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Published Saturday, November 25, 2000

Huskers game notes


Last modified at 10:33 a.m. on Monday, November 27, 2000
  

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Ye of Little Faith

LINCOLN -- Nebraska's 34-32 victory over Colorado on Friday will no doubt serve as one of the most remarkable comeback victories for the Cornhuskers in recent memory. Trailing 32-31 with 47 seconds to play, NU drove 47 yards to set up Josh Brown's game-winning 29-yard field goal as time expired.

While several Nebraska players said they never lost hope, the same couldn't be said for several red-clad fans that made a dash for the exits after Colorado went ahead on a 2-point conversion with less than a minute to play. The sight was more than a little disappointing to Nebraska senior I-back Dan Alexander. "When people started leaving and there were 47 seconds left, for me, it was kind of a downer," Alexander said. "It just kind of said to me that those people didn't think we could pull it off."

Nebraska head coach Frank Solich said he was pleased with the way the Huskers handled themselves in the game's final seconds. "There wasn't a guy out there that lost his composure, that was rattled or that didn't believe we had a chance to win that football game," Solich said. "Those are the kind of players you want to coach and those are the kind of players you want to be around, so I feel fortunate about that."

Nebraska I-backs Leave Mark

While they're not likely to be compared favorably to the likes of Mike Rozier, Ahman Green or Lawrence Phillips, Nebraska senior I-backs Correll Buckhalter and Dan Alexander will end their college football careers with very respectable spots in the Husker record book.

Buckhalter rushed for 750 yards and seven touchdowns this season, moving him from 21st to eighth on NU's all-time rushing chart with 2,522 career yards. Alexander, who began the year ranked 36th, rushed for 1,154 yards this year to finish 10th all time with 2,456 career rushing yards. Statistics from bowl games do not count toward season or career totals.

Alexander said he hopes people remember the I-back duo for more than just the yards they gained. "I hope we leave an example, not just a mark in the record books as far as career rushing yards, but I hope we leave a legacy of cooperation," said Alexander, who split time with Buckhalter throughout his career. "I hope people remember us for our teamwork and our camaraderie because that's something we've worked to build as running backs."

Writer Presented with Game Ball

You can try 100 times and you still won't be able to guess who received the game ball following Nebraska's win over Colorado. Ken Hambleton, a sports writer for the Lincoln Journal Star, was presented with the game ball prior to the start of Friday's postgame news conference. Hambleton has covered the Huskers for 25 years -- 18 years as the lead NU beat writer -- but is leaving his post to cover the Legislature next year for the Journal Star.

"Ken has been on the scene for a long, long time and he's a guy that I think and our staff feels has done his job," Solich said. "Sometimes, coaches and sports writers don't always see eye to eye -- that's the way it is, that's part of the game -- but we've always felt that Ken is a super guy and was always a fair guy."

Another Close Call

Nebraska a 25-point favorite over Colorado, yeah right. Recent history has shown that when the Cornhuskers and Buffs square off, it's going to be a fight to the finish. NU, which as won the last nine meetings between the two teams, has won the last five games by a total of 15 points. That includes last year's 33-30 overtime victory at Boulder, Colo.

Even though Colorado entered the game with a 3-7 record, Nebraska center Dominic Raiola said he fully expected another dogfight. "You can just throw the records out when these two teams play and just look at it being a rivalry and always a great game," Raiola said. "It's a red-letter day on the schedule, it's a national TV game and both teams always come well-prepared to play."

More Play-Calling Questions

Solich, who has received his share of criticism for the play-calling in Nebraska's losses to Oklahoma and Kansas State this season, made light of the situation on Friday. When asked about calling quarterback Eric Crouch's number on a keeper play in the closing seconds, Solich said, "Even with the headset on, I heard a few groans on that one. But the groans were there because they not only wanted a pass, but they expected a pass. We felt that Colorado expected a pass, too, and we felt that if Eric could've broken through he could've gotten a lot of yards."

Solich, who will reportedly receive a 3-year contract extension, said he doesn't get too concerned about the reaction of fans and media about the plays he calls. "I don't feel badly sometimes when a play doesn't go well and I don't jump up and down when a play goes well because I think I understand a little bit about how it works," Solich said. "When plays work, it seems like there's a thought that you're calling great plays. When plays don't work, it seems like there's a thought that you're not, but in all reality, sometimes plays that don't work could've been good calls, but based on what happened on the snap, sometimes it doesn't work."

2-Point Attempt No Surprise

Solich said Colorado's decision to go for a 2-point conversion with 47 seconds to play in the game came as no surprise. The Buffs briefly took a 32-31 lead when quarterback Craig Ochs hit Javon Green with a pass for the conversion over the outstretched hands of Husker defensive back Troy Watchorn.

"I thought that's what they would do and then when I saw (Colorado coach Gary Barnett) calling his team together on the sideline, every one of them, I knew exactly what they were going to do," Solich said. "It was not a surprise to us and I think it was a good call."

Barnett, known as somewhat of a gambler, said he didn't think twice about the decision. "We didn't come here to tie it and go into overtime," Barnett said. "We came here to win it. It didn't take me even an instant to even consider not going for two. We've had a 2-point play ready all year and hadn't really had a chance to use it, but we had a good play and we did."

Newcombe Gets in the Act

Nebraska senior wingback Bobby Newcombe has had a relatively quiet senior year and the trend was continuing against Colorado. But in the Huskers' final game-winning drive, Newcombe caught two passes for 30 yards, including a 17-yarder that gave his team the ball at the Buffs' 12-yard line with five seconds to play and set up the winning field goal.

"I think it's great that he was able to be a big contributor in this win," Solich said. "He's been a very unselfish player throughout his career. He's got excellent talent and we've tried as much as possible to utilize that, but when you're in a running system like we are, sometimes those guys aren't going to get the ball much."

Newcombe, who started last season as Nebraska's starting quarterback, finished the year tied for second on the team with 19 receptions for 249 yards. Solich said that he would've liked to have used Newcombe more -- just as he would've liked to have gotten more touches for All-Big 12 Conference tight end Tracey Wistrom and senior split end Matt Davison.

"We have a number of great play-makers on our team this year and really the great thing about it is that not one of them cried for the ball," Solich said. "Not one of them demanded more catches, more rushes or what have you. They were all OK with contributing in a manner that helps us win football games."

Sizing Up the Bowl Picture

Solich said Friday's victory over Colorado did little to clear up Nebraska's muddled bowl picture. "From what I understand, we're not out of a BCS bowl, but I also understand that there may be a few things that have to go our way," Solich said. "Where that actually puts us if we're not in a BCS bowl, I'm not real sure. I have not had direct contact with anybody. There's a lot going on right now and in what direction that will take us, I don't know."

Several college football analysts predict Nebraska will be headed for the Cotton Bowl at Dallas on Jan. 1, but a berth in the Holiday Bowl at San Diego is still a possibility. So is an at-large bid in one of the Bowl Championship Series bowls, which would be helped if Notre Dame and/or Virginia Tech suffer losses today.

Nebraska athletics director Bill Byrne said he was in no position to shed additional light on the subject. "Ask me tomorrow after the Notre Dame-USC game," Byrne joked. "Or, ask me next week after Oklahoma and Kansas State play, then I might be able to tell you a little more."

Polk Sticks to His Word

Nebraska defensive coordinator Craig Bohl should've known what was going to happen when Husker middle linebacker Carlos Polk picked off an Ochs pass in the first quarter and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown. Polk, who jokes with teammates and coaches that he has the "best hands in the country," scored and spiked the ball in the end zone, drawing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Polk had warned Bohl of what would happen if he ever scored a TD. That didn't mean Polk wasn't expecting to get chewed out once he came back to the Nebraska sideline. "When I was walking to the sidelines, I felt like I was walking the Green Mile because that was a long run over there," Polk said, laughing. "I was looking for coach and when I finally saw coach Bohl and coach Solich, they were smiling, so a big weight was lifted off my back."

Husker Extra Points

Friday's victory over Colorado gave Nebraska its 32nd consecutive season with nine or more wins. Š Unofficially, Polk finished with five tackles to give him a team-best 88 for the season. He has 225 career tackles at Nebraska to rank 14th all-time. Š Husker rush end Kyle Vanden Bosch led his team with a career-best nine tackles, while senior safety Clint Finley added a career-best eight stops. Š In just his second start, Husker cornerback DeJuan Groce had three pass breakups, giving him 17 for the season. His total bettered the old single-season school record of 15 set by All-American Ralph Brown in 1999. Š Each one of Tracey Wistrom's team-high 19 receptions this season went for either a touchdown or a first down. Š Josh Brown, who made the winning field goal, finished the season 60 of 60 on point-after kicks and has made 99 straight. Kris Brown (1996-98) set the school record of 125 consecutive PATs. Š The 155-yard rushing total by Colorado's Cortlen Johnson was the ninth best individual rushing effort of all time against NU. Š Nebraska injuries included: Polk (sprained right knee and sprained right ankle), backup linebacker T.J. Hollowell (sprained left knee) and tackle Jason Schwab (sprained foot). None of the injuries were thought to be serious.

--Terry Douglass



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