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Fade pattern: Huskers extend A&M's November slide

11:48 PM CST on Saturday, November 11, 2006

By RACHEL COHEN / The Dallas Morning News

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – From boos to deafening cheers to stunned silence, the sounds of Kyle Field swung with the emotions of another close Texas A&M game.

For the second straight week, the Aggies lost by one point, haunted by what-ifs and what-might've-beens. No. 24 A&M fell to Nebraska, 28-27, the second time this season a last-minute touchdown pass doomed the Aggies to defeat.

The Cornhuskers (8-3, 5-2) clinched the Big 12 North title Saturday night in front of an overflow crowd of 83,336. A&M coach Dennis Franchione fell to 2-10 in November here and 0-9 against Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas. The Longhorns happen to be the Aggies' final regular-season foe.

"Got to coach a little better, got to play a little better," Franchione said.

With 2:50 left, A&M (8-3, 4-3) appeared destined for a comeback victory. The Aggies had scored 20 straight points to lead 27-21, and on Veterans Day, former Army soldier Mark Dodge made his first career interception and returned it to the Huskers' 29. Playing in place of injured linebacker Misi Tupe, Dodge had 17 tackles, the most by an A&M player this season.

Not only did the Aggies have a chance to run out the clock with Nebraska down to two timeouts, but A&M was in range for a game-clinching field goal.

"Certainly this one was set up," Franchione said. "We had our chances."

Against Missouri last month, the Aggies ran out the final 3 ½ minutes with handoff after handoff to 276-pound running back Jorvorskie Lane.

This time, A&M tried to run an outside zone play to freshman Mike Goodson on first down. Goodson was told in the huddle to stay inbounds. But as he neared the sideline, he couldn't avoid going out.

That stopped the clock and allowed the Huskers to save their timeouts for after second and third down. With 2:04 left, the Aggies lined up to attempt a 42-yard field goal, which would have been kicker Layne Neumann's season long.

It was blocked, and Nebraska got the ball back at its 25 with 1:57 left and no timeouts.

"We had to stay inbounds. We didn't do that," quarterback Stephen McGee said. "We wanted to keep the clock moving and at least get one first down to seal the game, and we just didn't do that tonight. When you talk about close games, it will be like this in the Big 12, and we expect that. We have to do the little things right."

Four plays later, the Huskers faced fourth-and-3, but Zac Taylor completed a 22-yard pass to Todd Peterson that went out of bounds to boot.

With half a minute left, Nebraska faced third-and-10 from the A&M 17. Taylor's throw fell incomplete, but defensive tackle Marques Thornton was called for roughing the passer.

On first-and-goal from the 9, Taylor attempted a fade route to 6-4 Maurice Purify, who leapt over 5-10 Jordan Peterson for the touchdown. Peterson, a redshirt freshman who had four pass breakups Saturday, was also beat on a deep pass against Texas Tech for the winning touchdown.

"It just comes down to you need to make one more play," Franchione said. "We needed a field goal, we needed a first down, we needed a stop.

"And we didn't get it."

E-mail rcohen@dallasnews.com

Texas A&M leads 27-21 when Mark Dodge intercepts Nebraska's Zac Taylor and returns it to the Cornhuskers' 29 with 2:50 to play.

Three A&M running plays net five yards.

Barry Turner blocks Layne Neumann's 42-yard FG attempt, and Nebraska takes over at its 25 with 1:57 to play.

On fourth-and-3, Taylor completes a 22-yard pass to Todd Peterson to the A&M 46.

Taylor completes passes of 16 yards to Dan Erickson and 13 yards to Peterson to the A&M 17.

On third-and-10 at the A&M 17, Taylor's pass is incomplete, but Marques Thornton is called for roughing the passer, giving Nebraska first-and-goal at the 9.

Taylor hits Maurice Purify for the tying touchdown with 21 seconds left, and Jordan Congdon's extra point kick gives Nebraska the 28-27 lead.

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