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Husker Comeback Falls Short

By NU Athletic Communications
Quarterback Joe Dailey threw for more than 300 yards for the second time this season, but Nebraska's comeback fell short.
Quarterback Joe Dailey threw for more than 300 yards for the second time this season, but Nebraska's comeback fell short.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Lincoln -- A record-breaking performance by Joe Dailey was nearly enough to bring the Nebraska football back from a 19-point deficit, but the Huskers fell short Friday afternoon in a season-ending, 26-20 loss to Colorado before 77,661 fans at Memorial Stadium.


Dailey finished the day with 306 yards passing, going 29-for-55 to break NU single-game records for attempts and completions. Dailey’s 306 yards marked the second time in 2004 that he threw for over 300 yards, as he is the only quarterback in Husker history to surpass the barrier. Dailey’s 29 completions broke David Humm’s record of 25 set in 1973. Dailey ended his first year as a starter with 2,025 yards to rank third on the NU single-season charts.


Dailey had a hand in all three of the Huskers’ touchdowns against the Buffaloes (7-4, 4-4 Big 12), scoring first on a 2-yard run that capped an 80-yard scoring drive in the first quarter, and later with a 4-yard touchdown passes to senior fullback Steve Kriewald, with 3:53 remaining in the game, and Ross Pilkington with 1:38 left.


Nebraska finished the season with a 5-6 overall record and a 3-5 Big 12 conference mark. The loss ended the Huskers’ NCAA-record consecutive bowl streak at 36. The loss also marked the end of the Huskers’ 43-year streak of winning regular seasons that began in 1962.


Before the start of the game, Nebraska honored 22 seniors who played in the final game of their careers, including senior linebacker Barrett Ruud. With nine tackles against the Buffaloes, Ruud increased his school-record career total to 432. Ruud finished the 2004 season with 143 tackles, a total that is second on NU’s single-season charts.


“The seniors gave it their all,” Nebraska Coach Bill Callahan said. “I’m really proud of them, and I’m sorry and disappointed that it had to end this way. They’re a great group of guys, and I feel fortunate and privileged to be with those guys. I’m proud of the way our kids fought and came back. With a break here or there, it could have been a different ball game. We set a foundation with the things we did this year, and I think we’ll have success in the future.”


Nebraska scored 13 in the final four minutes of the game to nearly complete the comeback. Trailing 26-7 in the fourth quarter, senior linebacker Ira Cooper intercepted a Joe Klatt pass and returned 44 yards to the Colorado 4. Dailey then hit Kriewald with a 4-yard touchdown pass, marking NU’s eighth single-play scoring drive of the season. The Huskers failed on a two-point conversion attempt, leaving the score at 26-13 with 3:53 remaining.


The Blackshirts stopped CU on its ensuing possession and got the ball back on their own 12-yard line. After freshman running back Brandon Jackson picked up a key first down with a 20-yard run down the sideline, Dailey completed four straight passes for 47 yards to put the Huskers at the Colorado 12. After misfiring to Ross Pilkington, Dailey hit Terrence Nunn with an 8-yard pass, then found Pilkington in the end zone with a four-yard strike for the score to bring the Huskers within six.


But Nebraska’s attempt at an onside kick failed, and the Buffaloes preserved a victory by running out the final 1:44 on the clock.


 Five Nebraska receivers finished the game with 40 yards, led by Pilkington’s seven receptions for 70 yards. Junior running back David Horne produced a career-best 53 yards on a career-high six receptions.


CU tailback Bobby Purify totaled 130 yards and surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the season and the 3,000-yard mark for his career. Purify became the 11th player in Big 12 history to record 3,000 rushing and 500 receiving yards in a career. Klatt ended the game with 222 yards passing on 19-for-28 passing and one touchdown.


“We fought to the end,” Dailey said. “We know there are things we need to work on. I struggled. I need to work on my accuracy, my footwork, operating under pressure...you have to step up and make plays. But I think we showed a lot about our team and our character.”


 Nebraska opened the game with an on-side kick, recovered by freshman Lance Brandenburgh. But the CU defense held the Huskers without a first down. NU punter Sam Koch pinned Colorado at its 10-yard line with a 30-yard punt. Colorado overcame its poor field position with a 90-yard drive that ate up seven minutes, capped by Klatt’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Blake Mackey.


 On the Huskers’ ensuing possession, Pilkington bobbled a pass from Dailey, and Thaddaeus Washington grabbed it for an interception. CU picked up a first down when Klatt hit Mike Duren with an 11-yard strike, but after a 7-yard run by Purify, NU stopped the Buffaloes twice. Mason Crosby kicked a 37-yard field goal to give Colorado a 10-0 lead.


Colorado continued to benefit from NU miscues in the second quarter. Dailey, facing third-and-10 at the Nebraska 20, had a pass intended for Pilkington broken up by Terrence Wheatley. Colorado took over its won 48. On the first play of the drive, Klatt hit Mackey with a short pass, and he scampered down the sideline for a 43-yard gain. Purify followed with a 9-yard touchdown run to make it 17-0, CU with 11:07 remaining in the half.


Down 17-0, Nebraska finally responded. Ross opened the 80-yard scoring drive with a 10-yard run. Dailey picked up three first downs with completions to Terrence Nunn, Willie Amos and Pilkington. A 12-yard pickup by Ross gave Nebraska a 1st-and-goal situation at the 4. Dailey eventually scored on a 2-yard run to cut the Buffaloes lead to 17-7.


NU had one more chance to score after stopping Colorado with the help of an Ira Cooper sack. Dailey complete three straight passes of 15 yards or more to Grant Mulkey, Horne and Kriewald to put the Huskers at the Colorado 28. Horne ran right for six, but Dailey was sacked on the next play, and then missed Amos in the end zone. David Dyches missed on a 51-yard field goal attempt.


Colorado took over with 50 seconds left in the half, but that was all it needed to drive 44 yards and kick a 39-yard field goal, ending the half with a 20-7 lead. CU added another field goal on its first possession of the second half, as Crosby hit from 46 yards after Lorenzo Sims intercepted Dailey’s first throw of the half.

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