Huskers Top Buffs in 40-31 Thriller

By NU Athletic Communications
Alex Henery's school and Memorial Stadium-record 57-yard field goal proved to be the game-winning score.
Alex Henery's school and Memorial Stadium-record 57-yard field goal proved to be the game-winning score.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Lincoln - On a strange Senior Day inside Memorial Stadium, a sophomore and a junior stole the show for the Huskers in a thrilling 40-31 come-from-behind win over Colorado.

The Huskers trailed 31-27 entering the final quarter before rallying for their third straight victory. Sophomore Alex Henery cut the lead to 31-30 with a 37-yard field goal, before Nebraska drove downfield late looking to escape with a victory. Henery came back out and put NU in front for good by booting a 57-yard field goal with just 1:43 remaining, the longest field goal in Nebraska and Memorial Stadium history.

Junior Ndamukong Suh made sure Henery's field goal would hold up when he intercepted a tipped pass and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown. Suh's third touchdown of the season - and second interception return for a TD - capped the third-largest comeback in Nebraska history, as NU trailed 14-0 early after a barrage of big plays from the Buffaloes.

The win gave Nebraska an 8-4 regular season, as the Huskers have won four of their last five games, the program's best finish to a season since 2001. Colorado fought hard for a chance to continue its season, but the Buffaloes came up just short of gaining bowl eligibility, ending the season with a 5-7 record.

Henery's and Suh's heroics were needed after Nebraska failed to capitalize on numerous scoring opportunities throughout the second half. The Huskers drove inside Colorado's 33-yard line on each of their four second-half possessions, but NU came away with just nine points. Overall, Nebraska crossed midfield on each of its 11 drives on the day, but the Huskers only came away with points on only seven of those chances.

Nebraska ran 29 more plays than Colorado, while the Huskers' 63 snaps in CU territory were 15 more than Colorado ran in the entire game (48). CU went more than 10 minutes of game time without running an offensive play in the second and third quarters, while the Huskers forced four turnovers, their highest total in 21 games.

While Henery's kick or Suh's return may steal the headlines, the Husker seniors stepped up big in their final home game. Zach Potter tipped Cody Hawkins' pass that ultimately resulted in Suh's touchdown. Potter also had a tipped past in the first half that resulted in an interception for fellow senior Tyler Wortman. Senior Shukree Barfield also added a career-high two sacks on Colorado's final possession.

Offensively, senior Joe Ganz joined Henery as a new Nebraska record holder. Ganz threw for 229 yards and two touchdowns on the day, to give him an NU record 3,332 yards passing this season. He eclipsed Zac Taylor as the single-season leading passer in Husker history with a 53-yard touchdown pass to Mike McNeill in the first quarter. Taylor threw for 3,197 yards in 2006 while earning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year honors.

The thrilling comeback was needed after an exciting first three quarters. Colorado came out strong in a first quarter filled with big plays, as Hawkins connected with Riar Greer on a 68-yard touchdown pass on the second play of the game. The Buffaloes went deep again after forcing a Husker punt, as Hawkins found Josh Smith for a 44-yard gain down to the NU 36. CU made it three big plays in a row when Demetrius Sumler raced around the left end for a 36-yard touchdown to cap another two-play touchdown drive that put the Buffs in front 14-0 less than five minutes into the game.

Roy Helu Jr. fueled the Huskers' ensuing drive as he touched the ball on each of the first five plays, gaining 46 yards on three carries and two receptions to move NU inside the red zone. Ganz capped the nine-play drive by finding Swift for a two-yard touchdown pass to cut the gap to 14-7.

The Blackshirts forced a 3-and-out on Colorado's next possession and the Husker offense took over at their own 43. NU then displayed some big-play ability of its own, as Ganz broke NU's single-season passing record with his 53-yard touchdown pass to McNeill on the Huskers' first play to tie the game.

NU forced a turnover on Colorado's ensuing possession on Wortman's interception at the CU 33. Nebraska drove inside the 10-yard line before settling for a 35-yard Henery field goal that gave the Huskers their first lead at 17-14.

A big kickoff return set Colorado up at the NU 36 but the Buffaloes had to settle for a 37-yard Aric Goodman field goal.

Nebraska responded with a 12-play, 64-yard touchdown drive that put NU in front 24-17 with 2:03 remaining in the half. The Huskers ran for 50 yards on the drive, including Quentin Castille's one-yard touchdown run on 3rd-and-goal.

The Huskers got the ball right back when a short kickoff was mishandled by Colorado and NU's Mathew May recovered the fumble at the CU 36. After gaining three yards on it first play, Nebraska tried a fake field goal, but Colorado's Jimmy Smith intercepted the pitch and raced 58 yards for a game-tying touchdown.

The second half featured fewer points but far more excitement. After a 27-yard Henery field goal gave Nebraska a 27-24 lead, Colorado marched 65 yards for a touchdown on its only possession of the third quarter. That would be the only points for the half for the Buffaloes as Nebraska slowly worked its way back into the lead.

Trailing 31-27, the Huskers fumbled at the CU 5 near the end of the third quarter. After gaining a first down, Colorado faced a 3rd-and-10 from its own 19 before senior Ty Steinkuhler sacked Hawkins for a 12-yard loss. Senior Nate Swift then returned Tom Suazo's punt 15 yards down to the CU 26. The Huskers were stuffed for a two-yard loss on 3rd-and-1 and elected for a 37-yard field goal from Henery that cut the lead to 31-30 with 8:09 remaining.

Nebraska got the ball back at its own 26 with 4:35 left before driving into position for Henery's school-record boot. Helu ran for consecutive gains of 16 and 25 yards to move NU down to the Colorado 25. Helu finished the game with career-high totals of 25 carries and 166 yards rushing.

After Colorado got the ball back, Suh sealed the win with his interception return five plays later.

With the regular season complete, the Huskers now await word on their bowl game destination.

Scoring (Nebraska 40, Colorado 31)
Nov. 28, 2008
Memorial Stadium (Lincoln, Neb.)
Attendance: 85,319

First Quarter (Nebraska 14, Colorado 14)
CU - 
Riar Greer 68 pass from Cody Hawkins (Aric Goodman kick)
 , 14:06
CU - Demetrius Sumler 36 run (Goodman kick), 10:33
NU - Nate Swift 2 pass from Joe Ganz (Alex Henery kick), 5:46
NU - Mike McNeill 53 pass from Ganz (Henery kick), 4:04

Second Quarter (Nebraska 24, Colorado 24)
NU - 
Henery 35 field goal, 12:08
CU - Aric Goodman 37 field goal, 9:08
NU - Quentin Castille 1 run (Henery kick), 2:03
CU - Jimmy Smith 58 fumble return (Goodman kick), 1:11

Third Quarter (Colorado 31, Nebraska 27)
 Henery 27 field goal, 9:49
CU - Sumler 4 run (Goodman kick), 5:39

Fourth Quarter (Nebraska 40, Colorado 31)
 Henery 37 field goal, 8:09
NU - Henery 57 field goal, 1:43
NU - Ndamukong Suh 30 interception return (Henery kick), 0:55


Nebraska vs. Colorado Final Game Statistics
Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini Quotes
Nebraska Player Quotes
Nebraska Postgame Notes

Colorado Coach Dan Hawkins Quotes

Colorado Player Quotes

Colorado Postgame Notes

Nebraska Season Statistics
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