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Published Saturday, November 25, 2000

Redemption kick
Late field goal gives NU victory


Last modified at 10:44 a.m. on Monday, November 27, 2000
  

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photo: HuskersHQ
Independent/Gerik Parmele
Nebraska team members surround place kicker Josh Brown and celebrate their victory over Colorado.

By Kevin Schuster
The Independent

LINCOLN -- If Hollywood is looking for a title to the latest chapter in the thrilling Nebraska-Colorado series, Redemption Kick would fit.

Kicker Josh Brown's up and down sophomore season reached higher than the Sower in downtown Lincoln when he nailed a 29-yard field goal as time expired to give the Huskers a thrilling 34-32 victory Friday before 77,672 people at Memorial Stadium.

"It was a redemption kick for the whole season for me," Brown said. "It makes up for the mistake I made against Kansas State (a missed 28-yarder during a 29-28 defeat two weeks ago). This makes up for a lot of mistakes I made."

The game-winning kick marked the first time Nebraska has won on the game's final play since 1960, when the NU sports information staff started keeping play-by-play. The last time the Huskers won on a field goal was Colorado's last trip to Lincoln. Kris Brown's 25-yarder with 8 minutes, 48 seconds remaining gave Nebraska a 16-14 victory.

Josh Brown came up big down the stretch as No. 9 and 8 Nebraska (9-2 overall, 6-2 in the Big 12 Conference) continued its late-game mastery over the Buffaloes (3-8, 3-5). Brown booted a 20-yard field goal to tie the game at 24 with 9:22 left.

But the biggest three points produced by the Foyil, Okla., product allowed Nebraska to think about its own shopping on the day after Thanksgiving. Will the Huskers dress for an Arizona fiesta, purchase sugar for New Orleans or settle for some Texas cotton?

Nebraska needs Notre Dame and Kansas State to lose in order to earn a possible Bowl Championship Series berth. Of course, the BCS would have been g-o-n-e if Brown wouldn't have finished a seven-play, 47-yard drive that consumed the final 47 seconds. Bobby Newcombe's 17-yard sideline pattern reception drove Nebraska to the Colorado 12.

"I didn't think it would come down to this," said Brown, whose made 5 of 10 field goals this season and 19 of 30 in his career. "I really concentrated hard on my last kick, keeping my eye on the ball and things like that. That's exactly what was going through my mind. I was like, 'This is exactly what I've already done today. Don't yank it. Please don't yank it.'''

Nebraska ran its home win streak versus Colorado to 13 and has won the last five games in the series by a total of 15 points. Those streaks continued because of special teams.

Nebraska made 2 of 3 field goals (Brown was wide left on a 32-yard attempt in the second quarter). Colorado sophomore kicker Mark Mariscal knocked only 1 of 5 opportunities through the uprights. He had field goals blocked in the first and fourth quarters by Randy Stella and Keyuo Craver, respectively.

photo: HuskersHQ
Independent/Gerik Parmele
Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch rushes the ball midway through the fourth quarter Friday against Colorado. Crouch rushed for 125 yards and three touchdowns.

"We talked about it in meetings a couple times that their field goal team had a couple weaknesses," Stella said. "Keyuo and I just decided we were going to go get one."

Mariscal missed from 29, 37, 42 and 41 yards. He connected on a 32-yard attempt for Colorado’s first points 8 seconds into the second period.

"Special teams hurt us today in some regard," Colorado coach Gary Barnett said. "That was really hard to sit there and accept that we lost. I don't want to take anything away from Nebraska. They obviously won the game with a great drive and a clutch kick."

Once again, the clutch kick went against Colorado. The Buffaloes could have ended Nebraska's BCS aspirations last season, but Jeremy Aldrich barely missed a 34-yard field goal as time expired. Nebraska pulled out a 33-30 overtime win.

This was even more dramatic.

"It was just like a huge piano lifted off your back and a couple of gorillas that had been hanging out all day," Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch said. "All those things and all the pressure is gone. Your appetite comes back and your sense of emotion comes back and you're kind of brought back to the world."

Colorado called this trip to Lincoln its bowl game. The Buffaloes played like they were fighting for a top-10 ranking, not a fourth win.

Colorado overcame a 14-0 first-quarter deficit. Carlos Polk's 39-yard interception return just 49 seconds into the game and Crouch's 27-yard run with 4:48 left in the first helped Nebraska sprint out of the gate.

But the Huskers limped into halftime. Cortlen Johnson spearheaded the Buffalo stampede with 155 rushing yards. Johnson's 39-yard scoring run pulled Colorado within 14-10 at the 8:28 mark in the second quarter.

Johnson pulled off the touchdown hat trick in the second half. The junior scored on a 2- and 1-yard run. The latter gave Colorado, which had 16 more yards in offense than Nebraska (451-435), a 24-21 lead with 14:17 to play.

"We felt that we needed to control the ball to have success against Nebraska's defense," said Johnson, who led the Buffaloes’ 197-yard ground attack. "We believed that we could run at their defense and move the ball."

It wasn't Colorado's ground game that set up a dramatic finish. Freshman quarterback Craig Ochs completed 25 of 41 passes for 254 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Ochs looked like a diaper dandy on Colorado's final drive.

Ochs hit 6 of 8 passes on a well-executed seven-play, 47-yard drive that concluded with a 15-yard scoring strike to a diving John Minardi. Colorado bypassed the tie with an extra point. Ochs made Barnett look like a genius when he hit Javon Green on the two-point conversion after a timeout to give the Buffaloes a 32-31 advantage.

"I thought that's what they would do," Nebraska coach Frank Solich said about the two-point decision. "When I saw him (Barnett) calling his team together on the sideline, every one of them, I knew exactly that that's what they were going to do. It was not a surprise to us. I think it was a good call."

But what wasn't a great call was the ensuing kickoff. Colorado didn't kick it deep. Instead, Nebraska took possession at its own 41 with 44 seconds left after a squib kick.

"The only thing was that we wanted to kick it down the middle and make them return it and take time off of the clock," Barnett said.

Seldom-used Newcombe came up big on the final possession. He gave Nebraska a first down with two catches totaling 30 yards.

"It became obvious in the last quarter that possibly whoever had the ball last was probably going to win the game," Solich said. "But in the end, it comes down to a few plays, and we were able to make a few plays at the very end to enable Josh to step on the field and kick the game-winning field goal.

"Certainly a lot of credit has to go to him."

Did Solich have any inspiring words for Brown? Sure, but he never got a chance to relay them.

"I couldn't find him to try to calm him down. He just ran onto the field," Solich said. "Apparently, he was bursting with confidence and of course, hit it very well."

Solich only had three words for his kicker, anyway.

"Kick it through," he said.



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