Huskers Beat Michigan for Alamo Bowl Title
San Antonio, Texas - Senior I-back Cory Ross rushed for 161 yards, including a fourth-quarter touchdown run to power the Nebraska football team to its third straight win and its third Alamo Bowl title in the past six years with a 32-28 victory over No. 20 Michigan at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, on Wednesday night.
Sophomore wide receiver Terrence Nunn added four catches for 91 yards, including the winning touchdown grab with 4:29 left in the game and NU's first score on a 52-yard connection with quarterback Zac Taylor in the first quarter. Taylor completed 14-of-31 passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns on the night.
The Huskers, who battled back from a 28-17 fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Wolverines (7-5), finished Coach Bill Callahan's second season in Lincoln with a solid 8-4 record. Callahan and the Huskers also claimed just the second win by a Nebraska team against Michigan in school history, joining Hall of Fame Coach Bob Devaney's 25-13 win over the Wolverines in Ann Arbor on Sept. 29, 1962.
Ross' huge rushing night that included a season-high 161 yards for the third-highest rushing total of his illustrious Nebraska career, continued his personal dominance of Michigan teams in the Alamo Bowl. In the 2003 Alamo Bowl win over Michigan State, Ross set the NU single-game record with 37 carries to roll for 138 yards and two touchdowns in the Huskers' 17-3 victory.
The 5-6 Husker co-captain from Denver, Colo., pushed his career Alamo Bowl rushing total to 299 yards on 65 carries by carrying 28 times for 161 yards against the Wolverines. Ross closed his career at No. 9 on NU's all-time rushing list with 2,743 yards, moving ahead of former Husker Derek Brown with his bowl performance.
Ross' fitting finale included a huge 31-yard touchdown run with 8:08 left in the game to start Nebraska's comeback from a 28-17 deficit. Ross provided all 38 yards in NU's two-play drive after punt returner Cortney Grixby gave the Huskers' excellent field position with a 25-yard return to the Michigan 38. The Huskers pulled within a field goal of the Wolverines with Taylor's two-point conversion pass to Todd Peterson to make it 28-25 Michigan.
Sparked by the Huskers' offensive burst, Nebraska's Blackshirt defense dominated the Wolverines the rest of the way. On Michigan's next drive, senior linebacker Adam Ickes forced a fumble by Michigan wide reciever Jason Avant that was recovered by fellow linebacker Corey McKeon at the Michigan 48.
The Huskers were unable to capitalize, but after a touchback on the punt, senior safety Blake Tiedtke hit Michigan quarterback Chad Henne to force another fumble that was recovered by junior defensive tackle Ola Dagundaro, who returned it 13 yards to the Wolverine 17.
Three plays later, the Huskers scored the winning touchdown as Taylor hit Nunn on a 13-yard scoring strike with 4:29 left in the game to give Nebraska the Alamo Bowl crown.
Nunn's go-ahead score set up a wild finish. Michigan drove inside the NU 20 on its next drive before the Blackshirts held on fourth down. Nebraska took over with just over two minutes left but was forced to punt with 18 seconds left. Sam Koch boomed a 62-yard punt to stretch the field in front of the Wolverines.
Michigan took over with just seven seconds left and junior defensive end Adam Carriker hit quarterback Chad Henne with two seconds left to force an incompletion. In one last gasp, the Wolverines set up a designed multiple-lateral play that saw eight different Wolverines touch the ball with eight laterals and a fumble recovery before the game finally ended. Michigan's final play covered 51 yards before Titus Brothers finally made the tackle at the Nebraska 13-yard line with players and coaches from both teams and other Alamo Bowl sideline personnel on the field.
Nunn, a native of Houston, Texas, began a triumphant return to his home state by opening the scoring with his 52-yard touchdown catch from Taylor on a quick slant on NU's second drive of the game to give NU a 7-0 lead with 8:04 left in the first quarter.
After Nunn's game-opening score, Michigan answered quickly. Steve Breaston returned a Jake Wesch kickoff 69 yards to the NU 30. The Wolverines tied the score five plays later on Henne's 13-yard pass to Tyler Ecker.
After the two teams exchanged punts, Michigan came up with a big defensive play when Leon Hall intercepted a Taylor pass to give the Wolverines another short field by starting at the NU 39. The Blackshirts stood firm and forced a 25-yard field goal attempt by Garrett Rivas, who hit the left upright.
Although the Huskers dodged a bullet with the missed Michigan field goal, Hall intercepted another Taylor pass intended for Nunn on NU's first play of the next drive to give the Wolverines the ball back at the NU 28. Henne hit tight end Mike Massey on a 16-yard scoring strike just three plays later to give Michigan its first lead of the game at 14-7 with 11:43 remaining in the second quarter.
The teams exchanged punts over the next four drives before the Huskers put together a seven-play, 70-yard drive to tie the score at 14 with 2:37 left in the first half. On the drive, Taylor completed all five of his passes, including a 25-yard pass to Nunn and a 14-yard scoring strike to freshman wide receiver Nate Swift.
Ross added a key 19-yard run with a 10-yard personal foul for a late hit tacked on to the end of the run on third-down-and-four to set up the Huskers' tying score.
The Blackshirts forced a three-and-out on the opening drive of the second half and the Husker offense responded with an 11-play, 62-yard drive that lasted 4:34 to set up freshman place-kicker Jordan Congdon's 20-yard field goal to give NU a 17-14 lead with 8:54 left in the third quarter. For the freshman All-American from San Diego, Calif., it was his school-record 19th field goal of the season, breaking the previous NU mark of 18 field goals set by current Houston Texan Kris Brown in 1997.
Michigan controlled the rest of the third quarter, as Henne hit Mario Manningham with a 21-yard touchdown pass to give the Wolverines a 21-17 lead with 6:34 left in the quarter.
On the next drive, the Wolverines forced an NU punt and marched deep into Husker territory before defensive back Zackary Bowman ended a Michigan scoring threat with a spectacular interception in the back corner of the end zone.
After the Wolverine defense forced another Koch punt, Henne pushed Michigan's lead to 28-17 with an eight-play, 53-yard drive. Henne capped the drive by rushing the final 19 yards himself, including a seven-yard touchdown run with 11:40 left in the game.
Koch, a senior from Seward, Neb., played a major role in the Husker victory by punting eight times for an average of 51.5 yards to help the Huskers offset 400 yards of total offense by the Wolverines. Michigan finished with 270 yards passing and 130 yards rushing, while NU achieved solid balance with 167 yards passing and 151 yards rushing for 318 total yards.
Michigan also had 258 return yards, including 218 yards from Breaston, who had 146 yards on four kickoff returns and 72 yards on seven punt returns.
Nebraska will return home to Lincoln on Thursday and enjoy time off before starting spring semester classes on Jan. 9.