Nebraska pounds Vols for share of No. 1




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Box Score | Game recap

MIAMI (Scripps Howard News Service) -- Tennessee's first taste of Nebraska football should be enough to last another hundred years or so.

The No. 2 Cornhuskers stated an impressive case for national championship consideration Friday night, thrashing UT 42-17 in the FedEx Orange Bowl.

The Vols, finishing the Peyton Manning Era at 11-2, began the evening ranked No. 3 and will have to wait until today to see how far they drop in the final vote.

Tennessee hung close for a half in its first-ever meeting with Nebraska and first Orange Bowl in three decades. But the Huskers (13-0) put the game away with 10 ruthless minutes to open the third quarter, expanding a 14-3 halftime lead to 28-3 with an awesome display of power football.

By the end of the third quarter, during which tailback Ahman Green rushed for 159 of his Orange Bowl-record 206 yards, the Cornhuskers were on top 35-9, and the Tennessee fans in the Pro Player Stadium crowd of 72,385 were heading home.

Manning spent his final collegiate game uneventfully, completing 21 of 31 passes for 134 yards. Limited to short throws by Nebraska's pass rush, he accounted for only 42 yards during the first half.

Tennessee's offense was largely irrelevant in the second half, considering the Nebraska onslaught. Manning's only touchdown pass, a 5-yarder to Peerless Price in the third quarter, cut the deficit to 28-9 and was answered by another Husker scoring drive.

Tee Martin got a head start on his future, taking over for Manning with 4:20 to play. Martin made the most of his only opportunity, leading an 80-yard scoring drive that ended with a 3-yard TD toss to Andy McCullough with only 58 seconds remaining.

Nebraska quarterback Scott Frost, meanwhile, rushed for three touchdowns. He was 9-of-12 passing for 125 and added 60 more rushing.

Nebraska game MVP Green had two scores. Wingback Shevin Wiggins got the other TD.

The Huskers, holding out slim hope of catching No. 1-ranked Rose Bowl winner Michigan in the polls, took the second-half kickoff and spent 12 plays ramming the ball 80 yards down Tennessee's throat.

The Vols weren't able to ever force a third down. Fullback Joe Makovicka's 24-yard run crossed into UT territory. Green accounted for 35 yards and Frost got the score on a 1-yard keeper.

Tennessee's offense, at this crucial juncture in momentum, had no answer. Manning was sacked on third-and-8 and Nebraska was back in business at its 27 after a Chris Hogue punt.

This time the numbers were six plays, 73 yards. Green got 43 of it on one romp and Frost scored on a 11-yard keeper.

Down 28-3, Tennessee finally reached the end zone on a 72-yard drive. Jamal Lewis had a 23-yard run to the Nebraska 5, from where Manning rolled out and hit Price.

The two-point conversion pass failed, as if it mattered. The Huskers raced 80 yards in four plays to go up 35-9.

Green got 47 on one swipe and three plays later, covered the final 22 for the touchdown.

Frost ran in a 9-yard keeper to make it 42-9 with 4:24 left.

All told, the Huskers outgained UT, 534 yards to 315.

Tennessee's statistical highlight was an Orange Bowl-record 52.3-yard punting average.

The Vols were fortunate to trail only 14-3 at the end of a first half that was a continuation of the error-riddled SEC Championship game. The yardage was a standoff -- 178 yards for Nebraska, 176 for UT -- but Tennessee handed Nebraska three turnovers, all of which were instrumental in the Cornhuskers' scores.

The first two series by each team were dominated by defense. Hogue's UT-bowl-record 78-yard punt to the Nebraska 2 was Tennessee's boldest stroke.

Tennessee got untracked on its third possession with an 18-yard pass to Andy McCullough into Nebraska territory. However, on a first down play from the Cornhuskers' 20, Lewis fumbled and Nebraska's Mike Rucker recovered.

The Huskers then marched 78 yards in eight plays to take the lead. Frost got 63 of it on three big pass completions.

A 25-yarder to tight end Sheldon Jackson on third-and-5 got the drive moving. Matt Davison had a 16-yard catch and Bobby Newcombe a 12-yarder. Green dived the final half-yard for the touchdown.

The turnover bug bit again. After a 26-yard run by Mark Levine across midfield, Jeremaine Copeland juggled a Manning pass, and Nebraska's Eric Warfield snatched the interception and ran 28 yards to the UT 26.

The Vol defense, however, wouldn't buckle. Jonathan Brown snuffed a reverse and Leonard Little sabotaged a screen pass. On fourth-and-27 from the 43, Nebraska punted.

Terry Fair, who fumbled away two punt returns in the SEC championship game, did it again and this time it cost Tennessee a touchdown.

Fair waved for a fair catch, but couldn't hold it and Nebraska recovered at the UT 15.

On third-and-5 at the 10, wingback Wiggins took a pitch from Frost and ran virtually unmolested for the score.

It was 14-0 with 11:28 left in the half and the Vols were sinking.

Manning strung together a couple of completions, enough to allow Jeff Hall to boom a 44-yard field goal into the wind to stem the Cornhuskers' momentum.

The defense held again and the Vols got the ball back with 5:24 on the clock. However, a three-and-out series put Nebraska back in position to add to its lead before the half.

The Huskers were on their way to doing just that, driving for a first down at the UT 14, when Frost fumbled on a hit by Fair. Brown recovered with 34 seconds left in the half.

A 26-yard run by Lewis and a 17-yard strike to Marcus Nash got Tennessee to the Nebraska 40 with 15 seconds left.

However, Copeland, after a reception at the 31, failed to get out of bounds and Tennessee couldn't stop the clock to line up a field goal or another pass.

When the teams left the field for the halftime show, little did anyone know that the storm was about to hit.

(Mike Strange writes for The News-Sentinel in Knoxville, Tenn.)


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