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Tech just misses upset of Huskers, 41-31


By BRIAN DAVIS / The Dallas Morning News

LINCOLN, Neb. – Texas Tech quarterback Kliff Kingsbury's face looked like the entire crowd inside Memorial Stadium.

Red. Deep red, the kind brought on by frustration and heartbreak.

That could have described most of the Red Raiders, who almost left Nebraska red-faced before succumbing to a 41-31 defeat Saturday. Kingsbury knew Tech (3-3, 1-3) came within about one foot of its second upset in as many weeks. This, however, would have been an upset.

Box score


College scoreboard

One foot from upsetting the third-ranked Huskers, who are now 8-0 and can breath a sigh of relief knowing their national championship hopes are safe. At least for now. Nebraska plays host No. 2 Oklahoma (7-0, 4-0) next Saturday.

Kingsbury said the game-deciding play was an improvisation. Tech faced fourth-and-6 from the Nebraska 34 while trailing by a touchdown, 38-31, with about six minutes. Kingsbury was forced from the pocket, rolled right and found Carlos Francis heading toward the end zone.

It was a good idea to look for the sure-handed sophomore. Francis had a team-high 11 catches for 169 yards against a defense that normally allows just 159.7 yards per game. Kingsbury's pass, though, was too far right, and Francis' foot found nothing but sideline.

"We had a good play called, but they came with a different defense," Kingsbury said. "So, I just moved to my right and caught Carlos streaking. It was close. He got bumped and got knocked out. Those things happen."

But upsets in Lincoln rarely happen. Tech did everything it could to end NU's 32-game winning streak on homecoming. Other than that one errant throw, Kingsbury was magnificent. He finished the game 33-of-63 for 353 yards and one touchdown. The Raiders even outdid themselves by totaling 440 yards, 73 more than the norm.

But Nebraska, however, showed why it was Nebraska after getting the ball back on downs. Huskers quarterback Eric Crouch engineered a six-play drive that ground out 47 yards leading to Josh Brown's 36-yard field goal.

Crouch maneuvered the offense with his legs, like he's supposed to. He had 105 yards on 21 carries, helping the Huskers total up 335 rushing yards. But the senior's arm caught Tech by surprise, Raiders linebacker Jonathan Hawkins said. Crouch was 10-for-22 for 196 and threw three touchdowns.

"We decided to go ahead and try to loosen them up," Nebraska coach Frank Solich said. "To a degree, that happened. And that enabled us to continue to run the ball."

The Huskers were poised to take control of the game for good toward the end of the third quarter. I-back Dahrran Diedrick had gains of 21 and 15 yards helping the Huskers move to the Tech 23. But on first-and-10 from the 11, free safety Kevin Curtis picked off Crouch's pass in the end zone.

The play gave Tech new life even though the Raiders botched the hottest play in the Big 12. Clinton Greathouse's pooch punt from the NU 36 floated into the end zone, giving NU a fresh start from the 20. But a three-and-out set the stage for a Tech drive that started at its own 21.

Kingsbury began finding everyone. He hit Wes Welker for 6, Mickey Peters for 4, and Anton Paige for 17. A late-hit penalty on Nebraska's Chris Kelsay moved the ball to the Nebraska 38. Somehow, Tech's wheels suddenly fell off. Ricky Williams had a 4-yard catch, but two more incompletions left the Raiders looking at fourth-and-6 at the 34.

That's when Francis was ruled out of bounds as Kingsbury walked off the field almost in tears.

Nobody expected this kind of game. Nebraska started off favored by 24 points. But everything was turned upside down on the opening kickoff thanks to Tech sophomore Welker, who returned it 85 yards for a touchdown.

Welker's return merely sparked a wild first quarter where both teams totaled 34 points and 316 total yards. Nebraska, though, had the lead, 21-13.

After Welker's return, Crouch threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Jon Bowling, capping an eight-play, 80-yard drive. Tech gave the ball right back when on the ensuing kickoff when Jason Wesley muffed a kickoff. Huskers fullback Judd Davies broke through the left side on the next play and scored from 25 yards out.

Tech didn't flinch. The Raiders put together a nine-play drive that ended with Robert Treece's 35-yard field goal. Back and fourth they went until the final horn. Last year's 56-3 loss was washed away, but now the Raiders are wondering what else is possible.

"I think we have come quite a ways," Tech coach Mike Leach said. "I think we are playing with more confidence that we have had in a long time."


Nebraska is now 7-0 against Tech in a series dating to 1976. ... Tech quarterback Kliff Kingsbury completed 33 passes surpassing Robert Hall to become the school's all-time completions leader. Kingsbury now has 580 through 24 games.

Wes Welker's 85-yard punt return in the first quarter was the second-longest return ever against Nebraska. ... Tech free safety Kevin Curtis intercepted his first pass of the season when he wrestled a completion away from Jon Bowling in the second quarter. ... NU, which averages 3.6 sacks per game, had three against Tech, two late in the fourth.

Nebraska lost up to six players during the course of the game, which included Keyuo Craver and John Gibson (ankles) and Dave Volk (dislocated shoulder).

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