Ames, Iowa - A long-time theme park in Des Moines is called Adventureland. The No. 9 Nebraska football team and Iowa State might has well have played Saturday's Big 12 North showdown on one of the roller coasters at the park.
Instead, the Cornhuskers (8-1 overall, 4-1 Big 12) survived a scary overtime thrill ride against the Cyclones (5-5, 3-3) with a 31-30 victory in front of 51,149 fans at Jack Trice Stadium and an ABC television audience.
Saturday's thriller included injuries at quarterback on both sidelines, blustery winds worthy of the Cyclones' nickname, a Husker I-back regularly running out of the Wildcat formation for the first time all season, and a leaping interception by Eric Hagg to stop a two-point conversion attempt on a fake PAT by ISU after the Cyclones appeared ready to send the game to a second overtime on its home field.
Hagg's huge play on special teams was set up by a 19-yard overtime touchdown run by I-back Rex Burkhead out of the Wildcat formation. Burkhead, a 5-11 sophomore from Plano, Texas, rushed for a career-high 129 yards, including all 25 of NU's yards in overtime, to go along with two toudhdowns. He also played a heroic role on NU's first scoring drive the game.
Midway through the first quarter, it looked like Nebraska might be playing without its top three quarterbacks.
Freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez, who started NU's first eight games, did not start against the Cyclones and played just one snap against ISU after suffering an ankle injury late in the first half in last week's win over Missouri. Senior quarterback Zac Lee did not play against the Cyclones because of a sore arm.
Sophomore quarterback Cody Green got his first start of the season, but staggered to the NU sideline after a big hit with approximately three minutes left in the first quarter. Green stepped to the sideline after a four-yard gain, and Martinez took the field after an NU timeout with 2:57 left. But Martinez didn't take a snap at quarterback.
Instead, Burkhead - a quarterback as a high school sophomore - took his first snap of the season out of the Wildcat formation and sprinted 29 yards to the ISU 46. Burkhead continued in the Wildcat for the rest of the drive, carrying six times for 52 yards on NU's first scoring march of the day, which was capped by Roy Helu Jr.'s six-yard run with 13:13 left in the second quarter. Helu carried four times for 21 yards on the drive, and finished with 99 yards on 22 carries on the day to finish the day with 3,065 career rushing yards.
While Burkhead did most of the ball-handling out of the Wildcat, Green returned to the field on the drive and regained control of the NU huddle. However, the Cyclones seized momentum the rest of the half with the wind at their backs.
Austen Arnaud, who was sent briefly to the ISU sideline in the first quarter with an ankle injury, retaped and returned to lead a Cyclone scoring drive capped by his 13-yard scoring strike to Jake Williams to tie the game with 6:38 left in the half.
Arnaud moved ISU back into scoring range just four minutes later, but Grant Mahoney missed a 49-yard field goal. Two plays later, the Cyclone defense held up Helu as he appeared to be headed to the turf, and eventually stripped the ball from the NU senior.
An official review confirmed the call on the field as a fumble, and ISU took over on the NU 41. Four plays and two yards later, Mahoney boomed a 57-yard field goal with the wind at his back to send the Cyclones to the halftime locker room with a 10-7 lead.
Nebraska got the ball and the wind to start the second half, and Green and the Huskers took full advantage on both sides of the ball.
Green engineered a 12-play, 55-yard drive that culminated with Alex Henery's 25-yard field goal to tie the game with 9:25 left in the third quarter.
Less than a minute later, the Blackshirts got on the board. Safety Austin Cassidy stepped to center stage, jumping a 12-yard route across the middle of the field and returning it 29 yards for a touchdown to give Nebraska a 17-10 lead with 8:42 left in the quarter. Cassidy starred for the Husker defense throughout the day, leading NU with 12 tackles, including seven solos.
The ball-hawking Blackshirt secondary was at it again on the next drive, as Hagg made a leaping interception of an Arnaud pass at the NU 44 with 5:27 left in the quarter.
Green and the Husker offensive capitalized with an 11-play, 56-yard drive. The march included a four-yard Green pass to Brandon Kinnie on 3rd-and-3, a 10-yard Green pass to Kinnie on 3rd-and-6, and a 29-yard pass from Green to Kyler Reed on 3rd-and-12 at the ISU 33. Burkhead did the rest, pounding his way on back-to-back two-yard runs to give the Huskers a 24-10 lead with 21 seconds left in the third quarter.
At that point, it looked like Nebraska was in firm control, but with the gusting wind at their backs, the scrappy Cyclones fought back. Arnaud led ISU on a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to trim NU's lead to 24-17 with 11:29 left.
On the ensuing kickoff, Niles Paul brought the kick out of the end zone from five yards deep and took contact around the NU 15. Paul fumbled under a swarm of Cyclone defenders and ISU recovered at the NU 13. Three players later, Arnaud threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Alexan Robinson to tie the game at 24 with 10:40 left.
The defenses took control for the rest of regulation, as Nebraska was unable to get into field goal range against the wind on its final drive in the closing seconds, after Mahoney misfired on a 55-yard attempt minutes with 3:19 left.
Nebraska put 31 points on the board despite managing just 314 yards of total offense and 15 first downs. Iowa State produced 360 total yards and 24 first downs, while running 16 more plays than the Huskers.
NU did produce 235 rushing yards, including 129 from Burkhead and 99 from Helu, who combined for all three of NU's offensive touchdowns. Green added 10 yards on nine carries as the only three Huskers to carry the ball.
Green also completed 7-of-12 passes for 79 yards on the day. He did not throw a touchdown pass or an interception, connecting three times with Reed for 52 yards and three times with Kinnie for 22 yards. Paul was the only other Husker to catch a pass, hauling in one reception for five yards.
Arnaud completed 21-of-32 passes for 203 yards and three touchdowns for the Cyclones, but his two interceptions led directly to 14 points for Nebraska. Arnaud also rushed 13 times for 63 yards and a score. Robinson carried the rushing load for ISU with 32 carries for 101 yards, as ISU finished 157 yards on the ground. Robinson also caught four passes for 29 yards and a touchdown.
Williams hauled in five receptions for 46 yards and two touchdowns for ISU, including the catch in overtime that pulled Iowa State within a point. Darius Darks added five catches of his own for 44 yards.
In addition to Cassidy's big day on defense for the Big Red, defensive end Cameron Meredith notched 10 tackles including two tackles for loss and a sack. Linebacker Lavonte David added another double-figure tackle effort with 10 of his own, including a TFL. Prince Amukamara added seven tackles, including a nine-yard sack, while Courtney Osborne and Pierre Allen both produced seven tackles and two tackles for loss.
Nebraska returns home for another Big 12 North showdown, when the Huskers play host to Kansas at Memorial Stadium. Kickoff in Lincoln is set for 6 p.m., with television coverage provided by FSN pay-per-view.
Final: #9 Nebraska 31, Iowa State 30 OT
Saturday, Nov. 6, 2010
Jack Trice Stadium (Ames, Iowa)
First Quarter (0-0)
Second Quarter (ISU, 10-7)
NU - 13:13 - Roy Helu Jr. 6 run (Alex Henery kick) - 12 plays, 79 yards, 5:36, NU 7-0
ISU - 6:38 - Jake Williams 13 pass from Austen Arnaud (Grant Mahoney kick) - 7 plays, 47 yards, 2:08, 7-7
ISU - 0:55 - Mahoney 57 field goal - 4 plays, 2 yards, 1:11, ISU 10-7
Third Quarter (NU, 24-10)
NU - 9:25 - Henery 25 field goal - 12 plays, 55 yards, 5:30, 10-10
NU - 8:42 - Austin Cassidy 29 interception return (Henery kick) - NU 17-10
NU - 0:21 - Rex Burkhead 2 run (Henery kick) - 11 plays, 56 yards, 5:06, NU 24-10
Fourth Quarter (24-24)
ISU - 11:29 - Arnaud 1 run (Mahoney kick) - 13 plays, 75 yards, 3:52, NU 24-17
ISU - 10:40 - Alexan Robinson 14 pass from Arnaud (Mahoney kick) - 3 plays, 13 yards, 0:44, 24-24
Overtime (NU 31-30)
NU - 15:00 - Burkhead 19 run (Henery kick) - 2 plays, 25 yards, 0:00, NU 31-24
ISU - 15:00 - Williams 9 pass from Arnaud (Daniel Kuehl pass intercepted by Eric Hagg) - 3 plays, 25 yards, 0:00, NU 31-30
Final: #9 Nebraska 31, Iowa State 30 OT
Time of Game: 3:18