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Nebraska beats Colorado on final play
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Nebraska beats Colorado on final play

By BLAIR KERKHOFF - The Kansas City Star
Date: 11/24/00 22:15

LINCOLN, Neb. -- A crushing loss to Nebraska the day after Thanksgiving has become as traditional for Colorado as the turkey sandwich.

The Cornhuskers spoiled what would have been a Buffaloes' victory with a 34-32 win when Josh Brown nailed a 29-yard field goal on the game's final play.

Emotions spilled over on the field as teammates swamped Brown and celebrated the rare nail-biter at home, where the ninth-ranked Cornhuskers, 9-2, have lost only twice since 1990.

Instead of salvaging a dreadful season, the Buffaloes, 3-8, crumpled to the turf in anguish over the monumental upset loss. Colorado coach Gary Barnett had won his gamble when the Buffs tacked on a two-point conversion after their touchdown with 47 seconds remaining for a 32-31 lead.

Finally, after years of taking a favored Nebraska team into the fourth quarter only to fall short, Colorado stood poised to cash in. A late missed field goal last year prevented a Buffs' triumph. The previous three years, Colorado was in a position to win in the fourth quarter but didn't.

But this one didn't happen either for the Buffaloes because Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch maintained his poise, split end Bobby Newcombe got involved and Brown tuned out all his teammates who were telling him to relax.

All except Nebraska center Dominic Raiola.

"He just told me to go out there and do my job," Brown said. "Not in a mean way, more business-like."

Brown got his chance because Nebraska had taken care of business. It started when up back Dahrran Diedrick deftly handled a hard squib kick attempt and returned it to the 41.

Four plays, including Newcombe's first reception, got Nebraska to the 29 with 10 seconds and no timeouts left. From there, Brown would have attempted a 47-yarder, stretching his range.

But Crouch fired a 17-yard strike to Newcombe, who got out of bounds at the 12 with 5 seconds to play.

"There wasn't a doubt in anybody's mind that we were going to put ourselves in a position to win," Crouch said.

For Brown, two weeks of frustration went into the kick. He had missed a 28-yarder in the Cornhuskers' loss to Kansas State that knocked Nebraska out of the Big 12 title chase. That kick came in the second quarter as the Huskers went on and lost 29-28, and Brown carried the burden.

"I had guys away from campus get in my face and told me I was a loser," Brown said. "It took me a while to get over that."

It may take Colorado longer to get over Friday's loss. Quarterback Craig Ochs' first pass of the game was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by Carlos Polk, and the Buffs dug an early 14-0 hole.

But once Ochs found a rhythm, Nebraska was powerless to stop him. He guided an offense that got a huge charge from Cortlen Johnson's 155 rushing yards, and generated four touchdown drives. Four other possessions ended in missed field goals, including two that were blocked.

Nebraska had taken a 31-24 lead with 5:20 remaining on the third of Crouch's touchdown runs. It was then that Ochs was at his best. He marched the Buffs to the end zone, capping the drive with a 15-yard floater to John Minardi with 53 seconds remaining.

Now the choice: Kick the extra point and think overtime, or seize the moment and play for the victory. Barnett called a timeout, huddled with the entire team and pledged the opportunity for victory.

"I wanted to win it," Barnett said. "We didn't come here to tie it and go into overtime. It didn't take me an instant to consider going for two."

Ochs found his surest hands, wide receiver Javon Green sprinting across the end zone. The bullet pass just eluded Nebraska defensive back Troy Watchorn and, finally, the shackles of an eight-game losing to Nebraska were about to fall off.

Instead, the Huskers came up with a rarity of their own. Brown's kick marked the first time in the 40 years that Nebraska has kept such records that the Huskers won a game in regulation on a last-play field goal.

The last time Brown made one to end a game was during his eight-man days in Foyil, Okla.

"A 61-yarder to win by 45, which was the slaughter rule," Brown recalled of that kick. "This one's a little different."

All content © 2001 The Kansas City Star