HUSKERS: Polk puts some spike into Blackshirt defense
BY STEVEN M. SIPPLE Lincoln Journal Star
Nebraska linebacker Carlos Polk warned his coaches during pregame drills.
He told them that if he reached the end zone Friday, he was going to spike the football. Spike it hard.
And spike it he did.
"It was a good one," Polk said of his penalty flag-inducing show of exhilaration. "I wasn't trying to be discreet about it at all."
On the game's second play from scrimmage, the 6-foot-2, 250-pound senior dropped into pass coverage, stepped in front of Colorado receiver Roman Hollowell, hauled in Craig Ochs' aerial and rumbled 39 yards for the day's first touchdown.
The Nebraska coaches, upon hearing Polk's pregame threat, couldn't have believed danger was imminent. After all, Polk had never scored a touchdown.
Playing his final game at Memorial Stadium, Polk felt such a rush of emotion when he reached paydirt that there was no way he was going to back off his pregame promise.
"I figured I'm going to earn my 15," he said, referring to the penalty yards Nebraska was assessed for Polk's transgression.
Polk knew Nebraska defensive coordinator Craig Bohl and head coach Frank Solich weren't angry because they wore smiles as Polk approached the sideline after his big moment.
The crowd of 77,672 was roaring. Perhaps this was the start of an easy afternoon. For sure, Polk's pickoff provided Nebraska with an immediate burst of momentum.
But the day became a long one for the Husker defense.
Colorado dropped a 34-32 decision despite racking up 28 first downs and 451 total yards, including 197 on the ground.
The Buffaloes, led by Ochs and tailback Cortlen Johnson, peppered the Huskers with 22 second-half points, punishing NU with sustained drives.
It didn't help Nebraska's cause that Polk was hobbling. The Huskers' leading tackler this season, he suffered a sprained ankle and strained knee ligament in his right leg about four minutes after his interception return.
He missed two series while in the locker room getting re-taped and taking a pair of pain-killing pills. He returned to action with 13 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter.
"There was no way I wasn't going to be on the field," he said.
By midway through the third quarter, the pain-killers had worn off, he said. Polk was hurting, and Colorado was rolling.
"They were mixing up their run/pass ratio, and we couldn't get a bead on what was going on," Polk said.
Said Nebraska rush end Kyle Vanden Bosch: "In the fourth quarter, when we needed plays, we didn't make them."
Same goes for most of the third quarter.
"Nobody has been able to power the ball on us," Vanden Bosch said. "But they did, and that's frustrating, because we pride ourselves on stopping the run."
Colorado, with Ochs completing six passes, marched 68 yards in 11 plays to set up its touchdown with 47 seconds left.
On their two-point conversion, the Buffaloes surprised Nebraska with an unbalanced formation - the tight end lined up on the strong side, with three receivers split to the right. Ochs found wideout Javon Green streaking across the end zone just in front of safety Troy Watchorn.
The Colorado sideline exploded with joy.
Forty-seven seconds later, many Buffs were face down on the field, antagonizing over another heartbreaking loss to the Huskers.
"The electricity was amazing," Watchorn said. "It's a game I'll remember the rest of my life."
Reach Steven M. Sipple at 473-7440 or email@example.com.