Embed from Getty Images

Courtesy: NU Media Relations

Boulder, Colo (Ticker) — By the slightest of margins, No. 3 Nebraska remained alive in the national championship race.

Colorado’s Jeremy Aldrich missed a 34-yard field goal on the final play of regulation and Nebraska took advantage in overtime as quarterback Eric Crouch dove in from one yard for a 33-30 victory.

The Cornhuskers blew a 24-point fourth-quarter lead but clinched the Big 12 Conference North Division and a trip to the conference title game next weekend against South champion Texas, which handed them their only loss this season.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Nebraska coach Frank Solich said. “We were fortunate to string together a few plays in the first half and build a very good lead. But we knew at halftime they were capable of coming back.”

It also kept alive Nebraska’s hopes for passing unbeaten Virginia Tech in the Bowl Championship Series. The top two teams in the BCS rankings will play January 4 in the Sugar Bowl for the national title and Florida State has a lock on one spot.

“I don’t think we became more conservative in the second half, Crouch said. “I think it was more a case of them playing better than we did.”

Aldrich connected on a 33-yarder on the first possession of overtime after the Buffaloes missed a chance to keep alive the drive by failing to convert on 3rd-and-1.

Crouch drove Nebraska to the winning score. Willie Miller converted on 3rd-and-3 with a six-yard-run, Dan Alexander ran to the 1 on the next play and Crouch dove in for the win.

“Sometimes in the game of football it comes down to one kick, one pass or one turnover,” Solich said. “We were just hoping for a break to get it into overtime because we were confident in our chances if we could get that far. We knew it would probably take a touchdown to get it done in overtime.”

Nebraska (10-1, 7-1 Big 12 North) captured the North’s spot by virtue of its victory over Kansas State.

“It wasn’t really a celebration,” Crouch said. “It was more a sense of relief. It did seem like two different games out there. When the momentum shifts, it changes most every aspect of the game.”

Colorado (6-5, 5-3 North) lost to Nebraska for the eighth straight time and was agonizingly close for the fourth straight year, losing those games by a total of 13 points. The Buffaloes are eligible for a bowl.

“I don’t know if I have ever seen more heart, more resolve and fight in a team than I saw out there in the last 35 minutes,” Colorado coach Gary Barnett said. “We got ourselves in a hole early on and gave up some big plays that obviously came back to haunt us.”

Nebraska has a 42-14-2 lead in the all-time series, including a 33-4-1 edge in the last 38 meetings. The Huskers are 20-8-2 in Boulder and have lost there just twice since 1960.

But Colorado’s comeback may have severely hurt Nebraska’s chances of overtaking Virginia Tech.

“We’re not concentrating on the BCS right now,” Nebraska kicker Josh Brown said. “We just want wins. Our goal was to win the Big 12 and now we have to beat Texas to do that. Whatever else happens is not in our control.”

Alexander finished with 180 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries. Crouch had 123 yards on 19 carries and completed 4-of-12 passes for 44 yards, finding Matt Davison twice for 28.

Nebraska dominated the first three quarters and was cruising to a rout with a 27-3 lead. Then Mike Moschetti and Colorado’s offense exploded for 24 points and appeared a lock to win the game behind Aldrich, who pushed the potential game-winning kick wide right, forcing overtime.

“I thought we had it at that point,” Colorado wide receiver Roman Hollwel said. “We’re not going to blame this on Jeremy. It’s not any one guys’s fault. We just need to play four quarters.”

Aldrich hit a 49-yarder 43 seconds into the final quarter to get the Buffaloes going. Moschetti followed with three scoring passes in a span of less than six minutes to tie it, hitting John Minardi from 14 yards, Daniel Graham from three and Javon Green from 21. The last TD strike came after Colorado recovered an onside kick that hit Davison in the shoulder.

Moschetti was 21-of-41 for 317 yards and three TDs. Cortlen Johnson had 135 yards on 25 carries for Colorado, which totaled 504 yards.

“I don’t know whether we sat on a lead or didn’t sit on a lead, Solich said. “But our guys were able to come up with what was needed to get it done at the end and I commend them for that. I really recognized the character of this football team today.”

Alexander owned the first half, gaining 151 yards on eight carries as Nebraska picked up 312 of its 400 total yards.

Barnett used a staple of his strategy, starting the game with a surprising onside kick. But Nebraska recovered at midfield and Alexander scored on a 50-yard run on the first play from scrimmage.

Crouch’s 35-yard run set up Alexander’s one-yard scoring plunge that doubled the lead less than three minutes later. A 46-yard run by Crouch on 3rd-and-6 led to Josh Brown’s 34-yard field goal that extended the cushion to 17-0 eight seconds into the second quarter.

Colorado converted twice on fourth down to keep alive a 17-play, 64-yard drive that led to a 33-yard field goal by Aldrich, closing Colorado within 14 points with 8:28 left in the second quarter. But Alexander answered with an 80-yard touchdown run on the next play from scrimmage for a 24-3 lead.

Brown added a 37-yard field goal with 2:31 left in the third quarter as Nebraska took advantage of a 23-yard punt.

Green led Colorado with 100 yards on five catches.


Nebraska Postgame Notes

The No. 3/3/3 Nebraska Cornhuskers defeated Colorado 33-30 in overtime in Boulder, to improve to 10-1 on the season and 7-1 in the Big 12. Nebraska received the Big 12 North Division trophy in the locker room after the game and will play Texas in the Big 12 Championship game in San Antonio on Dec. 4. The win gives Coach Frank Solich his 10th this season, matching the 10 wins Bob Devaney earned in his second year and gives him a career-19-5 record in two years, matching the 19 wins Devaney earned his first two years at the helm, Husker career bests. Nebraska has now had 10 wins in a season six times in the 90s and 20 times since 1963 in the Devaney/Osborne/Solich era. The win is Nebraska’s eighth straight over Colorado and second under Solich.

The Huskers scored three touchdowns in the first half, all by Dan Alexander and a field goal to take a 24-3 lead into the locker room. Alexander scored on runs of 50, 1, and 80 yards, while Alexander and Eric Crouch combined to give the Huskers two 100-yard rushers in the same game for the third time this season. In the second half, freshman place-kicker Josh Brown put up his second field goal to give NU a 24-point lead with 2:31 remaining in the third quarter. Colorado got on the board a second time in the fourth quarter on a 49-yard Jeremy Aldrich field goal (long vs. NU this year). Colorado scored a touchdown with nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter (Moschetti to Minardi) after a Husker turnover to bring the score to 27-13, then scored again (Moschetti to Graham) with 3:51 remaining to pull within seven. Colorado recovered the on-side kick at their own 44 yard line, and scored their third TD of the fourth quarter (Moschetti to Green). After the ensuing extra-point kick, the score was tied at 27 all with 2:59 remaining. CU kicked into the end zone and NU began its drive with 2:54 remaining at its own 20-yard line, but punted. Colorado began their drive on their own 5-yard line after a Dan Hadenfeldt 60-yard punt. NU’s Mike Brown forced a CU turnover that Keyuo Craver recovered on the CU 16 yard line, but NU fumbled it right back. CU drove to the NU 16-yard line but Jeremy Aldrich missed on a 37-yard field goal attempt with no time remaining.

In Nebraska’s first overtime game this season and second all-time (last time NU defeated Missouri 45-38 at Columbia in 1997), NU won the toss and elected to play defense first. CU was stopped short of a first down gaining nine yards, then Aldrich hit a 33-yard field goal. On Nebraska’s drive, Crouch completed a 4-yard pass to Matt Davison, Alexander gained three, FB Willie Miller gained six and a first down, Alexander gained 11 and a first down, then Crouch punched it in for the 1-yard score. NU is now 2-0 in overtime, CU is 1-1. Each of the last four games between Colorado and Nebraska have been five points or less and NU has won all four by a total margin of 13 points.

* I-back Dan Alexander…Dan Alexander scored on Nebraska’s first drive of the game, marking the fourth time in the last six games played in Boulder that Nebraska has scored on its first play from scrimmage. Alexander scored on a then-career-best TD run of 50 yards after NU’s Julius Jackson recovered an on-side kick by CU’s Jeremy Aldrich at midfield. Alexander carried CU defensive back Rashidi Barnes with him the last 10 yards into the end zone. Others who scored for NU on first plays vs. the Buffaloes include Ahman Green (run in 1995); Calvin Jones (run in 1993) and Gerry Gdowski to Bryan Carpenter (pass in 1989). Alexander’s previous career-long TD was a 9-yard run vs. Iowa State last year, while his long TD rush overall was 54 yards vs. Iowa State on a non-scoring play this season. On Nebraska’s second drive, Alexander scored on the fourth play of the series on a 1-yard play which was set up by a 35-yard run by QB Eric Crouch on the first play of the series. On that play, Newcombe set up as an I-back, went in motion and Alexander threw a great block. A 10-yard penalty for a CU late hit was tacked on to the play. The two TDs marked just the second time that Alexander has had a multiple TD rushing day (he had a career-best three vs. Iowa State in 1998). Alexander tied his career best for touchdowns in a game with his third score of the game with 8:04 remaining in the first half. On the second play of the drive, Alexander scored on a career-best 80 yard run, the longest by a Husker this season and longest under Solich. The 82 yards gave him 151 yards on eight carries. Alexander had 71 yards in the first quarter, 151 at halftime and 180 in the game on 17 carries (10.6 yards per carry), marking the fifth time he has totaled more than 100 yards in his career, fourth time this year. Alexander had 110 vs. ISU last year, 135 vs. ISU, 136 vs. Texas, 135 vs. A&M in 1999. Alexander’s 180 yards rushing were the most by a Husker this season and the most by a Husker I-back since Ahman Green had 206 vs. Tennessee in the 1998 Orange Bowl (after 1997 season). He now has 852 rushing yards on the season with eight TDs.

* QB Eric Crouch…Crouch posted his fifth 100-yard rushing game and had his 100 yards with two and a half minutes remaining in the first half. Crouch finished the game with 19 carries for 123 yards (6.5 yards per carry). This marks the third straight game Crouch has rushed for more than 100 yards and the fifth time in his career (last year Crouch had 18 yards rushing vs. CU). Crouch now has 817 rushing yards this season (second behind Alexander’s 852) and 13 TDs. He completed just 4-12 passes for 44 yards with no interceptions or touchdowns. He has 1,214 yards passing with another 7 TDs. He has 2,031 yards in total offense this season to rank eighth on the NU season chart (ahead of Tommie Frazier’s 1,966 in 1995). In his career, Crouch has 1,276 career rushing yards to rank 35th overall and fifth among Husker quarterbacks. He now has 1,815 career passing yards to rank 11th and 3,091 career total offense yards and is 62 yards short of the NU career top 10 list. Crouch scored the game winning TD in OT on a 1-yard run, marking the eighth straight game and 10th this year when he has scored at least one rushing TD.

* Quick Scoring…The Huskers scored on the first drive of the game (Alexander 50-yard run); scored on the fourth play of their second drive of the game (Alexander 1-yard run) and scored on the second play of their sixth drive (Alexander 80-yard run). On the season, Nebraska has had 30 drives of five plays or less (four today, compared to opponent’s 12), and six one-play drives (one today, compared to opponent’s one).

* SE Matt Davison…Davison remains fifth on the NU career receiving chart with 70 career receptions. He ranks ninth in career receiving yards with 1,048. Davison had a 24-yard catch in the first quarter for a first down; and a 4-yard catch in overtime on NU’s first play.

* All-American Rover Mike Brown…With an unofficial 11 tackles in the game, Mike Brown moved up from fifth to a tie for second on the NU career tackle list, passing Steve Damkroger (269 from 1979-82), Clete Pillen (273 from 1974-76) and tying Lee Kunz (276 from 1976-78). Brown leads the team this season with 85 tackles. Brown led all Huskers while Carlos Polk and Steve Warren each unofficially had 10 tackles. All-American Right Cornerback Ralph Brown unofficially had four tackles and one breakup vs. Colorado to extend his career school record for PBUs to 46.

* It’s a Rush…Nebraska outrushed Colorado 356 to 166 in the game. After the first quarter, NU held a 181-13 advantage, led by Crouch’s 90 yards and Alexander’s 71. At halftime, NU held a 288-57 advantage. In the first half this season, every opponent has been held to 73 yards or less rushing (KSU had 73). Last year, NU had just 131 rushing yards in the game against CU. Only four opponents have rushed for 100 yards or more in the game vs. the Huskers this season (188 by OSU, 146 by ISU, 116 by KU and 166 by CU). NU had two 100-yard rushers in the same game for the third time this season. Alexander had 180 and Crouch had 123. Against Iowa State, Alexander and Buckhalter both had 100-plus yards (135, 127, respectively) and vs. A&M, Alexander and Crouch (135, 137) each had 100 plus yards. CU out-totaled NU in total offense yards by 104 (504 by CU to NU’s 400)

* Sacking the Quarterback…For the ninth time this season, the Husker defense tacked on at least three sacks. Sacks were recorded by Joe Walker (1-9), Carlos Polk (1-4), Jason Lohr (1-5), Julius Jackson (1-6), Steve Warren (1-14), team (1-4) for six for 42 . On the season, Warren leads the team in sacks with 7-65, while Polk is second with 6.5 sacks for 47 yards. On the season, NU has 47-359. The school record is 49-393 in 1985.

* Kickers a Key Factor…Punter Dan Hadenfeldt…had seven punts for 403 yards and broke a 38-year old school record for average (57.6, school record for best average in a game, previous best was 57.33, Dennis Claridge vs. Syracuse, Oct. 14, 1961, minimum three punts, 3-172). Five of his punts pinned CU inside the 20-yard line, including the first two (17, 5, 13, 18 and 5 yard line) and all six were 49 yards or more (49, 54, 59, 67, 50 and 64 yards). Place-kicker Josh Brown hit two field goals. His first was a 34- yarder on the first play of the second quarter, and his second was a 37-yarder with 2:31 remaining in the third quarter. He has now made six straight since missing the first against Texas A&M (made last three in the game). Brown has made two or more field goals in a game three times (vs. Texas, Texas A&M and Colorado).

* Turnovers…Nebraska – 4 (4 fumble, CU converted to seven points); Colorado – 2 (2 fumbles, NU did not convert); Nebraska fullback Tyrone Uhlir fumbled the pitch in the first quarter, which was recovered by Colorado at the Nebraska 47, but the Husker defense held, forced three and out. Colorado’s Cortlen Johnson fumbled its first play of the second half, NU’s Tony Ortiz recovered on the CU 30, but NU did not convert as Dan Alexander fumbled it back. Colorado did not convert. In the fourth quarter, Bobby Newcombe apparently fumbled and CU recovered on the N47. The Buffaloes converted into a Mike Moschetti to John Minardi 14-yard TD pass to pull up to 27-13 with 8:47 remaining in the game. Mike Brown forced a CU fumble in the last minute of the game which Keyuo Craver recovered on the CU16-yard line, but Crouch fumbled it right back. CU drove to the NU 16-yard line but with no time remaining, Jeremy Aldrich was wide right on a 37-yard field goal attempt.