Alexander Pulls Huskers to Overtime Win
Boulder, Colo (Ticker) -- By the slightest of margins, No. 3 Nebraska remained alive in the national championship race.
Colorado's Jeremy Aldrich missed a 34-yard field goal on the final play of regulation and Nebraska took advantage in overtime as quarterback Eric Crouch dove in from one yard for a 33-30 victory.
The Cornhuskers blew a 24-point fourth-quarter lead but clinched the Big 12 Conference North Division and a trip to the conference title game next weekend against South champion Texas, which handed them their only loss this season.
"We knew it wasn't going to be easy," Nebraska coach Frank Solich said. "We were fortunate to string together a few plays in the first half and build a very good lead. But we knew at halftime they were capable of coming back."
It also kept alive Nebraska's hopes for passing unbeaten Virginia Tech in the Bowl Championship Series. The top two teams in the BCS rankings will play January 4 in the Sugar Bowl for the national title and Florida State has a lock on one spot.
"I don't think we became more conservative in the second half, Crouch said. "I think it was more a case of them playing better than we did."
Aldrich connected on a 33-yarder on the first possession of overtime after the Buffaloes missed a chance to keep alive the drive by failing to convert on 3rd-and-1.
Crouch drove Nebraska to the winning score. Willie Miller converted on 3rd-and-3 with a six-yard-run, Dan Alexander ran to the 1 on the next play and Crouch dove in for the win.
"Sometimes in the game of football it comes down to one kick, one pass or one turnover," Solich said. "We were just hoping for a break to get it into overtime because we were confident in our chances if we could get that far. We knew it would probably take a touchdown to get it done in overtime."
Nebraska (10-1, 7-1 Big 12 North) captured the North's spot by virtue of its victory over Kansas State.
"It wasn't really a celebration," Crouch said. "It was more a sense of relief. It did seem like two different games out there. When the momentum shifts, it changes most every aspect of the game."
Colorado (6-5, 5-3 North) lost to Nebraska for the eighth straight time and was agonizingly close for the fourth straight year, losing those games by a total of 13 points. The Buffaloes are eligible for a bowl.
"I don't know if I have ever seen more heart, more resolve and fight in a team than I saw out there in the last 35 minutes," Colorado coach Gary Barnett said. "We got ourselves in a hole early on and gave up some big plays that obviously came back to haunt us."
Nebraska has a 42-14-2 lead in the all-time series, including a 33-4-1 edge in the last 38 meetings. The Huskers are 20-8-2 in Boulder and have lost there just twice since 1960.
But Colorado's comeback may have severely hurt Nebraska's chances of overtaking Virginia Tech.
"We're not concentrating on the BCS right now," Nebraska kicker Josh Brown said. "We just want wins. Our goal was to win the Big 12 and now we have to beat Texas to do that. Whatever else happens is not in our control."
Alexander finished with 180 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries. Crouch had 123 yards on 19 carries and completed 4-of-12 passes for 44 yards, finding Matt Davison twice for 28.
Nebraska dominated the first three quarters and was cruising to a rout with a 27-3 lead. Then Mike Moschetti and Colorado's offense exploded for 24 points and appeared a lock to win the game behind Aldrich, who pushed the potential game-winning kick wide right, forcing overtime.
"I thought we had it at that point," Colorado wide receiver Roman Hollwel said. "We're not going to blame this on Jeremy. It's not any one guys's fault. We just need to play four quarters."
Aldrich hit a 49-yarder 43 seconds into the final quarter to get the Buffaloes going. Moschetti followed with three scoring passes in a span of less than six minutes to tie it, hitting John Minardi from 14 yards, Daniel Graham from three and Javon Green from 21. The last TD strike came after Colorado recovered an onside kick that hit Davison in the shoulder.
Moschetti was 21-of-41 for 317 yards and three TDs. Cortlen Johnson had 135 yards on 25 carries for Colorado, which totaled 504 yards.
"I don't know whether we sat on a lead or didn't sit on a lead, Solich said. "But our guys were able to come up with what was needed to get it done at the end and I commend them for that. I really recognized the character of this football team today."
Alexander owned the first half, gaining 151 yards on eight carries as Nebraska picked up 312 of its 400 total yards.
Barnett used a staple of his strategy, starting the game with a surprising onside kick. But Nebraska recovered at midfield and Alexander scored on a 50-yard run on the first play from scrimmage.
Crouch's 35-yard run set up Alexander's one-yard scoring plunge that doubled the lead less than three minutes later. A 46-yard run by Crouch on 3rd-and-6 led to Josh Brown's 34-yard field goal that extended the cushion to 17-0 eight seconds into the second quarter.
Colorado converted twice on fourth down to keep alive a 17-play, 64-yard drive that led to a 33-yard field goal by Aldrich, closing Colorado within 14 points with 8:28 left in the second quarter. But Alexander answered with an 80-yard touchdown run on the next play from scrimmage for a 24-3 lead.
Brown added a 37-yard field goal with 2:31 left in the third quarter as Nebraska took advantage of a 23-yard punt.
Green led Colorado with 100 yards on five catches.
Nebraska Postgame Notes vs. Colorado, Nov. 26, 1999
The No. 3/3/3 Nebraska Cornhuskers defeated Colorado 33-30 in overtime in Boulder, to improve to 10-1 on the season and 7-1 in the Big 12. Nebraska received the Big 12 North Division trophy in the locker room after the game and will play Texas in the Big 12 Championship game in San Antonio on Dec. 4. The win gives Coach Frank Solich his 10th this season, matching the 10 wins Bob Devaney earned in his second year and gives him a career-19-5 record in two years, matching the 19 wins Devaney earned his first two years at the helm, Husker career bests. Nebraska has now had 10 wins in a season six times in the 90s and 20 times since 1963 in the Devaney/Osborne/Solich era. The win is Nebraska