Defense squanders another late lead at home
By Kevin Espenlaub
October 28, 2002
The University of Nebraska scored 24 unanswered points to finish the game as�the Cornhuskers handed Texas A&M its third home loss of the season Saturday, 38-31.
After building a 17-point lead halfway through the third quarter, the A&M offense failed to score again and the Cornhuskers picked off two passes from sophomore quarterback Dustin Long in the final 10 minutes of the game to close the gap and earn their first road win of the season.
"So many things happened in the second half," said Nebraska head coach Frank Solich. "It was an unbelievable half of football. The interception by Philip Bland in the end zone is as big as it gets. I am as happy as can be for this program. When things go well you get a lot of pats on the back."
The Cornhuskers opened the game with an 80-yard drive for a touchdown, marking the first time this season that A&M has not made the first score of the ballgame.
The touchdown was set up by a 41-yard run by NU quarterback Jammal Lord moving the ball to the A&M 12-yard line and setting up a 12-yard rush by senior Dahrran Diedrick on the next play.
Nebraska continued to rush the ball against the Wrecking Crew, which had entered the game as the Big 12's top rushing defense and allowing only 76.9 yards per game. The Cornhuskers racked up 381 yards, the second greatest ever allowed by an Aggie defense in a game.
"The way the game unfolded allowed us to get in the power running game," Solich said. "It came down to getting key first downs and keeping the drives going. They say you can't run the ball on these guys but we had to make it work."
The Aggies got on the board with 2:25 remaining in the first quarter when 12th man walk-on sophomore Anthony Squillante blocked a punt from Nebraska's Kyle Larson at the Cornhusker 25-yard line.
The block was picked up and advanced 12 yards for a touchdown by A&M sophomore Terrence Thomas to even the score at seven.
Nebraska took the ball following the Aggie touchdown and on second down, Diedrich fumbled a pitch from Lord on an option left, setting up Aggie senior linebacker Jarrod Penright with the fumble recovery at the Nebraska 6-yard line.
The fumble was one of four on the game for Nebraska, which lost two to the Aggie defense.
The A&M offense had trouble throughout the game trying to establish a balanced attack. While Long passed for 269 yards, the team managed only 53 rushing yards on 24 rushes.
"(Nebraska) played a lot of guys in the box today, and that kind of limited our rushing ability," said A&M head coach R.C. Slocum. "We knew coming into the game we would probably have to make some plays passing the ball to take advantage of what they gave us."
Sophomore Byron Jones recovered a fumble and sprinted 66-yards for a touchdown giving the Aggies a 31-14 lead. The touchdown was the final score of the night for the Aggies.
Nebraska answered quickly with a three-play, 68-yard drive that was capped off by a 21-yard touchdown run broken down the right sideline by Horne to bring the Huskers within 10.
"I think that (Nebraska) drive was the turning point," Gamble said. "I thought Byron's play was a big momentum shift and that we could ice the game from that point, but we were a little winded and had to get right back out on the field, and their score took some wind out of us."
In the Aggie drive following another Nebraska touchdown bringing the score within three, the Cornhusker defense came up big by sacking Long for a loss of 15 yards on first down and forcing junior punter Cody Scates' 14-yard punt, giving the Cornhuskers the ball at the A&M 35-yard line.
"The defense felt like we played good the whole game," said Nebraska linebacker Demorrio Williams. "Coming in the Blackshirts were going up against the Wrecking Crew and the best unit would win. Once we got the offense on the field we knew we would get the ball in the end zone."
Nebraska took advantage of the field position to run the ball on six consecutive plays taking 46 seconds off of the clock and scoring a touchdown to claim its first lead since the first quarter, 35-31. Horne scored his fourth touchdown of the night on the option.
Nebraska would add another field goal coming off of Long's first interception of the game with six minutes remaining in the contest, and a late A&M drive was put down when Long threw an interception into the end zone with 2:23 left in the game.
"Nebraska and Tech are two different styles of teams," Slocum said. "I never felt comfortable throughout the game tonight in stopping their offense. It's very disappointing to lose three times at home this year."