Columbia, Mo. - Ndamukong Suh and the Blackshirts kept Nebraska in the game, and quarterback Zac Lee and the Husker offense came alive with 27 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, as No. 21 NU stormed back for a 27-12 victory over No. 24 Missouri at Faurot Field on Thursday night.
Nebraska improved to 4-1 on the year after winning its Big 12 road opener against the defending Big 12 North Division champion Tigers, who slipped to 4-1 and 0-1. The two teams played in a torrential downpour for nearly three full quarters with 65,826 fans on hand at Faurot Field and an ESPN primetime national television audience watching at home.
"We showed a lot of character when things weren't going our way in some tough conditions," Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini said. "But we made some plays, got some turnovers and I'm really proud of our guys. That was a crazy football game and I'm thrilled we won."
Nebraska picked up its first win in Columbia since 2001, and posted its first win over a ranked opponet since coming back for a 28-27 win at No. 24 Texas A&M in 2006. NU's comeback against the Tigers matched the largest fourth-quarter comeback in school history, joining a 1966 win over Colorado when NU trailed 19-7 after three quarters.
After slipping and sliding their way for less than 100 yards of total offense through the first three quarters, Nebraska's offense erupted for more than 150 yards and touchdowns on each of its four fourth-quarter possessions against a Tiger defense that had shut out NU for 45 minutes.
Lee gave the Huskers life with his 56-yard touchdown strike to Niles Paul with 13:56 left in the game to cut MU's lead to 12-7. On Missouri's ensuing possession, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh intercepted a Blaine Gabbert pass that had been deflected at the line of scrimmage. It was Suh's first interception of the season and the first interception thrown by Gabbert in his young Missouri career.
The crucial defensive play set the Husker offense up at the MU 18, and Lee and Paul wasted little time, connecting on a 13-yard pass play with 12:59 left to give Nebraska its first lead of the game. Lee's two-point conversion pass failed, but the Huskers still held a 13-12 edge.
That lead grew 2:25 later, after the Blackshirts struck again when Dejon Gomes intercepted a Gabbert pass and returned it 40 yards to the MU 10. Three plays later, Lee hit tight end Mike McNeill on an eight-yard pass to push Nebraska's lead to 20-12 with 10:34 remaining.
Gabbert and the Tigers put together a time-consuming march on the following possession, driving to the NU 22 after the Huskers were called for pass interference on a 4th-and-7 play. The Tiger drive was also aided earlier by a personal foul call. But a holding penalty pushed MU back 10 yards on first down, and Nebraska's defense relentlessly pursued Gabbert on the next four plays as it had done all night long.
The Blackshirts held, and Lee and the NU offense marched 68 yards on eight plays, capped by Roy Helu Jr.'s five-yard touchdown run with 56 seconds left to end any late-game drama.
For the night, Nebraska managed 263 yards of total offense, including 158 passing and 105 rushing. Lee completed 14-of-33 passes with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Paul led the Husker receiving corps with six catches for 102 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Curenski Gilleylen added three catches for 13 yards and Menelik Holt hauled in two balls for 26 yards.
Helu led NU's rushing attack with 18 carries for 88 yards, including a 41-yard burst on Nebraska's final drive to put the Tigers away in the fourth quarter. On the Huskers' final drive, Helu rushed five times for 51 yards, while Rex Burkhead added nine yards and Lee three more, as NU covered the entire 68 yards by running right at the Tiger defense.
Nebraska held Missouri to 225 yards of total offense, including 134 passing and 91 rushing. The Blackshirts also forced three MU turnovers.
The Blackshirts' front-four harassed Gabbert all night, keeping him on the run and limiting him to just 17-of-43 passing for 134 yards and the first two interceptions of his career. He was also sacked two times - once by Suh and the other by fellow defensive tackle Jared Crick.
Although he finished with just six tackles, including five solos, Suh dominated up front, forcing a Gabbert fumble in the first quarter while adding the pivotal fourth-quarter interception. He also had a pass breakup earlier in the game that was nearly an interception. His fourth-quarter pick was the fourth of his career, which increased his NU career record at his position. He added to Husker career position record for breakups by increasing his total to 12, including a season-record seven this year.
Crick added seven tackles and recovered the fumble forced by Suh in the first quarter. Defensive back Prince Amukamara led NU with nine tackles and had two pass breakups of his own, one that was nearly intercepted. Senior safety Larry Asante added a pair of breakups as well, one which was nearly intercepted, while defensive end Barry Turner also had a breakup that was close to an interception. In all, the Huskers notched nine breakups against Gabbert.
While the Huskers walked away with a convincing 15-point victory, the Tigers were in control of the game for the first three quarters.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Tigers put up two points on a safety when NU punter Alex Henery had to leap back and to his right for a high punt snap. Henery rolled to his right then dove for the turf before flipping the ball out of the back of the endzone.
Missouri made it 9-0 with no time left in the first half when Gabbert narrowly crossed the goal line before his knee hit the ground on a 4th-and-Goal run from just outside the 1.
Trailing 9-0 at the half, Nebraska opened the second half with the ball but fumbled a shotgun snap to open the half that Missouri recovered. Despite excellent field position, the Blackshirts shut down the Tigers and MU misfired on a 43-yard field goal attempt.
Later in the third, Missouri extended its lead to 12-0 on Grant Ressel's 33-yard field goal, before the Huskers answered with their amazing fourth-quarter comeback.
Nebraska returns to Lincoln for its Big 12 home opener on Saturday, Oct. 17, when the Huskers take on Texas Tech. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. (central) with an ABC regional telecast.
Final: #21 Nebraska 27, #24 Missouri 12
Second Quarter (MU, 9-0)
MU - 14:01 - TEAM Safety (MU, 2-0)
MU - 0:00 - Blaine Gabbert 1 run (Grant Ressel kick) - 7 plays, 44 yards, 0:48, MU 9-0
Third Quarter (MU, 12-0)
MU 1:26 - Ressell 33 FG - 7 plays, 19 yards, 2:16, MU 12-0
Fourth Quarter (NU, 27-12)
NU - 13:56 - Niles Paul 56 pass from Zac Lee (Alex Henery kick) - 6 plays, 69 yards, 2:29, MU 12-7
NU - 12:59 - Paul 13 pass from Lee (2PAT pass failed) - 2 plays, 18 yards, 0:45, NU 13-12
NU - 10:34 - Mike McNeill 8 pass from Lee (Henery kick) - 3 plays, 10 yards, 0:58, NU 20-12
NU - 0:56 - Roy Helu 5 run (Henery kick) - 8 plays, 68 yards, 4:28, NU 27-12
Final: Nebraska 27, Missouri 12
Time of Game: 3:28