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Alamo Bowl: Cornhuskers muster comeback win

Nebraska overcomes 11-point deficit in fourth quarter to upset No. 20 Michigan

AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Thursday, December 29, 2005

SAN ANTONIO — Zac Taylor spent much of Wednesday night on his back, staring up at the five long bags of colorful balloons hanging from the rafters of the Alamodome roof.

But when Nebraska's offensive line allowed its battered quarterback to remain upright, Taylor saw something even nicer — Terrence Nunn.

Toby Jorrin
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Michigan's Alan Branch, right, knocks the mouthpiece out of Nebraska quarterback Zac Taylor on a hit Wednesday. Taylor threw for 167 yards and three touchdowns in the Cornhuskers' victory.

Taylor and Nunn hooked up for two touchdown passes, the latter a 13-yarder with 4 1/2 minutes left that rallied the Cornhuskers to a 32-28 upset victory over No. 20 Michigan in the Alamo Bowl.

The Cornhuskers (8-4) overcame an 11-point deficit in the final nine minutes. Trailing 28-17, they scored on a 31-yard sweep around left end by tailback Cory Ross, who finished the night with 161 rushing yards.

Then, moments later, the Huskers got the chance to steal the game when Michigan quarterback Chad Henne was hit just as he released the ball, and it fluttered into the hands of 290-pound defensive tackle Ola Dagundaro. Setting up at the Wolverine 17, Nebraska scored what proved to be the winning touchdown three plays later.

Michigan (7-5) had a shot to regain the lead, driving to the Nebraska 18. But Henne's fourth-down pass was batted away by cornerback Zachary Bowman.

The Wolverines still weren't done. After Nebraska punted with just seconds left, Michigan had time for a final play. The Wolverines lateralled the ball numerous times and it finally ended up in the hands of backup tight end Tyler Ecker.

Cornhusker players, believing the game was over, poured onto the field along with sideline personnel. But the officials never blew the ball dead and Ecker kept running before he finally was knocked out of bounds at the Husker 14-yard-line.

Henne set an Alamo Bowl record with four touchdowns — three passes and a run. But Taylor, who completed only 14 of 31 passes for 167 yards, was the one standing at the end — barely.

Taylor took a fearful beating. He was sacked five times and decked many more.

Taylor and Henne each threw two touchdown passes in the first half en route to a 14-14 tie at intermission. But it was a feast-or-famine half for both quarterbacks.

Taylor's first touchdown, a 52-yard strike to Terrence Nunn midway through the first quarter, capped a five of eight start for the Nebraska junior. Over the next 12 minutes, though, his only two completions in eight tries were to Leon Hall.

That was a bit problematic for the Huskers, since Hall is Michigan's left cornerback.

Taylor snapped his incompletion streak with a 6-yard swing pass to running back Cory Ross with about 5 minutes left in the half. That seemed to put Taylor back on track. Two plays later he fired a 25-yard shot to Nunn, the biggest gainer in a 70-yard march capped by a 14-yard toss to Nate Swift that evened the score at 14 with 2 1/2 minutes left in the half.

For the half, Taylor completed 10 of 19 passes for 134 yards

Henne, the Wolverine's stocky (6-2, 226) junior, answered Nebraska's initial score with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Ecker to cap a 30-yard drive set up by Steve Breaston's Alamo Bowl-record 69-yard kickoff return.

But Henne sputtered much of the half. Hall's first interception set up Michigan at the Nebraska 39, but the drive stalled after three straight incompletions and Garrett Rivas' 25-yard field goal bounced off the left upright.

Six seconds later, however, Hall's second interception — it equalled his total for the season — gave the Wolverines the ball again, at the Husker 28.

This time, Henne capitalized. He found Mike Massey on a 16-yard slant route for the go-ahead score. Henne completed nine of 19 passes in the half, for 85 yards.

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