Boulder, Colo. - A pair of interceptions and a blocked punt quickly turned a 35-24 Nebraska halftime lead into a 44-35 deficit, as Colorado scored 20 unanswered points during a 5:07 span in the third quarter en route to scoring 34 straight second-half points to end the Huskers' season with a 65-51 victory on a chilly Friday afternoon in Boulder, Colo.
After Nebraska scored touchdowns on four of its final five first-half possessions to erase a 10-point deficit and build a 35-24 halftime advantage, Colorado scored 41 points in the second half, while shutting out the Husker offense until a Maurice Purify 9-yard touchdown grab with 2:08 remaining in the game.
The tide began to turn when NU quarterback Joe Ganz had his third-down pass intercepted by Jimmy Smith and returned 31 yards for a touchdown with 10:26 remaining in the third quarter. Although the Huskers still led 35-31 after the score, it began the momentum swing that ultimately turned the game in CU's favor.
Prior to Smith's interception return, the CU defense had failed to force a punt while surrendering 28 points in five straight Nebraska possessions going back to late in the first quarter. Smith's score also ignited the Buffalo offense to the tune of 41 points, after it had been forced to punt on four of its last five possessions since taking an early 17-7 lead.
After Smith's interception, the Buffaloes forced another turnover on the ensuing possession to set up a Hugh Charles touchdown run that capped a short 33-yard drive that put CU in front for good. Colorado blocked a punt on Nebraska's next possession, setting up another short field as Charles again found the end zone from one-yard out to complete a 25-yard drive that put the Buffaloes on top 44-35.
The Nebraska offense was unable to turn the momentum back in the Huskers favor as a punt gave Colorado the ball back and the Buffaloes methodically marched down the field for a 10-play, 84-yard drive that stretched from the third quarter into the fourth and gave CU full control of the game when Scotty McKnight caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Cody Hawkins to give the Buffaloes a decisive 51-35 advantage.
After the defense slowed the Colorado offense and forced a punt, Ganz fell victim to a tipped pass for another interception, as Cha'Pelle Brown returned the pick 51 yards to the 2-yard line, where Charles took it in one play later. The Huskers' three turnovers led directly to 21 Colorado points, while the blocked punt led to another score.
Overall in the second half, the Colorado defense returned one interception for a score while setting the offense up with short fields of 33, 25 and 2 yards, all of which resulted in touchdowns.
Nebraska and Purify kept fighting until the end, as Purify ended his career on a strong note, catching a 9-yard touchdown pass with 2:08 remaining and grabbing a 4-yard TD toss with just 26 seconds left. On the day, Purify caught a career-high 11 passes for 136 yards and three touchdowns.
The Huskers' second-half performance marred a solid first half for NU, which ended its season with a 5-7 record.
Trailing 3-0, the NU offense quickly responded when Ganz guided the Huskers 67 yards for a touchdown. Nebraska relied on the run to find the end zone, rushing for gains of 12 and 27, respectively to start the drive. Following an incomplete pass, Ganz capped the drive with a career-long 28-yard touchdown run.
Three third-down conversions keyed Colorado's 74-yard ensuing touchdown drive that put the Buffaloes back on top. After forcing Nebraska to punt following the score, Colorado would need no third-down conversions on its next possession as three of the Buffaloes' first four plays went for first downs before Dusty Sprague went into the end zone untouched to put CU in front 17-7.
From there, Nebraska would scored touchdowns on four of its final five possessions of the half to turn the 10-point deficit into an 11-point halftime lead. The Huskers' first score came when Marlon Lucky accounted for 54 yards on a 62-yard scoring drive, including 38 through the air and 16 on the ground.
On the drive, Lucky eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in both rushing and receiving to become the first Husker in school history to record both 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season. Lucky finished with 69 yards on 12 carries and one touchdown and eight catches for 115 yards.
With the NU defense slowing the CU offense in the second, Nebraska marched 74 yards for a touchdown, fueled by a key 20-yard pass to Purify on 3rd-and-14 from the NU 36 and a 30-yard toss to a diving Terrence Nunn two plays later. Ganz then put NU back on top 21-17 with an 8-yard TD scramble, his second rushing touchdown of the first half.
Nebraska got the ball back with less than five minutes remaining in the opening period following a three-and-out series by Colorado. Ganz and Pufiy again hooked up on a key third-down conversion and teammed up on the next play for a touchdown. Facing a 3rd-and-10, Ganz found Purify for 12 yards before the 25-yard catch and run for a score put NU up by two possessions.
After a quick Colorado touchdown, Nebraska got the ball back with 1:22 remaining in the period and quickly moved into Colorado territory with consecutive pass plays of 16 and 14 yards. Ganz then found Todd Peterson deep down field for a 30-yard gain to the CU 16. Ganz hooked up again with a wide-open Peterson for a 16-yard touchdown on the very next play to cap the lightning-quick four-play, 59-second drive that covered 71 yards.
Ganz was 31-of-58 on the day, throwing for 484 yards, the second-highest total in school history, trailing only his school-record total of 510 yards established in the Huskers' last game against Kansas State. Ganz was also responsible for six touchdowns, including two on the ground as he rushed six times for 37 yards.
Behind another strong day from Ganz despite the three interceptions, the Husker offense rolled up 610 yards of offense and scored more than 50 points for the second consecutive game. In three starts under Ganz, the junior from Palos Heights, Ill., Nebraska has scored 163 points for an average of better than 53 points for. Ganz has also thrown for three of the top five single-game passing totals in his first three starts.
Scoring (Colorado 65, Nebraska 43)
Friday Nov. 23, 2007
Folsom Field (Boulder, Colo.)
First Quarter (Colorado 17, Nebraska 14)
CU - Kevin Eberhart 25 field goal, 12:49
NU - Joe Ganz 28 run (Alex Henery kick), 12:13
CU - Cody Hawkins 5 run (Eberhart kick), 7:21
CU - Dusty Sprague 4 run (Eberhart kick), 2:38
NU - Marlon Lucky 2 run (Henery kick), 0:16
Second Quarter (Nebraska 35, Colorado 24)
NU - Ganz 8 run (Henery kick), 6:19
NU - Maurice Purify 25 catch from Ganz (Henery kick), 3:04
CU - Tyson DeVree 11 catch from Hawkins (Eberhart kick), 1:25
NU - Todd Peterson 16 catch from Ganz (Henery kick) ,0:23
Third Quarter (Colorado 45, Nebraska 35)
CU - Jimmy Smith 31 interception (Eberhart kick), 10:26
CU - Hugh Charles 9 run (Eberhart kick), 8:10
CU - Charles 1 run (kick failed), 5:19
Fourth Quarter (Colorado 65, Nebraska 51)
CU - Scotty McKnight 10 pass from Hawkins (Eberhart kick), 14:32
CU - Charles 2 run (Eberhart kick), 4:16
NU - Purify 9 pass from Ganz (2-point conversion good), 2:08
CU - Byron Ellis 28 run (Eberhart kick), 1:23
NU - Purify 4 pass from Ganz (2-point conversion good), 0:26