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Wildcats Down Husker to Win North Division Title

Manhattan, Kan. -- In a game which featured two ties and three lead changes, No. 2/1 Kansas State defeated No. 11 Nebraska, 40-30, to clinch the Big 12 North Division title.

The victory was the first since 1968 for the Wildcats over the Huskers and Kansas State’s first win in Manhattan over NU since 1959.

Nebraska took the opening kickoff and marched 80 yards to take a 7-0 lead on an Eric Crouch eight-yard touchdown pass to Sheldon Jackson.

After KSU tied the score on a Michael Bishop touchdown run, Crouch hit split end Kenny Cheatham on a spectacular 45-yard touchdown pass to give NU a 14-7 lead. After a Wildcat turnover, the Huskers extended the lead to 17-7 on a Kris Brown 18-yard field goal.

Although Nebraska struggled to shut down the explosive KSU offense, the Blackshirts forced five Wildcat turnovers, including one on the NU 1-yard line when Jason Wiltz recovered a Bishop fumble, his third of the half, to end a Wildcat scoring threat. Kansas State cut the lead to 17-14 at halftime on Bishop‘s two-yard touchdown run.

Kansas State took its first lead of the day at 21-17 on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Bishop to Darnell McDonald and Martin Gramatica’s 25-yard field goal gave KSU a 24-17 lead before the Huskers mounted a comeback.

Junior cornerback Ralph Brown returned a Frank Murphy fumble 74 yards to tie the score at 24. After another Gramatica field goal pushed the KSU lead to 27-24, Crouch led the Huskers on a six-play, 77-yard scoring drive capped off by a nine-yard touchdown pass to Jackson, who finished with a pair of touchdown catches, but Brown missed the extra point and the Huskers led 30-27 with 8:17 remaining.

The Wildcats responded, driving 80 yards in 11 plays as Bishop, who completed 19 of 33 passes for 306 yards and two TDs and rushed for 140 yards and two scores, found McDonald for an 11-yard TD pass with 5:25 remaining.

The Wildcats put the game away on a 22-yard fumble return by Jeff Kelly with three seconds remaining. Crouch finished the afternoon completing 10 of 21 passes for a career-best 139 yards, while tying his career high with 108 yards rushing. On the day, Nebraska forced five KSU turnovers, converting them into 17 Husker points.


Postgame Notes

Manhattan, Kan. --The No. 11/11 Nebraska Cornhuskers lost its third game of the season in Manhattan to the No. 2/T1 KSU Wildcats, 40-30. KSU remains unbeaten at 10-0 overall and 7-0 in the league, and the Huskers drop to 9-3 overall and 4-3 in the conference. It is the first time NU has lost to a top 10 ranked team in 12 tries, the first KSU win over the Huskers in 30 games and the first time NU has lost three games in a season since 1992 (had not lost three regular-season games in a season since 1977 and had not lost three conference games in a season since 1976).

The Huskers took a 17-14 lead into the locker room at halftime, after converting two KSU fumbles into a TD and field goal. NU quarterback Eric Crouch connected with TE Sheldon Jackson and SE Kenny Cheatham for NU's first two TDs and PK Kris Brown hit a short field goal. KSU scored the first 10 points of the second half on a TD and a field goal to take a 24-17 lead. Nebraska tied it up on CB Ralph Brown's 74-yard fumble return; KSU added a field goal to regain the lead (27-24) with 10:57 remaining. NU's Crouch hit Jackson again for a score with 8:17 remaining in the game, but a missed PAT gave the Huskers a narrow three-point lead (30-27). KSU took the lead with 5:25 remaining on a TD pass from Michael Bishop to McDonald (34-30). With no time outs remaining, it came down to a fourth and eight situation for NU with 2:40 remaining, Crouch was sacked for a 12-yard loss. The Huskers held KSU to four downs and two yards and got the ball back to Crouch. With 15 seconds remaining, NU had one more chance for one more play (Crouch was sacked, fumble caused and returned for a TD). After missed 2-point conversion (clock did not run), :03 remained on the clock, KSU kicked off, Shevin Wiggins had a short return to end the game. KSU's 40 points were the most vs. NU. The previous best was 31 in a 1991 loss and 29 in a 1959 win in Manhattan.

* QB Eric Crouch...A redshirt freshman, in his third career start, Eric Crouch marched the Huskers to a score on the first drive of the game and kept the Huskers in the lead throughout the first half. Crouch completed 10 of a career-high 21 passes for a career-high 139 yards and set personal and team bests throwing for three TDs in the game. Crouch was NU's leading rusher with a career-high 22 carries for 108 yards (tied his career best of 108 yards rushing vs. Texas). On Nebraska's first drive, Crouch completed a 22-yard pass to TE Sheldon Jackson, then tossed an 8-yard pass to Jackson on the next play for the first score of the game. That TD pass was NU's first since the California game (No. 3). On that first TD drive, Crouch ran three times for 31 yards, and completed 3-3 passes for 33 yards. On NU's second scoring drive, Crouch completed a career-long 45-yard pass to SE Kenny Cheatham to put NU up 14-7 at the 11 minute mark in the second quarter. That marked the first time NU has had two TD passes in a game since Iowa State in 1996 (NU won 49-14, Nov. 16, 1996). With 8:17 remaining in the game, Crouch hit Jackson for a 9-yard TD pass to put NU up 30-27 (missed PAT). Crouch had 192 of his season-best 247 total-offense yards in the first half. He is the first Husker QB to rush and pass for 100 yards in a game this year and first since Scott Frost rushed for 141 and passed for 175 against Missouri in 1997. The last time Nebraska threw for three TDs in a game was against Oklahoma on Nov. 2, 1996.

* TE Sheldon Jackson...caught a career-best two TDs in the game, an 8-yard pass from Crouch for NU's first TD of the game and a 9-yard pass to give the Huskers a 30-27 lead with 8:17 in the fourth. It was Jackson's third and fourth TD catches this season to lead the team (Jackson has 10 TD receptions in his career). The last time a Husker tight end had two TD catches in a game was when Vershan Jackson (no relation) had two in a win against ISU in 1996. Sheldon led the team against K-State with four catches for 48 yards (four receptions ties career best) and had 12 knock-downs.

* SE Matt Davison... has now caught at least one pass in every game this season. Against the Wildcats, Davison had two catches for 21 yards. With 30 catches for 363 yards, Davison is one catch away from the NU season top 10 list and one catch away from the NU career top 25 (has 41-595).

* SE Kenny Cheatham...caught a career-long reception and a career-long TD reception when he dove and made a one-armed 45-yard catch from Eric Crouch to put NU up 14-7 with 11 minutes remaining in the second quarter. It was Cheatham's first TD reception this season, second of his career (30-yard TD reception vs. Michigan State in 1996), and only catch in the game.

* Turnovers...Nebraska 3 (2 fumbles, 1 int., KSU converted two); Kansas State 5 (4 fumbles, 1 interception, NU converted three)...Nebraska fumbled on its second drive of the game, first play (Dan Alexander fumbled, recovered by Jarrod Cooper). KSU recovered on their own 45 and converted it into a 2-yard Michael Bishop TD run to tie score at 7-7 with 3:22 in the first quarter. Kansas State's first fumble (by Bishop) resulted in a TD and 7 points. Linebacker Carlos Polk caused the fumble on NU's only sack of the game and DT Loran Kaiser recovered on the KSU 44. NU scored three plays later on a Crouch to Cheatham 45-yard pass to put NU up 14-7 with 11 minutes remaining in the second quarter. RE Chad Kelsay caused Bishop's second fumble, it was recovered by FS Clint Finley on NU's 36-yard line. NU converted the turnover into three points when Kris Brown kicked an 18-yard field goal with 4:55 remaining in the second quarter to give NU a 17-7 lead. KSU was driving when DT Jason Wiltz caused Bishop to fumble on the NU 1-yard line. It was recovered by Polk, but NU did not convert.

With two minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bishop scrambles under pressure by DE Mike Rucker. Rover Mike Brown tipped a pass into the arms of true freshman corner Keyuo Craver, who recorded his first career interception. However, one play later, Crouch threw his third interception of the season (picked off by Jeff Kelly). But on the next play, KSU's Frank Murphy was hit hard by RE Kyle Vanden Bosch and fumbled. Nebraska junior corner Ralph Brown recovered and returned it 74 yards for a TD to tie the score at 24-all with 1:05 remaining in the third quarter. The last time NU returned a fumble for a score was Jason Peter in the 1996 Orange Bowl vs. Virginia Tech (31 yards). KSU's Kelly scored on a Crouch fumble with :03 remaining for the final 40-30 margin (did not convert 2-point PAT attempt).

NU has now converted 13 of 24 opponent turnovers into 99 points this season, while opponents have converted five of NU's 16 turnovers into 29 points on the season.

* PK Kris Brown...NU's senior place-kicker tied the NCAA record for career PATs with his third of the day in the third quarter which tied the score 24-24. Kris Brown now has 216 career PATs (on 221 attempts), tying Fresno State's Derek Mahoney's 216 made from 1990-93. Brown is just one PAT attempt away from tying Mahoney's career record of 222 PAT attempts. Brown also kicked an 18-yard field goal to extend his school and Big Eight record for career points to 378. Brown's school-record streak of 125 consecutive PATs made ended with the missed extra point at 8:22 remaining in the game. He had not missed a point after since his third attempt at Iowa State in game 10 on Nov. 16, 1996.

* Husker Cornerbacks tie school record...Sophomore left cornerback Erwin Swiney entered the game with 12 pass breakups and junior right corner Ralph Brown entered the game with 11. Officially, both tied the school record of 13 held by Barron Miles' in 1994. (Brown had two and Swiney had one). Brown owns the school record with 34 passes broken up.

* Lead Changes...In the KSU game, there were three lead changes and the score was tied twice. When NU took a 7-0 lead on its first drive, it marked the first time this season KSU had trailed in a game. When K-State took a 21-17 lead with 8:20 in the third, it marked the fifth time this season NU had trailed in a game.