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Huskers hold off Cowboys

Kansas City, Mo. -- No. 2 Nebraska used a fourth-quarter touchdown return by Joe Walker and a decisive goal-line stand in the final moments to hold off an upset-minded Oklahoma State squad, 24-17, in Kansas City, Mo.

Walker’s 73-yard punt return with 7:37 remaining broke a 17-17 tie as the Huskers extended their winning streak to 19 games in the Big 12 opener.

The Cowboys had a chance to send the game into overtime, driving to the NU 1 before Mike Rucker, who finished with a career-high 11 tackles, stopped OSU’s Nathan Simmons inches away from the end zone with five seconds remaining to preserve the win.

After a scoreless first quarter, OSU scored first on a Tim Sydnes 37-yard field goal before senior Kris Brown answered back with a season-long 48-yard field goal with 1:06 remaining.

The Huskers broke the halftime deadlock marching 76 yards on seven plays before quarterback Bobby Newcombe scored from six yards to give the Huskers a 10-3 lead. The key play in the drive was a 40-yard pass from Newcombe to Sheldon Jackson to the OSU 12-yard line.

Nebraska increased its lead to 17-3 on its next possession, using a 30-yard pass play from reserve quarterback Eric Crouch to Jackson to set up a DeAngelo Evans 1-yard touchdown run. The Huskers stuggled offensively, managing just 73 yards rushing, the lowest regular-season total since November, 1975.

The Huskers had a golden opportunity to put the game out of reach when defensive tackle Jason Wiltz intercepted an OSU pass, but it was nullified by a penalty. The play was costly as the Cowboys scored on a Jamaal Fobbs 3-yard run five plays later to cut the margin to 17-10. Oklahoma State tied the score at 17 on a 67-yard TD pass from Tony Lindsay to Ethan Howell setting the stage for Walker’s game-winning punt return with 7:29 remaining.

Sophomore cornerback Erwin Swiney and junior linebacker Tony Ortiz topped the Huskers with 14 tackles each. In all, six NU players had 10 or more tackles.

Nebraska Postgame Notes vs. Oklahoma State, Oct. 3, 1998

In a nail-biter to the end on a neutral site, the No. 2/2 (AP/Coaches) Nebraska Cornhuskers improved to 5-0 on the season with a 24-17 win over Oklahoma State in Kansas City. The league win improves the Huskers to 5-0 overall and 1-0 in the Big 12, while OSU drops to 2-2 overall and 1-1 in conference action. Nebraska extended its nation-leading overall winning streak to 19 games, won its 10th straight road game, and won its 65th game in the last 68 tries. NU has not lost to OSU in 35 games and has defeated the Cowboys in 23 straight tries.

OSU scored first on a Tim Sydnes 37-yard field goal with 13:48 in the first quarter. It was the first time NU trailed this season. Nebraska's Kris Brown answered with a season-long 48-yarder with 1:06 to play in the first half. The Huskers scored on their first and second drives of the third quarter (Bobby Newcombe 6-yard run, and DeAngelo Evans 1-yard run) to go up 17-3, but OSU tied the scored at 17-all, putting up two TDs of their own. Joe Walker took the lead back for NU with a 73-yard punt return with 7:29 remaining in the fourth. OSU had the last drive to end the game and moved to the Nebraska 1-yard line. With five seconds remaining, OSU's Nathan Simmons was stopped at the line of scrimmage by preseson All-American rush end Mike Rucker.

 * Split End Kenny Cheatham...caught three passes for 32 yards, before injuring his left shoulder and leaving the game. Cheatham moved the chains on two of his three catches. The first was a 13-yard reception on 2nd and 9; the second was an eight-yard catch on 2nd and 12; and the third was an 11-yard gain on third and 10. SE Matt Davison also had three ctches for 31 yards.

 * Tight End Sheldon Jackson...was again a big-play go-to guy for Nebraska. Jackson recorded his third reception of the season of 40-yards or more, catching a 40-yarder from Newcombe on Nebraska's first drive of the second half. Newcombe scored on a 12-yard run the next play. Jackson had a 46-yard TD vs. Louisiana Tech and a 48-yard catch vs. La Tech (NU scored two plays later). Jackson also had a 30-yard catch (from Eric Crouch) on NU's second drive of the second half to set up DeAngelo Evans 2-yard TD run four plays later to put NU up 17-3.

 * Joe Walker...Cornerback Joe Walker got the lead back for NU with 7:29 remaining in the fourth quarter with a 73-yard punt return. It is NU's first punt return for a TD this season, and Walker's first, but it was Walker's third career TD on a return. Walker had seven punt returns on the season for 65 yards entering tonight's game. Walker scored on a 99-yard kickoff return against Louisiana Tech in the '98 season opener and on a 71-yard interception return vs. Kansas State last season.

 * The Quarterbacks...Bobby Newcombe...played most of the game, still hampered by a knee injury. He rushed 13 times for 20 yards and completed 9 of 15 passes for 112 yards and 0 TDs (no interceptions). Newcombe scored NU's first TD on a 6-yard run to open the second half. In relief of Newcombe, Eric Crouch completed on pass for 30 yards.

 * I-back DeAngelo Evans...hampered by a bruised bone on the ball of his foot by his big toe, Evans rushed 15 times for 41 yards and caught one pass for five yards. Evans scored NU's second TD of the game on a 1-yard run with 7:43 remaining in the third quarter to give NU a 17-3 lead.

 * Place-Kicker Kris Brown extended his school record of consecutive PATs to 105, hitting on three PTs. He now has 334 career points scored--a continuing school record. Brown also connected on his third field goal this season and 46th of his career to tie the score at three-all with 1:06 remaining in the first half. The field goal was his third longest in his career at 48 yards. Brown has hit on two of 50-yards or more.

 * NU Defense...Nebraska extended its streak with at least one sack to 17 games. Against OSU, NU had one (CB Erwin Swiney's first career sack)...After giving up 27 points in the season-opener vs. Louisiana Tech, NU has given up just 24 in the last four games. Unofficially, Erwin Swiney had a career-best 14 tackles (career-best 11 solos) with three for 16 yards lost, including the 11-yard sack. Five Huskers had 10 or more tackles including Swiney, Jay Foreman (12), Tony Ortiz (11), Mike Rucker (10, including the game-stopper on the 1-yard line), and Mike Brown (10)

 * Turnovers...DT Jason Wiltz had intercepted his third pass of the season (4:07 in third), tossed to LB Jay Foreman who ran it to the OSU 2--but it was called back on a NU roughing the passer penalty (OSU scored its first of two TDs of the game on that drive--Jamaal Fobbs 3-yard run). In the game, there were no turnovers for either team, but each team had two fumbles not lost. Nebraska had just one penalty (for 15 yards) to OSU's 10 (59 yards), but it cost NU a TD which would have given the Huskers a 23-3 lead late in the third.

 * Highs and Lows...The three first-half points scored by Nebraska is a season low, and lowest since being shut out by Arizona State on Sept. 21 in 1996...OSU held a 3-0 first quarter lead marking the first time this season and first time since the Nov. 8, 1997 Missouri game that NU has trailed in a game, at any time. NU went into locker room tied with OSU 3-3, marking the first time this season that NU did not lead at halftime (last time NU trailed at halftime was also 1997 vs. Missouri). After totaling just four rushing yards and 43 total yards in the first half, NU finished the game with 73 yards rushing and 215 overall respectively. Both figures are season lows, and there were no lower marks in 1997. They do not rank on the NU top 10 worst outputs, and the last time NU had such low numbers could not be determined at game time. The 114 yards rushing by Nathan Simmons is a season best, as was his 26 attempts. NU still has not allowed a rush of 25 yards or more in a game this season.

* Known Injuries...Split End Kenny Cheatham, left shoulder, first half, did not return; OG Brandt Wade, left knee, did not return