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Alamo Bowl
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Alamo Bowl: Taylor and Ross lead rally; final play frantic, falls short

Web Posted: 12/29/2005 01:17 AM CST

Dan McCarney
Express-News Staff Writer

Down by 11 points with less than nine minutes remaining and momentum on the opposing sideline, Nebraska would, and probably should, have been finished.

If, that is, the Cornhuskers had been playing anyone else but Michigan. In that case, all bets are off.

Taking full advantage of the Wolverines' habit of blowing close games, Nebraska scored 15 points in the final 8:08, including Terrence Nunn's 13-yard touchdown catch for the go-ahead points, to steal a remarkable 32-28 victory Wednesday in the MasterCard Alamo Bowl.

"I can't be any prouder of the way we fought and came back," Nebraska coach Bill Callahan said. "We showed a lot of grit and determination."

An Alamodome crowd of 62,016 was treated to one of the most exciting games in the Alamo Bowl's 12-year history.

Fittingly, the outcome wasn't decided until the final play, when tight end Tyler Ecker was tackled at the Nebraska 15 with no time remaining following a series of wild laterals.

In a scene reminiscent of the Cal-Stanford game in 1982, the field was swarming with fans, observers and jubilant Cornhuskers as Ecker streaked down the right sideline.

He was finally tackled by Judson graduate Titus Brothers, at which point few had any idea how close Nebraska had just come to a permanent home on ESPN Classic.

"I thought it was over," Callahan said. "I was doused with water, so I lost perspective. I'd have to see the replay to see how it really worked. We're fortunate we stayed alert."

To say the least, it was a bizarre finish.

Then again, it was a bizarre game.

Riding the playmaking skills of quarterback Chad Henne, Michigan (7-5) appeared to take control early in the fourth quarter.

Henne connected with Mario Manningham for a 21-yard touchdown, then scored on a 7-yard scramble to put Michigan up 28-17 with 11:40 remaining.

The Cornhuskers (8-4) were desperate for anything positive at that point.

Zac Taylor was getting hammered nearly every time he dropped back to pass, and their only source of offense was an unlikely one — running back Cory Ross, who has been an afterthought most of the season as Nebraska continued to adjust to Callahan's pass-oriented offense.

All of a sudden, the breaks started coming — and they didn't stop until the Wolverines skulked off the field, wondering just how many times lightning can strike the same team twice.

Ross, who set his season-high with 161 yards to earn Offensive MVP honors, slalomed for a 31-yard TD with 8:08 remaining.

Taylor completed the drive with a two-point conversion pass to Todd Peterson that cut the deficit to 28-25.

Nebraska defensive tackle Ola Dagunduro, all 290 pounds of him, then scooped up a fumble by Henne and rumbled to the Michigan 17.

Four plays later, Taylor found Nunn streaking across the back of the end zone to put the Cornhuskers ahead for good. The 13-yard TD pass came with 4:29 remaining.

The turnover — Henne's second, the Wolverines' third — marred what was otherwise an outstanding game for the Michigan quarterback.

Shaking off a fierce Nebraska pass rush, he tied Alamo Bowl records with three scoring passes and four total TDs.

However painful for the Wolverines, it was an appropriate finish to their worst season since 1984.

Six of their 12 games were decided by four points or less, including a 25-21 loss to Ohio State in the regular-season finale in which they blew a nine-point lead with seven minutes left.

Even as the deficit grew, Taylor said that game was a hot topic on the Nebraska sideline.

"Michigan had Ohio State in the exact same situation," Taylor said. "That's what was being said. We knew it could be done."