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College Sports

Huskers get physical in victory

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By WENDELL BARNHOUSE
Star-Telegram Staff Writer

LINCOLN, Neb. - Finding a key pass completion in the Kansas State-Nebraska game was as tough as finding a chardonnay vendor at a NASCAR race. But when the Cornhuskers needed it most, they found a way to connect.

Second-ranked Nebraska (11-0), in a game that featured seven completions and five interceptions in 25 total pass attempts, ground out a 31-21 Big 12 Conference victory Saturday against Kansas State (4-5, 2-5). The Cornhuskers turned away the Wildcats' challenge by rallying from a 14-13 halftime deficit, thanks to several big plays at opportune times.

The Huskers, 7-0 in the Big 12 Conference North Division, can clinch a berth in the championship game Dec. 1 at Texas Stadium with a victory at Colorado on Nov. 23.

Nebraska took the lead for good with a 77-yard, 15-play scoring drive to start the second half. Senior quarterback Eric Crouch found senior wing back John Gibson - an appropriate combo on Senior Day - for a 17-yard completion on third-and-12 that kept the drive alive.

"It was a grinding game," said Crouch, who gained 106 yards on 23 carries. "The most physical team won."

Kansas State, which rushed for 239 yards but had only 37 yards on 4 of 18 passing, took advantage of a blocked punt and Ell Roberson's 32-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Lockett with six seconds remaining in the first half. But the Huskers' opening drive in the second half reestablished Nebraska's dominance.

"When someone runs eight minutes off the clock and gets points off of it, then it has an impact," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said.

The Wildcats entered the game second in the nation in rushing defense, allowing 67.1 yards a game. Nebraska, the nation's top rushing team, was intent on beating Kansas State on the ground, not through the air.

"I'm not surprised we attempted just seven passes," said Nebraska coach Frank Solich, whose team rushed for 264 yards. "If we would have had to throw 15 or 20 times, we would have been in trouble because that would have meant we weren't moving the ball on the ground."

Willie Amos, whose interception set up a fourth-quarter field goal, returned an interception 20 yards for a touchdown that gave the Huskers a 13-0 lead in the second quarter. And after the touchdown drive to open the second half, Nebraska's DeJuan Groce returned a punt 60 yards for a touchdown that made the score 28-14.

Wendell Barnhouse, (817) 390-7760 wbhoops@star-telegram.com

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