Huskers Rally to Beat Missouri
Lincoln -- Senior walk-on quarterback Monte Christo rallied No. 7 Nebraska from a 10-point second-half deficit as the Huskers upended No. 19/18 Missouri, 20-13, in a rematch of last seasons classic.
Christo, replacing an injured Bobby Newcombe, rushed for a career-high 67 yards on 20 carries and scored on runs of one and three yards as the Huskers trailed 13-3 at halftime before regrouping.
While Christo ignited the offense, the Blackshirts turned in their best performance of the season, holding the Tigers to just 166 total yards and 10 first downs. Butkus Award semifinalist Jay Foreman posted a career-high 13 tackles and a sack while linebacker Eric Johnsons 10-yard sack of Corby Jones, one of four NU sacks on the day, on the final play of regulation ended any thoughts of overtime.
Kris Browns first-quarter 38-yard field goal gave the Huskers a 3-0 lead. In the second quarter, the Tigers capitalized as Steve Erickson returned a Husker fumble 41 yards to give the Tigers a 6-3 lead.
On NUs next possession, the Huskers drove for a game-tying field goal, but the kick was blocked by MUs Jeff Marriott and returned to the Nebraska 25. Missouri drove to the NU 1 on first and goal, but Foreman and the Blackshirts stood firm, forcing the Tigers to run four plays before scoring on fourth down. Trailing 13-3, the Huskers got a spark on special teams by wingback Shevin Wiggins, who had a career-long 53-yard punt return to the Missouri 14. Christo scored from one yard out six plays later.
On the Huskers next possession, Christo guided the Huskers on an eight-play, 49-yard scoring drive, finishing the drive with a 3-yard run to give the Huskers the final 20-13 lead. Offensively, sophomore I-back Correll Buckhalter rushed for his third 100-yard game of the season with 125 yards on a career-high 25 carries.
While the offense was regaining the lead, the defense continued to shut down the potent Tiger offense. Missouri tailback Devin West, the nations No. 2 rusher, was held to 72 yards, 120 yards below his average, as the MU ground attack mustered just 77 yards.
Nebraska Postgame Notes, Oct. 24, 1998
The No. 7/7 Nebraska Cornhuskers extended their winning streak over the No. 19/18 Missouri Tigers to 20 games, with a 20-13 win in Lincoln. For the Huskers, it was their 47th straight home victory (leads the nation). Nebraska imprhoves to 7-1 on the season, and 3-1 in Big 12 Conference action, while Missouri drops to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the conference. The win ensures the Huskers of their 37th consecutive winning season (longest in nation). It is NUs second victory over a ranked team this season.
Two lost fumbles were key for the Huskers, as Missouri defensive tackle Steve Erickson returned a fumbled punt 41 yards for their first score, and the Tigers converted a blocked field goal attempt into their second score, after returning the blocked field goal to the Nebraska 25. Missouri got a last chance, recovering a second fumble with 1:38 remaining in the game at the N46. The Huskers scored six of their points on two Kris Brown field goals and walk-on senior quarterback Monte Christo scored on runs of one yard and three yards. The Husker defense was led by seniors Jay Foreman (12 tackles) and Mike Rucker who stopped the Tigers on key plays. The Blackshirts held Mizzou to 77 yards rushing and 166 total, while NU had 256 (led by Correll Buckhalters 125) and 328, respectively. Solich is the first NU coach to defeat MU in his first season at the helm since Pete Elliott in 1956. Next week, NU hosts Texas in a 2:30 p.m. kick (ABC) while Mizzou plays at Texas Tech.
* NU vs. MU..20th straight win over the Tigers, but in the last 20 meetings, eight of the victories have been decided by 10 points or less. Both last years game and this years went down to the wire.
* QB Monte Christo...Christo did not start the first half, but relieved sophomore Bobby Newcombe (PCL knee strain) on the third drive of the first quarter and the first drive of the second quarter, then took over playing the entire second half. Christo rushed for a career-high 67 yards on a career-high 20 carries and scored his first and second career TDs in the second half (1-yard run with 1:32 in third, and on a 3-yard run with 10:27 in the fourth). Christo completed 1-5 passes for 7 yards. The Fox Sports Net player-of-the-game, Christo had a long run of 16 yards.
* I-back Correll Buckhalter earned his fifth start this season (also first three games and last week vs. KU) and posted his third 100-yard rushing game of season/career. The sophomore rushed 25 times for 125 yards. Buckhalter started in place of sophomore DeAngelo Evans who sat out with a bruised tailbone. Buckhalter also tied for the team lead in receptions with 2 for 20 yards. He averaged 5.0 yards per carry with a long of 16 yards.
* Special Teams...Wingback Shevin Wiggins was key in the return game. He tied his season best (and was one yard short of his career best) with a 40-yard kickoff return which gave NU an opportunity to kick a field goal. Wiggins also had two punt returns for 65 yards including a career-long 53 yarder which gave NU the ball at the Missouri 14 with just over four minutes remaining in the third quarter. Christo scored six plays later on a 1-yard run . Wiggins also caught two passes for 20 yards, one was an 12-yard gain for a Husker first down at 3rd and 11.
* Average Field Position...NU punter Bill Lafleur aided the Huskers to an 13-yard gain on field position (NU own 38, MU own 25). After the first quarter, NUs average field position was its own 42 and at the half it was its own 47. Lafleur averaged 49.3 yards per kick on four punts and put MU on its own 11, and 2 yard line. His final punt of 64 yards is a career long. He also had one touchback, putting Missouri within its own 20 three times on the game.
* Fullback Joel Makovicka...moved into fourth on the NU all-time career rushing chart for fullbacks with seven carries for 31 yards.
* Place-Kicker Kris Brown...Brown scored eight points, boosting his career-record total to 356 in his four years at NU. Brown was successful on two of four field goals, a 38-yarder with 7:23 in the first quarter to give NU a 3-0 lead and a 30-yarder with no time remaining at halftime to put NU back to 13-6 at intermission. His first miss was a blocked 38-yard attempt (blocked by Marriott, returned 11 yards by Perkins, and 44 yards by Piersey). His second miss was a 29-yard attempt with 6:59 remaining in the third quarter. This marked the first time this season and just the third time in his career (also Baylor and Missouri in 1996) that Brown has missed two field goals in a game. Brown has made 7-11 this season, 23 of his last 27 attempts and 50 of 67 in his career and extended his Nebraska record of consecutive PATs to 114. He has connected on 205-209 PATs and is nearing the NCAA record in both categories (216 PATs made and 222 PAT attempts). It is the second consecutive week that Brown has kicked two field goals in a game. It was the first time he has ever had a field goal blocked in his career.
* Blocked Kicks...Nebraskas Tony Ortiz partially blocked a Vince Sebo punt in the second quarter. It was the first time NU had blocked a punt since Eric Warfield blocked a Missouri punt in the 1996 game. Missouris Jeff Marriott blocked a Kris Brown field goal attempt, the first time NU has had a field goal blocked since Byron Bennett had a game-winner blocked in the 19-19 tie to Colorado on Nov. 2, 1991.
* Break Em Up...Sophomore corner Erwin Swiney had two pass breakups in the game, both were on Missouris last 10-play drive. On that drive which began at the Nebraska 36, junior linebacker Eric Johnson also had a breakup in the end zone and sacked MUs Corby Jones for a 10-yard loss to end the game. Junior corner Ralph Brown had one breakup, giving him nine on the season. RE Mike Rucker also had one breakup, giving NU five in the game.
* Defensive Notes...Linebacker Jay Foreman led the team with 12 tackles and sacked Corby Jones for a 4-yard loss to lead the team. Although Missouri scored, Foreman stopped Missouri at the one-yard line on three consecutive plays. RE Mike Rucker had four tackles, a tackle for loss and a breakup. He was instrumental on several key plays. He stopped Devin West on a 3rd and one play for a two-yard loss which forced a Vince Sebo 6-yard punt. NU scored the game-winning TD eight plays later on a Christo 3-yard run. On Mizzous next drive, Rucker broke up a Jones pass attempt also on 3rd and one again forcing a punt. He also made a stop for 1-yard gain with 3rd and two on MUs final drive of the game. Tony Ortiz had the blocked punt, he and Rucker caused Missouri to fumble on their second drive (it was recovered by Loran Kaiser) and led to Kris Browns 38-yard field goal to put NU up 3-0. Ortiz also had four tackles and a 7-yard tackle for loss. Rover Mike Brown, unofficially, was second on the team with eight tackles for loss.
* Turnovers...Nebraska converted Missouris only fumble into a touchdown, Missouri converted one of NUs two fumbles lost into a score (41-yard return by Erickson) but did not convert the extra point.
* Defensive Team Notes...NU held Missouri to 77 yards rushing, 89 passing and 166 total. This marks the first time since Oklahoma last year that NUs defense has held its opponent to less than 100 in both rushing and passing (85 rush, 69 pass). This is the fifth time this season NU held the opponent to less than 100 rushing and third time this season the opponent has not totaled 100 in the air. It was a season-best for the defense in total offense (166, previous best was 210 by UAB). Missouri averaged 266.3 yards rushing entering todays game and Devin West had ranked second in the nation averaging 175.2 ypg rushing. He was held to 72 yards on 24 carries today (3.0 ypc). The eight completions by Mizzou tied the season low (also eight by Kansas and UAB). MU was held to 3-14 on third-down conversions.
* NU trails...When Missouri took a 6-3 lead in the second quarter, it marked the third time this season NU has trailed in a game (also Oklahoma State and Texas A&M). Missouri led 13-6 at haltime, marking the second time this season NU trailed at haltime. Texas A&M led 14-7 at half and went on to hand NU its first only loss of the season (28-21). Until today, the last time NU trailed at home, any time, was when Central Florida took a 7-0 lead on Sept. 13, 1997. UCF lead 17-14 at halftime, and NU went on to win 38-24, marking the last time, before today, that NU trailed at halftime but went on to win the game. NUs six points in the first half is its fewest in the first half of a home game since trailing Oklahoma 14-3 at the half in 1991. NU went on to win the game 19-14
Head Coach Frank Solich
On the game
It was a great ballgame. I thought both teams played tremendously hard. Certainly you need to give them a lot of credit for the kind of football team they put on the field. I think Larry has done a fine job with their program. You have to give our team a lot credit. Defensively, they played tremendous football the whole game. They kept us in there when we were struggling. We passed up on cashing in on several big plays that I think would have helped us get some points on the board. We struggled offensively to get the game going, but as the game went on, I thought the offense rebounded back and got some points on the board to help the defense win this football game. I'm pleased with a lot of things about the game. Hopefully, we'll get prepared and move on to the next game.
On the switch to Monte Christo
The feeling was that Bobby was not effective in the opportunities that he had so it made sense to go with Monte. Bobby did some good things in the first half but wasn't as consistent as he has been and was not as consistent as we needed him to be in order to get some things going offensively. You don't really throw any blame on one position or one player because it was a collection of things that kept us from putting points on the board. Bobby is a great player and I'm sure he will rebound and be ready to go on Monday.
On the play of Christo:
I think his quickness was able to show. I think Bobby was probably slowed a little more with his injury than what he has been during the last couple of weeks. Monte is a stable quarterback for us. He does everything well and has the ability to run our offense to get us out of bad plays and into good ones. I thought he ran well and that he did a wonderful job passing. He's a great young man and his talent showed today.
On the performance by the Blackshirts
I thought our defense controlled them really well throughout the game. We had some opportunities in the first half to get some points on the board that didn't happen and what that did is put Missouri in a position to go up on us at halftime at a much larger margin that what they were up on us at halftime. Credit our defense.
On Correll Buckhalter's play
He's played extremely well in the last two games. He's an up the field type of runner for you and he showed that today. To me, it looked as though Buckhalter was getting the most out of each play.
On the importance of field position
We talked to our players all week about field position and how critical it would be in this ballgame. We talked to them about field position as far as kick off coverage, kick off returns, punt coverage and punt returns. I think special teams can supply you with great field position or hurt you when it comes to field position. Today, the special teams were great for us in that regard.
On his mood at halftime
My mood was not great. I thought we had opportunities that we did not capitalize on. That was a very frustrating game for a good part of it. I was concerned that if we didn't get things in hand, that we may not be able to get this thing turned around if we continued to play in the second half like the first. I think the defense felt good about their ability to control their offense at halftime. Offensively, we understood we needed to pick it up on our end to make this thing around. There was a determination factor by our offense to make this thing work.
Nebraska Player Quotes
Quarterback Monte Christo
On starting the second half:
With Bobbys knee problem bothering him again like it has all season, today we just needed someone who was 100 percent to go in and do the job. I just went in and did the best I could.
On playing when the outcome of the game was in doubt:
It was a blast. Ive been getting into games late in the contest, but this was by far the most meaningful. I just wanted to get in there and get things done. I came in and wanted to give the team a shot at winning the game and things turned out pretty well.
Rush End Mike Rucker
On the defenses overall effort:
We played against the run really well today. We allowed a couple of big pass plays and I think they thought it would open up their running game. They tried to run a couple of times in key situations, but we were there to stop them. We flew around today. I was happy about that goal-line stand. Even though they scored, I was proud of the fellas on defense for not backing down. They barely got in and we used that later in the game.
More on the defense:
We got a lot better today. This team is known for rushing and we held them to almost the absolute minimum you can hold them to. Our defense is definitely moving in the right direction.
Rush End Chad Kelsay
On the defenses effort against the run:
To go up against an offense that was as solid as that, a team which has run the ball up and down the field against a lot of teams this season, and to come out and shut that offense down says a little bit about the way our defense played today.
I-back Correll Buckhalter
On the toughness of the game:
It was definitely the most physical game of the season. Before the game, the coaching staff emphasized that Missouri was a very physical team. We wanted to come out and show them that we were the more physical football team.
Wingback Shevin Wiggins
On his punt return:
I was just looking to make something happen. We needed something big and our job playing on the special teams is to make something special happen. We did that at the right time.