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Blackshirts stay positive

By Terry Douglass
douglass@theindependent.com

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Despite the mounting points underneath Texas A&M's column on the scoreboard, members of the Nebraska defense said they never got discouraged Saturday night.

As a result, the Blackshirts were able to make four crucial stops on the Aggies final four possessions as the Cornhuskers rallied from 17 points down to win 38-31 at Kyle Field.

Even though A&M finished with 31 points, 21 of them could hardly be blamed on the Nebraska defense. The Aggies scored on a blocked punt, a fumble return and scored a touchdown on a 6-yard drive after another lost fumble by the Husker offense.

"I was real pleased with the performance of our players," Nebraska defensive coordinator Craig Bohl said. "They showed tremendous resolve. Our players never lacked confidence and during the course of the game, there was never a time when we didn't think we couldn't win that game."

After a dismal showing just one week before in a 24-21 loss at Oklahoma State, Nebraska's defense rebounded strong.

Since changing offensive coordinators, A&M's offense had risen from 106th to 38th nationally, averaging 397.4 yards per game. However, the Huskers allowed the Aggies just 322 total yards, including just 53 yards rushing.

Bohl said shutting down the A&M running game was critical, especially after allowing Oklahoma State's Tatum Bell to rush for 182 yards the previous week.

"If you can do that to a football team, then that doesn't put you in a run-pass conflict," Bohl said. "It simply allows you to do more things and we did that with more blitzes on first downs than usual."

Nebraska's defense gave A&M quarterback Dustin Long fits all night. Coming off a 399-yard passing game against Kansas, Long was 20 of 37 passing for 269 yards and two touchdowns.

However, he also had two interceptions -- one by Pat Ricketts and one by Philip Bland -- and two sacks, including a crucial one for a 15-yard loss in the fourth quarter by outside linebacker Demorrio Williams.

"It felt great to come back here and win," said Williams, a Texas native. "Personally, I just felt like the defense never gave up. We knew that we had to just keep playing hard."

Ricketts led Nebraska with 11 total tackles. Williams added eight stops and Bland had seven.

Despite A&M's 21 first-half points, the Aggies only had one sustained scoring drive in the first half. That came when they marched 67 yards on 12 plays in four minutes to score on Long's 2-yard pass to Greg Porter with 16 seconds left before halftime to go ahead 21-14.

Although it didn't show early as A&M netted a field goal from its first possession of the second half to go ahead 24-14, Bohl said his players made some excellent second-half adjustments. The tweaks included using a few blitz packages that he said the team hadn't practiced much.

"That's great to see a young, emerging defense be able to make adjustments like that on the fly," Bohl said. "That was excellent on their part."

Nebraska won despite playing its third consecutive game without the services of senior rush end Chris Kelsay. The tri-captain from Auburn, who still leads the Huskers with 4 1/2 sacks, injured his hamstring early in the first quarter of the Oct. 5 McNeese State game and hasn't played since.

Despite the strong second-half play, Bland said the win belonged to the Nebraska offense, which piled up 497 total yards, including 381 yards rushing. The Huskers owned a 33:50-26:10 edge in time of possession and ran 85 plays compared to A&M's 61.

"This game wasn't won with any one play or my play on defense," Bland said. "We owe this one to our offense. For them to be able to run against their defense like that was amazing."


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