Nebraska gets back to the grind
 
San Antonio Express-News
 
Web Posted : 10/27/2002 12:00 AM
 
COLLEGE STATION — It was the kind of night where Frank Solich initially might have liked to have quietly slipped in the shadows, disappearing into the mist shrouding his bench at Kyle Field.

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Nebraska's Barrett Ruud (from left), Philip Bland and DeJuan Groce celebrate after Bland's interception late in the fourth quarter.
William Luther/Express-News

Losing in the highly pressurized world of coaching Nebraska will do that for you. And facing a 31-14 deficit midway through the third quarter, the Cornhuskers were precariously close to falling into the same kind of hole that had doomed them to four straight road losses.

Instead, when facing his toughest challenge of the season Saturday night, Solich went back to tradition. The Cornhuskers responded with a typical Nebraska performance, emerging from the fog to play like the team that has intimidated opponents across the country over the last three decades.

Nebraska bludgeoned Texas A&M with its ground attack and churned out a bruising 38-31 victory over the Aggies.

"We had a bunch of kids who buckled down and got after it," Nebraska offensive line coach Milt Tenopir said. "We didn't do anything fancy. We just lined and got after it."

Nebraska piled up 243 yards rushing in the second half, 381 total. It was the second-most yards allowed by Texas A&M, topped only by Texas' 386 in 1970.

"The way the game unfolded allowed us to get into the power game and some things in our option game," Solich said. "We didn't throw the ball as effectively as we should have. But with some great plays, it came down to our guys still believing and getting the job done."

In the process, the Cornhuskers answered some critics who have hinted the program had bottomed out after three earlier road losses this year.

"I'm happy for the program to get this win," Solich said. "We've taken hits. It's the nature of the business. When things go really well, you get a lot of pats on the back. But when things don't go so well, there's few pats on the back. We understand that.

"The important thing is we never stopped believing. It was big for us to get this win. There's no question about it."

Nebraska kept alive its flickering hopes for its first North Division title since 1999. While the Cornhuskers still face challenging games against Texas, Kansas State and Colorado, the momentum from Saturday's comeback victory should boost their confidence.

"A lot of people think our program is crumbling, but we're just getting on track," Nebraska tailback Dahrann Diedrick said. "In other games, we would put our heads down when we got behind. But we kept our heads up and had faith we could come back."

No player was bigger than quarterback Jammal Lord, who overcame two earlier turnovers to lead a charge of 24 unanswered points down the stretch.

"We knew that nobody in the country believed in us," said Lord, who talked to the media for the first time in nearly a month. "It's all about heart, and we just have to go out and play football."

Lord rushed for 159 yards and was supported by freshman David Horne, who rushed for 128 yards and four touchdowns.

"There are some men back in that backfield," Lord said. "Everybody played good for us. Our line was outstanding. Our backs were tough. It was a great team effort."

wgriffin@express-news.net

 
10/27/2002

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