This is why Bo Pelini didn't want his team even thinking about Texas until next week.
With the Big 12 North title already wrapped up, he forbade the
Nebraska Cornhuskers from so much as mentioning the Longhorns, whom they'll face in the conference championship next Saturday.
Sure enough, the Colorado Buffaloes gave Nebraska all it could
handle before the Huskers left Folsom Field with a sloppy 28-20 win
Nebraska had just as tough of a tuneup for the Big 12
championship game as the third-ranked Longhorns did one day earlier
when they beat Texas A&M 49-39 to keep their national championship
"I thought we took a step back today," Pelini said after the
Cornhuskers (9-3, 6-2) struggled on offense and only pulled this
one out because of touchdowns on a punt return and an interception.
"It was a very average effort," agreed Nebraska nose tackle
Ndamukong Suh. "I think we were playing hard but there were
aspects of the game where we definitely made a lot of mistakes. We
shouldn't allow that. It was just a collective game of small plays
where we were right there to make the play and we didn't do it."
The Buffaloes (3-9, 2-6) put up a good fight one day after
learning their embattled coach would return next season.
Dan Hawkins is 16-33 with four losing seasons, a 2-20 road
record and a 10-22 mark in conference play since bolting Boise
State in 2006 to clean up a program tarnished by scandal under Gary
Although he's succeeded in that regard, Hawkins has lost games
and fans by the bunches.
Many alumni and fans figured the failure to come anywhere close
to the double-digit wins and a bowl berth that Hawkins set as his
goal this season would cost the coach his job. But athletic
director Mike Bohn decided to give him another year rather than a
pink slip and a $3.1 million buyout.
"Well, in this economy, there's a lot of people who are out of
a job, so I think anytime you stay employed, that's pretty good,"
Hawkins said. "But, yeah, I felt fortunate to be named the head
coach here and I feel fortunate to remain the head coach here."
After the Cornhuskers punted on their first two possessions,
Niles Paul's 59-yard punt return TD straight up the middle put
Nebraska ahead 7-0, and Zac Lee made it 14-0 when he hit tight end
Ben Cotton with a 24-yard touchdown toss.
The Buffs cut the deficit in half with Tyler Hansen's 2-yard TD
strike to Millard North grad Jake Behrens. But on Colorado's next drive, Hansen was picked off by safety Matt O'Hanlon, who scooted 30 yards
for the score and Nebraska took a 21-7 lead into halftime.
Scotty McKnight's 6-yard TD catch made it 21-14, and the Buffs
were driving for the tying score late in the third quarter when
Suh, the anchor of the Huskers' defense, pressured Hansen into an
intentional grounding call on third-and-2 from the 18.
The penalty backed the Buffs up to the 35-yard line and Aric
Goodman missed a 52-yard field goal.
Goodman missed again, this time from 37 yards, after defensive
tackle Eugene Goree recovered a fumble by Nebraska running back Roy
Helu Jr., at midfield early in the fourth quarter.
After that, the Huskers put together their best drive of the
day, a 13-play, 80-yard march that culminated with Rex Burkhead's
7-yard TD run with 6:43 left that made it 28-14.
Hansen threw a 56-yard TD pass to McKnight on the final play of
the game. With the outcome decided and time expired, the Buffs
didn't get to attempt the extra point.
"It's just a culmination of how we played all day," Pelini
said of surrendering the last-second TD. "We played sloppy
football. We didn't play to our standards."
Still, Suh said the Huskers couldn't help but be satisfied.
"I don't feel it's a letdown at all," he said. "We expect
Colorado to come out here tough. Their coach stated that they were
going to put everything on the line, so we expected everything in
the playbook. We expected every last bit of their energy."
So, now it's on to Texas.
"We're not ready yet," Paul said. "But we'll start working
tomorrow and get ready."
· With today’s victory Nebraska picked up its ninth win, giving NU back-to-back nine-win seasons for the first time since an NCAA-record 33 straight nine win seasons from 1969 to 2001. This is Nebraska’s first nine-win regular season since 2006.
· Nebraska finished 4-0 on the road in Big 12 Conference play, marking NU’s first perfect Big 12 road season since 1997. Nebraska has won five straight on the road in conference play dating back to last season.
· Nebraska has won five straight games after today’s victory, marking the longest conference winning streak for Nebraska since winning seven straight in 2001.
· Nebraska’s win was its seventh straight victory in the month of November and improved the Huskers to 7-1 in November under Head Coach Bo Pelini. NU is 9-1 in games played on or after Nov. 1 under the second-year head coach (including two bowl victories).
. The victory was Nebraska’s second straight win over Colorado and its seventh win in the past nine meetings in Boulder.
· Nebraska junior punter/place-kicker Alex Henery punted six times for a career-best 50.7-yard average (304 yards) in today’s game, including punts of 58 and 63 yards. He bettered his previous best of 45.7 yards per punt against Louisiana-Lafayette earlier this year.
· Henery downed four punts inside the CU 20 boosting his Big 12-leading total to 26. He had a first-quarter punt downed at the CU 2, his eighth punt of the year that has pinned the opponent inside the 3-yard line.
· Junior wide receiver/returner Niles Paul returned a first-quarter punt 59 yards for a touchdown. The return was a career long for Paul and the first punt return for a touchdown of his career. Paul’s previous career-long return was a 55-yarder at Virginia Tech this season.
· Paul’s punt return for a touchdown was the first by Nebraska since Nate Swift had an 88-yarder for a touchdown against Virginia Tech last season. Nebraska did return a blocked punt for a touchdown earlier this season at Baylor (Justin Blatchford).
· Paul has scored touchdowns three different ways this season (rush, reception, punt return) and four different ways in his career (kickoff return).
· With touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams, today’s game marks the first time Nebraska has scored TDs in all three areas since last season’s win over San Jose State. In addition to offensive scores in that game, Ndamukong Suh intercepted a pass for a touchdown and Niles Paul returned a kickoff for a score.
· Senior safety Matt O’Hanlon returned a second-quarter interception 20 yards for a touchdown to give NU a 21-7 lead. The interception was O’Hanlon’s team-leading fifth interception and his first career touchdown. O’Hanlon’s five interceptions are the most by a Nebraska player since Daniel Bullocks had five in 2004. The last time a player had more than five interceptions was Josh Bullocks’ school-record 10 picks in 2003.
· Junior defensive back Prince Amukamara intercepted a fourth-quarter pass and returned it 40 yards. It was Amukamara’s fourth interception of the season, one behind O’Hanlon. Junior defensive back Dejon Gomes also intercepted a second-quarter pass for his third interception of the season.
· Nebraska was a +2 in turnover margin today (three interceptions), marking the fifth straight game NU has had a positive turnover margin. It is NU’s longest positive turnover margin streak since being positive in the turnover margin in the first five games of 2003. In nine wins this season, Nebraska is a +16, while it is a minus-12 in its three losses.
· Nebraska held Colorado without a first down in the first quarter, with CU’s initial first down coming with 13:36 left in the second quarter. This marked the second time in three games NU did not allow a first quarter first down (also at Kansas on Nov. 14).
· Redshirt freshman tight end Ben Cotton caught a 24-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to give NU a 14-0 lead. It was Cotton’s first career touchdown reception, but his second career touchdown (fumble recovery in end zone vs. La.-Lafayette). Cotton finished today’s game with a career-high three catches for 33 yards after entering the contest with two catches for 10 yards this season.
· Freshman I-back Rex Burkhead rushed a career-high 18 times for a career-best 100 yards. His previous highs were nine carries for 39 yards against Florida Atlantic in the opener. He added a fourth-quarter touchdown, rushing nine times for 55 yards on that drive alone.
· Nebraska senior defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh finished the game with five tackles, all solo, including a 17-yard sack in the third quarter. Suh’s sack gives him 7.5 sacks this season, matching his 2008 total and 19.5 in his career. He also pushed his career TFL total to 49 (16 in 2009), one shy of second place on the NU career list. Suh added two quarterback hurries, giving him a team-high 22 hurries this season.
· Senior safety Larry Asante had six tackles, pushing his career total to 215. His tackle total is third in Nebraska history among defensive backs, trailing only Mike Brown (287) and Daniel Bullocks (226).
· Senior defensive end David Harvey started the first game of his career today.
· Today’s game captains were senior receiver Menelik Holt, junior offensive tackle Mike Smith, sophomore tight end Ryan Hill and junior defensive end Pierre Allen. Hill and Allen are natives of Colorado.