska center Matt Hoskinson said. "I really didn't know how to react to something like this.

"I expected to win big and our team expected to win big. Some times that's not the most important thing, but that's a good characteristic of this team. Anytime that we step on the field with somebody, we want to take it to the house. We want to win big. We didn't do that today, and that's a tough thing to handle."

Nebraska had opportunities to win big. Three times in the fourth quarter with the Huskers leading 27-10, NU started drives on Colorado's side of the field. But it was unable to score and only produce 31 yards in offense.

On Nebraska's third series in the fourth quarter, junior I-back Ahman Green, who finished with 202 yards on 29 carries, fumbled the ball. Colorado senior strong safety Ryan Black recovered the ball to give the Buffs a first down at their own 25.

"We kept having little things happen," Nebraska senior quarterback Scott Frost said. "We missed a couple blocks, had a few penalties and fumbled the ball. Sometimes things just happened and we can't control them. We felt like if we played the way we are capable, we could have put up 40, 50, 60 points."

CU took advantage of the turnover and marched 77 yards in 1 minute, 43 seconds and scored when Colorado senior quarterback John Hessler hit sophomore receiver Marcus

Stiggers for a 32-yard touchdown to cut Nebraska's lead to 27-17 with 3:16 left in the game.

The Buffaloes on-sided the ensuing kickoff, which was caught by Nebraska sophomore T.J. Debates. But he fumbled the ball and Colorado recovered at its own 45.

Hessler went to work again by completing 3 of 4 passes, including an 18-yard touchdown strike to sophomore Robert Toler. The Buffs now trailed by three with 2:34 remaining.

"On offense, I am disappointed because we had a chance to go up 35-10 and put them away, but we didn't," Osborne said. "On defense, I am disappointed that we weren't able to stop them on two late drives.

"I feel fortunate to win this game. In one sense, we had several chances to put it away. They came at us late with everything they had. Their offense made some big plays. Our defense gave up some big plays. But in the end, the defense took it to them and put it away. We were very pleased to win this game."

Fullback dive
AP Photo
Nebraska fullback Joel Makovicka is tackled by Colorado defenders led by Ryan Sutter (36) as others including Ryan Black (6) move in to assist on the play during the second quarter.
The Buffaloes on-sided the kick again, but this time the ball went out of bounds to give Nebraska a first down at the CU 49.

However, Nebraska picked up nine yards, six coming on fullback Joel Makovicka's run on third down, before it faced a fourth and long one with 1:00 remaining.

After a Nebraska timeout, the Huskers appeared to be going for it on fourth down, but Frost was unsuccessful in drawing CU offside. Another timeout was called and NU's Jesse Kosch punted.

"Too far to go," Osborne said. "That would be a big mistake."

Kosch's punt rolled into the end zone to give the Buffs a first down on their 20 yard line.

A Hessler completion to senior Phil Savoy gave CU the ball at its own 36. After two incompletions, Savoy caught another pass for 14 yards, but was called for pass interference to negate the catch and give the Buffs a third-and-25 situation.

"I just tried to make a big play and I don't kown what happened," Savoy said. "The official said, 'too much contact.' I never expected him to call that, though."

After a third-down incompletion, Hessler hit Savoy for a 22-yard gain, but it was too short for the Buffoloes.

"We fought to get back into the game," Hessler said. "It would have been nice to have three more plays. I feel we have a two-minute offense."

Nebraska senior free safety Eric Warfield, who had an interception in the second quarter, said he thought the Colorado crowd helped get the Buffaloes back in the game.

"We know we can play better defense than we did versus Colorado, "Warfield said. "They have some good receivers. They have always had good receivers, and they made some great catches. Our defense was on the field quite a bit, but we stuck with it and came out with a win."

The second half produced two distinctly different quarters. In the fourth quarter, Colorado had the ball nearly eight minutes and produced 165 yards of offense.

While in the third quarter, the Huskers had the ball 11:05, outscored CU 17-7 and outgained the Buffs 234-109.

"I'm pleased in the bitter sort of way," Green said. "This game was it for Colorado. If they won then they go to a bowl, so we knew they would give it their best. It was important to get that lead in the third because with our defense, we knew it would be tough for them to catch up with us."

Green did all the running for Nebraska on its first drive of the second half. The Huskers opened with a two-play 80-yard drive that Green carried both times.

However, Colorado responded with a two-play, 80-yard drive of its own to cut the lead to 17-10.

NU scored again on its second possession when Green ran in from 11 yards out. On the drive, Frost hit senior Kenny Cheatam for a 31- yard pass play.

That play gave Frost more than 1,000 passing for the season. With his 76 yards rushing, he also has more than 1,000 carrying the ball. Frost became just the 12th Division 1-A quarterback to have rushed and thrown for 1,000 yards in a season.

Frost also scored a touchdown in the second quarter.


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Game Notes: The race for No. 1, breakout games, surprises and extra points

Game summary, statistics

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