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Sunday, October 11, 1998

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AP Photo
Texas A&M defender Sedrick Curry (18) intercepts a pass intended for Nebraska's Billy Kaafke (on ground) with less than a minute to play in the fourth quarter.
Aggies stifling defense, big offensive plays end Huskers streak

Story last updated at 12:21 a.m. on Sunday, October 11, 1998
By Terry Douglass
The Independent

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- With 10 months of revenge on its mind, Texas A&M set up a Texas-sized ambush for second-ranked Nebraska Saturday at Kyle Field.

The No. 18-ranked Aggies (5-1 overall and 2-0 in the Big 12 Conference) shocked the Cornhuskers (5-1 and 1-1) by building a 28-7 and then held on for a 28-21 upset victory before 60,798 fans. The loss marked the end of Nebraska's nation-best 19-game winning streak and 40-game regular-season conference victory string.

Nebraska defeated the Aggies 54-15 in the Big 12 championship game last December.

Saturday's loss was the first for Nebraska head man Frank Solich in his collegiate coaching career. Despite the setback, Solich said he was pleased with the way his team battled back.

"I think it was a tremendously hard-fought ballgame by both teams," Solich said. "I thought our players did a tremendous job at the end of putting themselves in position to make a great comeback. . .to possibly get it done."

Trailing 28-21, Nebraska took over at its own 20 on its final possession with two minutes on the clock and a chance to tie the game. The Cornhuskers were able to march to their own 45 before a holding penalty and ultimately a Sedrick Curry interception of a Bobby Newcombe pass attempt sealed the game.

"No question about it -- this is the biggest win of my career," said R.C. Slocum, who's in his 10th season as the Aggies' head coach. "This is a great win for what it does. It makes us 2-0 in the conference and we beat a team that has done what no one else in college football has done."

The Cornhuskers, who have won three of the past four national championships, were bidding for their 66th win in their last 69 games. Nebraska has enjoyed the best four- and five-year runs in college football history.

But the Huskers, who were 11-point favorites, didn't play like one of the nation's elite on Saturday.

"I will say that certainly they must have been better today because they beat us," Solich said. "I thought at the end, it could've ended up being anybody's ballgame with one more drive.

"I think you saw two good football teams, but we did not make enough big plays or sustain enough drives to win it."

Solich said he couldn't pinpoint any one area that cost Nebraska the game.

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AP Photo
Nebraska quarterback Bobby Newcombe is sacked by Texas A&M defender Cornelius Anthony during the first quarter.
"There was no one play, no one unit -- offense, defense, kicking game -- that caused the loss," Solich said. "I give a lot of credit to Texas A&M. I thought they played well. They played hard."

Nebraska's play in the first half was reminiscent of its effort the previous week against Oklahoma State when the Cornhuskers scored just three points and totaled 43 yards. Just four of those yards came on the ground.

NU managed to gain 90 yards in the first 30 minutes against A&M. But unlike the game against Oklahoma State, the Husker defense couldn't keep the first-half score tied.

Nebraska finished the game with 141 rushing yards, led by Newcombe's 56. The Husker quarterback also completed 15 of 27 passes for a career-high 204 yards.

The Aggies gained 239 yards of total offense to take a 14-7 lead at the intermission. A&M had 146 yards on the ground and had 93 more yards passing.

A&M didn't net a single second-half passing yards, but the Aggies didn't need it. The two-headed rushing attack of Dante Hall (113 yards) and Ja'Mar Toombs (110 yards) was enough.

"We did not make big plays early in the game and that caused us some problems," Solich said. "We gave it a good shot. We really gave the option game a good test in the first half, but we were really not producing any big plays. From that, they were starting to pressure us a little bit more."

The home team picked up its first score of the day on its second possession. On a third-and-26 play, A&M quarterback Randy McCown hit wide receiver Chris Taylor along the sideline for a completion that turned into an 81-yard touchdown pass.

That score put the Aggies ahead 7-0 with 7:05 left in the first half. The 81-yard TD pass marked the first points scored against the Nebraska defense this season and was the seventh-longest pass in A&M history.

Nebraska wasn't able to answer back until its second drive of the second quarter when Correll Buckhalter took an option pitch from Newcombe around the right end and dived into the end zone for a 7-yard score. Buckhalter's score capped the eight-play, 48-yard drive that was helped when A&M's Shane Lechler shanked a punt that traveled only 11 yards.

However, the Aggies regained the momentum before halftime when Hall bulled in from the 1 with 3:37 left in the second quarter. Toombs set up the TD, busting up the gut on a 71-yard run to the Huskers' 1. Toombs' effort was the longest run Nebraska has allowed this year.

The Cornhuskers looked to change their fortunes in the second half, but it wasn't in the cards. A&M increased its advantage to 21-7 on Nebraska's first possession when Newcombe was sacked -- for the third consecutive play -- and fumbled the ball deep in NU territory. Aggie Ron Edwards caused the fumble and teammate Warrick Holdman pounced on the ball in the end zone for a touchdown with 9:13 left in the third quarter.

"We had hoped that they would not be able to control the ball to a large degree and certainly we hoped to be able to keep them away from the big play," Solich said. "Unfortunately, I think the big play hurt us."

Nebraska looked to be headed for a score on its next drive only to come up short again. The Huskers used a 22-yard run by fullback Joel Makovicka to get to the A&M 18, but didn't score.

On a fourth-and-2 play from the Aggie 10, NU tried to pick up first-down yardage with a reverse. However, Shevin Wiggins was dropped in the backfield for a loss.

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AP Photo
Nebraska defender Erwin Swiney breaks up a pass intended for Texas A&M receiver Chris Cole during the first quarter.
"We had looked at the reverse for a good share of the game and it was there in the first half," Solich said. "We thought that with the way they were pursuing, we had a chance to maybe put it in the end zone.

"They did bring a (cornerback blitz) from the reverse side and that ended up being the guy that was in the face of the reverse man, so it ended up being the right call for the wrong play as far as we were concerned."

A&M scored what proved to be the winning touchdown on the first play of the fourth period as the 265-pound Toombs muscled his way in from three yards out. The run capped a 13-play, 86-yard drive that ate up 6:15. The march was keyed by Hall's 17-yard run to the Aggie 40 and quarterback Randy McCown's 33-yard run on a scramble to the Nebraska 7.

With 9:19 to play, the Cornhuskers started to make things interesting. Operating out of the hurry-up offense, Nebraska posted back-to-back scores to pull within seven points.

"We came out in different formations and really started running a hurry-up offense as we got early in the fourth quarter," Solich said. "That seemed to give us some life and give us the ability to move the ball on them."

NU got its first fourth-quarter TD when Newcombe scored on an 11-yard run with 8:08 to play. The 76-yard scoring trek was keyed by Newcombe's 39-yard pass completion over the middle to a streaking Matt Davison. The drive took just 1:11 off the clock.

After Nebraska's defense forced the Aggies to go three and out, Nebraska marched 66 yards to score on a 9-yard run by Makovicka with 4:39 play. The drive, which featured a 20-yard run on a quarterback draw by Newcombe, pulled the Huskers to within a touchdown following Kris Brown's extra point kick.

Nebraska appeared to be on the verge of getting the ball back with just over three minutes to play as Ralph Brown knocked down a McCown pass attempt on third down. But a late flag was thrown and Brown was called for pass interference, which gave the Aggies a first down.

"From my view point and certainly coming from a biased view, I didn't see any flags for a long period of time so I thought that the play was probably a very clean play," Solich said. "And I thought that the officials felt that way too, but it wasn't the case."

Despite two Nebraska timeouts, A&M was able to run the clock down to 2:00 before the Huskers could gain their final possession of the ball.

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