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Field goal on final play helps Nebraska edge past
By BOB SCHALLER
For the Star-Herald
LINCOLN Everything seemed all right for Colorado, despite its troubled season.
Everything seemed down the drain for Nebraska, which was headed for its third loss in four
Oh, how long the final minute lasted.
The Huskers salvaged a decent bowl and the Buffs season ended as Josh Browns
29-yard field goal sailed through the uprights as time expired, propelling Nebraska past
CU, 34-32, Friday at Memorial Stadium.
The games against Colorado, not only in the last two years, but the last several
years, have been games that have just come down to the end, NU coach Frank Solich
said. This game was certainly one that came right down to the final seconds of the
game. Im very proud of our football team. Theyve always been the type of
players who have never quit. They never quit in this game. Theyve never quit in a
season. Those that have been here for a while have never quit in their career.
Im really especially pleased for those guys (seniors), that they were able to
pull one out like they did. When youre in a situation as we were right at the very
end, nine out of 10 people tell you, You cant do it. If you say you can
do it, you have a chance to get it done and I think thats what our players said at
that given time.
It became obvious in the last quarter that possibly whoever had the ball last was
probably going to win the game. Both teams in special teams did some very good things, but
also made a few mistakes. But in the end, it comes down to a few plays, and we were able
to make a few plays at the very end.
Browns missed field goal earlier in the game loomed large. But he didnt get
I had previously made one from that side of the field during the game, so its
definitely something I went over in my mind, Brown said. Its actually a
kick that I do a lot in practice from that distance. I dont think there was any
doubt. I felt good going out there. I think I was equipped for this game. I didnt
think it would come down to this, but Im actually kind of happy that it did.
Colorado took the lead with an impressive drive by true freshman quarterback Craig Ochs,
who completed 6 of 8 passes on the Buffs final drive. Ochs, who finished the day 25
of 41 for 254 yards, two interceptions and two touchdowns, was calm while leading the
Buffs 68 yards on 11 plays.
I was surprised they came down the field that easily, Nebraska linebacker
Carlos Polk said.
A two-point conversion pass put CU ahead, 32-31, with 47 seconds left.
I thought thats what they would do, and when I saw him calling his team
together on the sideline, every one of them, I knew exactly that thats what they
were going to do, Solich said. It was not a surprise to us. I think it was a
Then, NU caught a break when Colorado chose to squib kick the ball short, and
on the ground. But third-team I-back Dahrran Diedrick fielded the ball cleanly and
returned it to the Nebraska 41-yard line, setting up the winning drive.
Thats what we expected might happen, Solich said. We had told
those guys in the fullback position and the tight end position that if the ball is kicked
on the ground and you pick it up, get as much as you can but work your way to the sideline
and try to get out of bounds. Those are tough kicks to field.
Husker quarterback Eric Crouch, who ran for 125 yards on 20 carries and completed 11 of 17
passes for 139 yards and no interceptions, went to work through the air on the final
He threw incomplete to Matt Davison, but followed with 6-yard and 9-yard completions to
John Gibson. On first down and 10 from the CU 44-yard line, Crouch hit Bobby Newcombe, who
hadnt had a whiff of the ball all game, for a 13-yard completion. Crouch then ran
for two yards to the Colorado 29-yard line on the following play.
Solich, who has taken a lot of heat for his play calling this season, knew the call to run
the ball would draw criticism.
Even with the headset on, I heard a few groans, Solich said. I felt if
Eric couldve broken through, wed have had enough yards for the field goal.
Everyone was thinking pass so was CU.
Crouch then hit Newcombe with a 17-yard pass to the CU 12-yard line, setting up
Browns game winner. Having Newcombe play such a key role in the game meant a lot to
I think its great that he was able to be a big contributor in this win,
Solich said. Hes been a very unselfish player throughout his career. Hes
got excellent talent. Weve tried as much as possible to utilize that. When you
consider yourself in a running system like we are, sometimes those guys arent going
to get the ball much.
We had a number of playmakers on our football team this year, and really the great
thing about it is not one of them cried for the ball. We have things designed for Bobby to
be a more important part of, but there are just some things youre given in a game
and some things that youre not, and you try to take what theyre giving you and
you try to build off that a little bit.
Colorado finished with 28 first downs, compared to 23 for Nebraska. The Huskers had 435
yards of total offense, while CU had 451. Nebraska rushed for 296 yards and threw for 139,
while Colorado rushed for 210 yards and threw for 197, a good portion of which came on the
Dan Alexander rushed for 98 yards on 16 carries.
Colorado was led by Cortlen Johnsons 155 yards on 26 carries. Ochs favorite
target was John Minardi, who caught six passes for 85 yards. Javon Green had five catches
for 57 yards.
Nebraska got on the scoreboard first when, on CUs second play from scrimmage, Polk
intercepted Ochs and returned the ball 39 yards for a touchdown.
The Huskers were able to overcome several first-quarter mistakes, including a
roughing-the-passer penalty, a kickoff that went out of bounds, a blocked punt (CU missed
a field goal) and Crouchs wayward pitch to Alexander.
Nebraska made its own luck when Randy Stella blocked a CU field goal and Chris Kelsay
returned it to the CU 27-yard line. Crouch ran for a touchdown on the next play to put NU
The Huskers did finally give up a 32-yard field goal to Mark Mariscal, and CU scored again
before the half and then in the third quarter to go up 17-14. Nebraska answered with 5:39
left in the third when Crouchs 2-yard touchdown run put the Huskers in the lead,
21-17, after a 12-play, 75-yard drive that lasted 4:18.
But Johnson answered, running in from 1 yard out to cap a 77-yard, 14-play drive that
lasted 6:22 and put Colorado ahead 24-21 with 14:17 left in the game.
Brown nailed a 20-yard field goal to tie the game at 24-24 with 9:22 left. Nebraska looked
to be in control just four minutes later. Keyuo Craver blocked a field goal and Chris
Kelsay returned it 12 yards to the NU 43. Crouch ran in from 26 yards out four plays later
and the Huskers were ahead, 31-24, with 5:20 left.
Colorado answered, though, driving 68 yards in 11 plays. Ochs hit Minardi with a 14-yard
touchdown pass, making the score 31-31. Colorado went for two and it paid off, with CU
taking the lead, 32-31, before the Huskers last-minute heroics.