Defense Lifts Huskers to Victory Over Colorado
Lincoln-- Nebraska rode a strong defensive effort and the foot of senior place-kicker Kris Brown to a 16-14 victory over Colorado, extending the Huskers streak of nine-win seasons to an NCAA- record 30 years.
The Husker defense turned in one of its best performances of the season, sacking CU quarterback Mike Moschetti six times and forcing three CU turnovers, leading to 10 of the Huskers' 16 points.
The Blackshirts struck early, as NU free safety Clint Finley intercepted a Moschetti pass and returned it 42 yards for a touchdown to give the Huskers a 7-0 lead.
Colorado came right back as the Buffaloes drove 80 yards on 11 plays, capped by a Moschetti pass to Javon Green to tie the score at 7. Nebraska took the lead in the final moments of the first half, driving 45 yards on nine plays before Brown's first field goal of the day, a 30-yarder on the final play of the half.
The Huskers extended the lead to 13-7 on a second Brown 30-yard field goal. Sophomore I-back Correll Buckhalter had a career-long 52-yard run to set up the field goal and finished with a team-high 92 yards on 15 carries.
Colorado capitalized on NUs only turnover of the afternoon, an Eric Crouch interception in the end zone, and regained the lead at 14-13 on a Moschetti to Adam Peeke touchdown pass.
Trailing 14-13, senior rush end Mike Rucker sacked Moschetti causing a fumble and freshman Jeremy Slechta recovered at the Nebraska 42. The Huskers converted on the turnover as Brown's 25-yard field goal gave Nebraska a 16-14 lead with eight and a half minutes remaining.
Brown, who earlier in the day set the NCAA career record for extra points with 217, breaking the previous record of 216 set by Fresno State's Derek Mahoney, connected on 3-of-4 field goals, hitting a pair from 30 yards before his game winner from 25 yards.
Colorado had a final chance but Chad Kelsay's 8-yard sack on second down forced CU into a passing situation. Moschetti threw a pair of incompletions on third and fourth down, and the Huskers ran out the final two minutes to clinch the win.
Rucker led the Blackshirts with seven tackles, 1.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception caused to earn Big 12 Defensive Player-of-the-Week honors, while fellow rush end Chad Kelsay added six stops, including three tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.
No. 14/17 Nebraska defeated unranked Colorado 16-14 in Lincoln. The Huskers improved to 9-3 on the season and 5-3 in the Big 12 Conference, while Colorado drops to 7-4 and 4-4. With the win the Huskers extend their school and NCAA-record streak of consecutive nine-win seasons to 30 years (since 1968 when NU went 6-4). It also extends the Huskers streak of consecutive nine regular-season wins to 21 years. Todays game marked an excellent performance by the Husker defense in which NU converted two of three turnovers, recorded six sacks and scored the only Nebraska touchdown of the game. Coach Frank Solich becomes just the third first-year Nebraska head coach to record nine wins in his first season at the helm, joining a pair of Hall of Fame Coaches--Tom Osborne (9-2-1 in 1973) and Bob Devaney (9-2 in 1962). NU moved back into second in the North Division, behind K-State 8-0 and ahead of Missouri, who also posed a 5-3 record but lost to NU. Nebraska has won the last seven over the Buffaloes. Seven of the last 11 games between NU and CU have been decided by seven points or less (NU leads 5-1-1).
16 Points by NU...The last time the Husker offense did not score a touchdown, was the 19-0 loss to Arizona State on Sept. 21, 1996. The 16 points scored by the Huskers is the lowest this season, lowest since being shut out by ASU, and lowest in a win since defeating Oklahoma 15-3 on Nov. 25, 1994 in Norman. It is the lowest total at home since a 27-12 loss to Colorado on Nov. 3, 1990 and the lowest at home in a win since defeating Baylor 13-0 on Sept. 1, 1990.
IB Correll Buckhalter...In his seventh season/career start, sophomore Correll Buckhalter rushed 15 times for 92 yards, including a career-long 52-yard run on NUs first drive of the second half. This is the fifth time this season he has rushed for 90 or more yards. Buckhalter finishes the season as the teams leading rusher with 799 yards (142 carries, eight TDs), the lowest since Monte Anthony, IB, led the Huskers with 723 yards on 161 carries in 1975. His eight TDs ties Bobby Newcombe for the team lead. The last time NU did not have a 1,000-yard rusher was 1996 (Ahman Green had 917 yards). The last time NU did not have either a 1,000 yard rusher or passer was in 1968 when Joe Orduna, HB, had 677 yards rushing to lead the team and Ernie Siegler, QB, had 907 yards passing.
NU Team Totals...NU finished the season as a team averaging 253.8 yards per game rushing, the lowest team total since 1976 (219.8), NU averaged 131.2 yards passing, the highest since 1995 (156.5). NUs 384.9 total offense team average is the least since 1969 (371.8) and the first time NU has not averaged 400 or more 1973 (396.0). Opponents averaged 116.8 yards rushing, 196.8 passing and 313.7 in total ofense.
Quarterback Eric Crouch...in his fifth start of the season (third consecutive), redshirt freshman Eric Crouch completed 10 of 22 passes for 123 yards and threw one interception. He also rushed 17 times for 18 yards. This marks the third time this season and second consecutive that Crouch has thrown for at least 100 yards. The Crouch-Buckhalter combination at QB-IB is one of six different combinations utilized by NU this year. Crouch and Buckhalter have been the starters in three games this year, but not since the California game. Crouch finishes the season with a team-best 1,060 total offense yards (601 passing, 459 rushing).
Turnovers...NU 2 (fumble first half, CU did not convert; interception, second half, CU converted to 7), CU 3 (interception, first half, NU converted to 7 points; fumble, second half, NU did not convert; fumble, third quarter, NU converted to a field goal)...with 11:09 remaining in the first quarter, free safety Clint Finley intercepted Mike Moschetti and returned the pickoff 42 yards for Finleys first career TD. It was Finleys third interception this season (all in last four games, tied for season lead with Joe Walker). Moschetti threw the interception under heavy pressure from rush end Mike Rucker. NU took a 7-0 lead on the score. With 9:47 in the third, NUs Mike Rucker and Jay Foreman sacked Moschetti and Rucker forced a fumble which Chad Kelsay recovered at the CU 18. But NU did not convert as Crouch threw his fourth interception of the season (intercepted by Ben Kelly in the end zone). Colorado converted the turnover into a score after an 80-yard drive that resulted in a Moschetti-Peeke 15-yard TD pass, to take a 14-13 lead with 2:11 remaining in the third quarter. Rucker caused his second fumble of the game on his second sack with 13:41 remaining in the third quarter. The fumble was recovered by Jeremy Slechta. NU converted it into a field goal to regain the lead at 16-14 with 8:48 remaining in the fourth). NU has now converted 15 of the opponents 27 turnovers into 14 TDs and four field goals for 109 points.
Place-Kicker Kris Brown...with Kris Browns first PAT following Clint Finleys interception return, he broke the NCAA career record for PATs. Brown has 217 in his career, bettering Fresno States Derek Mahoney who had 216 from 1990-93. The PAT was partially blocked but still went through. With that PAT, Brown tied Mahoneys PAT attempt record of 222. Brown was 3-4 on field goals in the game, missing his first attempt of 45 yards in the first quarter (first drive), but hit on a 30 yarder with no time remaining in the first half to put NU up 10-7 at intermission, and hit another 30 yarder on NUs first drive of the third quarter to extend the Husker lead to 13-7. Brown hit on his third field goal of the game (25 yards) to give NU the final margin of victory at 16-14 with 8:48 remaining in the fourth quarter. That marked the second time this year (also Texas) and for the eighth time in his career that he hit on three or more field goals in a game. With 10 points vs. Colorado, Brown now has a school-record total of 388 points. On the season, Brown finished with 14-21 on field goals, 47-48 on PATs and led the team for the third time in his four-year career (was second in 1997) with 89 points.
True Freshmen have Impact on Sack Attack...Defensive tackles Jeremy Slechta and Jason Lohr had two of the Huskers six sacks of the game. Slechta had an 8-yard sack and Lohr sacked Moschetti for a 6-yard loss. Slechta also recovered a fumble. Both are true freshmen. Linebacker Eric Johnson played with a bruised shoulder but recorded a 10-yard sack and Mike Rucker and Jay Foreman combined for a nine-yard sack (Rucker caused a fumble recovered by Kelsay). After not recording a sack all season, Rucker had two vs. CU, with a second sack for 7-yards lost (also causing a fumble, recovered by Slechta), which led to Kris Browns game-winning field goal. Chad Kelsay was in on the Slechta sack and also sacked Moschetti with 1:53 remaining in the game for an 8-yard loss to put the Buffaloes in a 3rd and 15 situation. Linebacker Jay Foreman had the only breakup of the day and it was a big one. On 3rd and 15, with 1:53 remaining, Foreman caused Darin Chiaverini to drop the pass. The six sacks ties the Huskers season best (also six vs. California). Unofficially, Rover Mike Brown led the team with 11 tackles and led the team this season with 102. This is the third time in the last four weeks he has led the team in tackles and the fourth time this year he has had double-figure tackles. He is the first to record 100 tackles in a season since Mike Knox had 125 in 1983. Foreman had nine tackles, while Rucker was the ABC/Chevrolet Player of the Game with seven tackles, two sacks, an interception caused and two forced fumbles. Kelsay had six tackles, two for losses.
NU trailed...Colorado took the lead with 2:11 in the third (14-13). That marked the sixth time this season NU has trailed in a game (also Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Missouri and Texas). NU trailed 14-13 entering the fourth quarter, but won 16-14. The last time the Huskers trailed in the fourth quarter but won, was against Missouri in the overtime win in 1997.
Punter Bill Lafleur...one of 21 seniors playing their last game in Memorial Stadium, Bill Lafleur punted five times for a season/career-best 51.0 average (previous best was 49.3 vs. Missouri). His last punt, with 2:57 remaining in the game, was a 58-yard punt that put Colorado at its own 9-yard line for its last drive of the game. Lafleur had 14 punts (two vs. CU, short of 46) of 50 yards or more on the season and finishes with a 44.9 season average, breaking the school record held by Jesse Kosch (44.7 in 1996). Lafleur had 52 punts for 2,337 yards this season. The senior class posted a 45-5 overall record with two national championships in the last four years.
Injuries...Eric Johnson (sublux left shoulder, popped out and back in, out a couple of weeks but probable for bowl), Carlos Polk (right shoulder stinger, will have xrays)