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Publish Date: 11/29/2008

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Nebraska manages to survive its own tricks


LINCOLN, Neb. — Colorado needed two hands to count the number of trick plays Nebraska pulled last time it visited Memorial Stadium.

There were six of them that day in 2006. Some yielded big plays. One was a touchdown pass to a defensive end on a fake field goal.

Nebraska was up to its old tricks again in Friday’s 40-31 defeat of CU. This time, the results were different.

Late in the second quarter, Nebraska tried a fake field goal that coach Bo Pelini later called a “bone-headed play.” Holder Jake Wesch took the snap and then lateraled the ball over his head toward kicker Alex Henery, who was going to try and run for a first down.

CU’s Jimmy Smith anticipated it. He plucked the ball out of mid-air and strolled 58 yards for an easy touchdown.

Trying a 50-yard field goal wasn’t stupid. Trying the exact same fake play that you used three weeks earlier — and it barely worked then — is another deal.

On Nov. 8 against Kansas, Henery took the lateral, stumbled nine yards to convert fourth-and-8 before he nearly fumbled the ball out of bounds.

CU coach Dan Hawkins said special teams coach Kent Riddle was “all over that,” after having seen it in film study.

“Down here a couple of years ago, we gave up a few plays on special teams,” Hawkins said. “But I thought coach Rid did a great job preparing our guys, and they did a good job paying attention, and Jimmy was right where he’s supposed to be.”

“We practiced for that over and over in practice,” Smith said. “We knew they were going to run some kind of fake to try to get some easy points. We knew it was coming.”

Said Pelini: “I would have been kicking myself for a long time because if we didn’t win the football game, I would have taken responsibility because I felt the game changed when I made that call,” Pelini said. “I’m a grown man and I made a mistake.”

Smith’s touchdown made it 24-24 at halftime.

Several Buffs said they suspected when Henery lined up to try a 57-yard field goal in the game’s final moments, another fake was in the works. One wasn’t.

While Pelini said the game changed on the fake call, Smith disagreed.

“If we won, yes,” Smith said. “Since we lost, it didn’t mean anything.”

Smith’s touchdown was his second. He scored one on an interception return against Nebraska in 2007.

MORE SPECIAL: CU kicker Aric Goodman hit a 37-yard field goal. He finishes the year 5-for-14. After missing eight in a row, he made his final two.

Returner Josh Smith had a career-best 245 all-purpose yards Friday, including 193 on kickoff returns and 52 receiving. His 1,987 all purpose yards in 2008 are the second-most in program history, behind Rashaan Salaam’s 2,349 in 1994, the year he won the Heisman Trophy.

Smith also set program records for most kickoff returns (50) and kickoff-return yards (1,275).

INJURY REPORT: The only injury CU reported was a concussion linebacker Shaun Mohler suffered.

Hawkins said guard Blake Behrens, who limped off the field in the first quarter but returned, could “barely move” by game’s end. CU did not report his injury.

EXTRA POINTS: CU’s loss leaves the Big 12 with only seven bowl-eligible teams. If two go to BCS bowls, the league will fail to fill two of its slots. ... Demetrius Sumler ran nine times for 65 yards and two touchdowns. It was the second time in his career he’s scored multiple touchdowns. ... Darrell Scott carried two times for minus-1 yard. ... Nebraska ran 77 plays to CU’s 48. It gained 407 yards to CU’s 291. The Buffs gained 148 yards on their first four plays.

Patrick Ridgell can be reached at pridgell@times-call.com.

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