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Brown's kick answers Huskers' prayers

By Tom Kensler
Denver Post Sports Writer

Nov. 25, 2000 - LINCOLN, Neb. - Nebraska players on the sideline didn't quite know what to do with themselves Friday while teammate Josh Brown lined up for a do-or-die attempt at a 29-yard field goal. Nobody in the Cornhuskers' football program had been in this situation before.

Nebraska sports information officials believe Brown's 3-pointer that beat Colorado 34-32 marked the first time the Cornhuskers had won a game on the final play of regulation since at least 1960 - as far back as play-by-play game accounts have been kept on file.

Close games aren't supposed to happen to Nebraska, especially at Memorial Stadium. Everybody on both sides felt helpless as Brown ran onto the field.

When in doubt, pray.

"There was a lot of that going on," said Cornhuskers defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, a senior playing in his final home game. Defensive tackle Loran Kaiser hollered at Vanden Bosch. Kaiser, also a senior, wanted somebody to hold his hand.

Helped by the terrific field position after Colorado's short squib kickoff, Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch moved the Cornhuskers 47 yards in six plays to set up Brown's game-winner. Crouch completed four passes in the drive, including two Bobby Newcombe, the senior wide receiver who came to Nebraska as a quarterback but lost the job to Crouch.

After hitting Newcombe for 13 yards to the Colorado 31, Crouch ran for 2 yards on a keeper that forced the Cornhuskers to burn their final timeout with 10 second remaining.

Crouch made it easier on Brown when he completed a pass for 17 yards to Newcombe, who was open on a sideline route. The clock stopped with five seconds remaining when Newcombe stepped out of bounds at 12.

"We didn't expect that Colorado's defense was going to give us anything," Crouch said. "But there was no doubt in our mind that we'd be able to get in position to win the game."

When there was time for only one final play, Huskers offensive tackle Russ Hochstein heard the coaches and captains plead for the entire team to hold hands as Brown attempted the 29-yard kick.

"They were yelling: 'Lock up! Everybody lock up!'" Hochstein said. "I can't remember anybody saying that before during a game."

Nebraska coach Frank Solich was as nervous as anyone. He intended to say something to Brown before the kick but couldn't find him.

"I wanted to calm Josh down, but he was already on the field; he was excited," Solich said.

That was probably best. Football coaches never feel comfortable around kickers, whose fragile psyche is susceptible to bad vibes and harsh comments, not to mention any pressure. A comment made by Solich could have backfired. Words of encouragement are better served from teammates.

Hochstein, who comes out during kicking situations, passed Brown as he was running off the field.

"I pointed at Josh and gave him a high-five and said, 'Get it done,'" Hochstein said. "He said, 'You betcha.'"

Solich said afterward that he couldn't be more proud of a player than he is of Brown, who missed a 32-yard attempt in the second quarter. Brown, a sophomore, had made only 3 of 7 field-goal attempts this season.

"Josh is an excellent kicker, but kickers are going to miss some," Solich said. "If you go into the tank because you miss some, you shouldn't be a kicker."

Brown missed a 28-yard attempt in the 29-28 loss to Kansas State on Nov. 11 that cost the Huskers a spot in next Saturday's Big 12 Championship game at Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium. A few days later, Brown said somebody off-campus "got into my face and called me a loser. He said I was the reason we lost. It took me awhile to get over that.

"Winning this way is how I'd always pictured it. For me, it was redemption for the season I've had. It was like a dream."

Copyright 2000 The Denver Post. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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