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Monday, Jan 09, 2006
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Posted on Sun, Oct. 02, 2005

Huskers' Taylor passes ISU test

The Wichita Eagle

As the sea of red-clad players celebrated in the southeast corner of Nebraska's Memorial Stadium, Cornhuskers coach Bill Callahan picked his way through, looking for a specific guy.

He eventually found quarterback Zac Taylor, then grabbed the back of Taylor's head to express his pride before the two hugged. Feeling the heat for weeks due to an offense that had been outscored by its defense, Callahan and Taylor could finally beam Saturday.

Taylor passed for a school-record 431 yards as Nebraska outlasted No. 23 Iowa State 27-20 in double overtime. For Taylor, a transfer from Butler Community College, 397 of those yards came in regulation. He had 399 in the season's first three games combined.

"I thought Zac played courageous," Callahan said. "He took some shots, either staying back there or when he scrambled, and got lit up.... I was really proud of his effort because he took some vicious hits."

After winning the three nonconference games thanks to a defense that ranked first nationally in scoring, the Huskers put up the offense they needed -- despite rushing for only 36 yards -- to take a big step toward being a Big 12 North contender.

Ten Huskers caught a pass, and six of them had more receptions against the Cyclones than they did coming into the game.

That included a standout day from tailback Cory Ross, who had eight catches for 131 yards, a school record for a running back. His performance was highlighted by a 70-yard touchdown in the third quarter and wide-open eight-yarder in the second overtime, the eventual game-winning score.

"Cory's an outstanding receiver," Callahan said. "When you saw him run those routes and get isolated on a linebacker, it's just as effective as what we could do in the running game."

For some time, it appeared all the passing yards in the world wouldn't help Nebraska. Taylor was 19 of 32 for 198 yards by halftime, and the Huskers all but abandoned the run. Of Nebraska's last 25 plays in the first half, 24 were passes.

Yet despite the Huskers' defense holding Iowa State to five rushing yards on 14 first-half carries, the score was 3-3 at halftime.

ISU (3-1, 0-1) even overcame Ross' first touchdown to take a 13-10 lead into the fourth quarter after a Bret Meyer touchdown pass and two field goals.

It was still 13-13 in the final two minutes when Taylor's 20-yard scramble appeared to set up an attempt for a game-winning field goal. But on third-and-6 from the ISU 15, Ross started the wrong way on a running play. Taylor then tried to run and lost a fumble.

There would be overtime, a first at Nebraska's Memorial Stadium.

"When I saw the ball come out, it was the worst feeling in the world," Taylor said. "We were able to overcome it.... And coming off that field after the game was the greatest feeling in the world. It was the best game I've ever been a part of."

For the Cyclones, it was a sick feeling. After just two plays of overtime, they led 20-13. Yet they could not pull out their first win in Lincoln since 1977, falling short when a Meyer pass skipped incomplete on fourth and 10 from the 15.

"The team is really upset," ISU coach Dan McCarney said. "I told the kids coming into the season that we were going to be in a lot of close games and to have the season we wanted, we would have to be good enough to win those sort of games. Today, we weren't."

First downs2126
Return Yards1176
Time of Possession31:3843:22

Iowa State0 3 10 0 7 0--20
Nebraska3 0 7 3 7 7--27

First Quarter

Neb--FG Congdon 30, 8:23.

Second Quarter

ISU--FG Culbertson 31, 11:43.

Third Quarter

Neb--Ross 70 pass from Taylor (Congdon kick), 10:00.

ISU--Nickel 2 pass from Meyer (Culbertson kick), 5:39.

ISU--FG Culberton 32, 2:01.

Fourth Quarter

Neb--FG Congdon 23, 7:20.


ISU--Coleman 10 run (Culbertson kick).

Neb--Ross 1 run (Congdon kick).

Second Overtime

Neb--Ross 8 pass from Taylor (Congdon kick).


Individual Statistics

Rushing--Iowa State, Coleman 20-65, Davis 1-11, Hicks 1-4, Kock 2-0, Meyer 14-(minus 23). Nebraska, Ross 15-32, Nunn 1-4, Taylor 7-2, team 2-(minus 2).

Passing--Iowa State, Meyer 23-41-1-317. Nebraska, Taylor 36-55-0-431.

Receiving--Iowa State, Flynn 8-100, Davis 5-36, Sumrall 4-99, Blythe 3-51, Nickel 2-9, Barkema 1-22. Nebraska, Ross 8-131, Nunn 8-59, Swift 5-81, Mulkey 5-60, Fluellen 3-40, LeFlore 2-23, Hardy 2-20, Sievers 1-6, Todd 1-6, Phillips 1-5.