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CURT McKEEVER: Just how do you explain NU effort?

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- I won't even try to concoct a logical explanation for what went on here at Kyle Field Saturday night. I don't believe there is one.

If you really thought Nebraska was going to come back from a 31-14 third-quarter deficit against Texas A&M; -- in an atmosphere where the home team had won all but 10 of its games over the past 14 seasons -- you also must believe there's a magic diet pill that will allow you to eat anything you want and lose 20 pounds in a week.

Fat chance!

"The odds were stacked against us," NU Coach Frank Solich mustered after his maligned band of Huskers pulled off the biggest comeback in the quarter-century he's been associated with the Big Red. "But what you saw today was teams being beat at home -- and some high-powered teams at that."

I think Solich was referring to Notre Dame going into Tallahassee, Fla., and whipping up on a Florida State team that had lost just three home games since 1991. Or maybe he was talking about Iowa's blowout of Michigan at "The Big House" in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Whatever. Those results don't explain how Nebraska came here and totaled A&M;'s Wrecking Crew defense. Totaled, as in damaged beyond repair.

The Aggies entered Saturday possessing the Big 12's top unit at stopping the run. Teams were averaging just 76.9 yards per game.

Nebraska more than quadrupled that number, rambling for 381 yards. That's the second-most ever allowed by A&M.;

It happened because the Huskers were too stubborn for their own good. Think about it. Most teams that get down by 17 points in the second half have already shifted to Plan B or C. Nebraska, though, never thought twice about taking a detour from scrapping its power running attack.

"Nobody told us that it wasn't supposed to (work)," running backs coach Dave Gillespie said. "Our philosophy is we always think we can run the football."

The Huskers did change some of their thinking, though. Gillespie normally carries out his duties in the coaching booth high above the action. Saturday, he was Solich's right-hand man. Hmmm? Might he actually have been calling, or at least suggesting, some of the plays to his boss? Just like the final outcome, I'm not sure about that one, either. But his presence on the sideline was definitely felt.

"He's just a hyped-up type of person. I think that helps a lot, just the fact he was there cheering," said I-back Dahrran Diedrick.

It was Gillespie who actually came to Solich earlier in the week to suggest that he join the Huskers on the sideline. "I felt I could be a more effective coach," he said. "I probably rotated my guys differently and maybe utilized their strengths more than I can up in the box."

Really? And that's it?

"We're all looking for a way to do whatever we can better," said Solich. "Other than that, I really don't want to say a whole lot."

Indeed, this one should leave everyone in Huskerville speechless.

Unbeaten and third-ranked Virginia Tech has rushed the ball with a lot more vigor this season than Nebraska. But the Hokies ran into a stone wall when they played here last month, finishing with a mere 129 yards. NU -- which unlike Tech last month didn't have to deal with all-everything defensive end Ty Warren because he was injured -- did fall back on some of the success it had the last time it faced A&M; in 1999. That's when Dan Alexander and Eric Crouch each rushed for more than 100 yards. But it had been 20 games since anybody reached the century mark on the Aggies.

I-back David Horne (128 yards) and quarterback Jammal Lord (159) both topped it Saturday.

"That's kind of how I envisioned it working all year," Gillespie said of the balanced ground production. "But every game is different."

Imagine how A&M; Coach R.C. Slocum was feeling.

"They were able to get the ball outside and run extremely well," he said. "But my sense of the game was that their inside plays really hurt us. They ran up the middle several times for big yards."

And it wasn't that big of a surprise to him, either. "It looked like the same team Nebraska's always had," he added. "They are a big, physical team with a talented quarterback. I think it's ridiculous all the things I've heard about that program. They were playing for a national championship less than a year ago. I knew we'd have our hands full."

Credit the warrior Lord, who ran 30 times, for keeping Slocum and the A&M; defense on their heels all night.

"By and large, it came down to Jammal having a number of carries, getting first downs," Solich said. "We felt we were going to have our chances."

OK, but surely you, like everyone else, saw those vanishing when it was 31-14? Right, Coach?

"The thing I told myself was what can separate you from coming back and not coming back are some mistakes you make," Solich said in reference to sticking with the game plan. "We decided to keep coming back at them."

And while Saturday's result hardly restores the Huskers as a national power (remember, A&M; wasn't even rated), it should leave them thinking anything is possible -- especially if you play with the kind of desperation they did Saturday. Remember Colorado's run last season?

"It says that our players have great character. They've hung in there," Solich said, careful not to break out in too big a smile. "This is a game we're going to enjoy, but we're going to put it behind us."

I'd like to suggest they bottle that formula and use it against Texas this Saturday -- and for every game that follows. If only I knew what that is.

Reach Curt McKeever at 473-7441 or <x@$>

Also in SPORTS:
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CURT McKEEVER: Texas will run right at Huskers
Super-State outfielder may join NU softball team early
Cohesive Monarchs ready for playoffs
Mustangs refreshed for subdistrict play
PREP FOOTBALL: Fillmore Central faces tough playoff challenge
Only figure skating could dream up this doozy.
PREP FOOTBALL: Ratings comments
NFL: Chiefs' defense shows turnabout is fair play
BASEBALL: Rookie lifts Anaheim to first crown
Hopper says he will regain everyone's trust
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