Senior staff writer
COLORADO'S Andy Peeke runs in a 15-yard pass for a touchdown in the third quarter putting the Buffaloes ahead of the Huskers 14-13.
The frustration burst forth from the fists of Colorado linebacker Hannibal Navies, who crouched down and pounded the turf as the final second ticked off on the Memorial Stadium scoreboard Saturday.
It broke the tense silence in post-game interviews when CU Coach Rick Neuheisel called the Buffaloes' 16-14 defeat the "most sickening thing I've ever been around."
And it shined in the black streaks smeared across quarterback Mike Moschetti's face, who refused to make excuses for Colorado's disappointing 7-4 season or for its fourth loss in five years to the Cornhuskers by less than five points.
"There are no excuses," Moschetti said defiantly. "If we're starting all freshmen, we still expect to win. I'm tired of hearing that we're young, and I'm tired of hearing we're beat up. It doesn't matter. When we put on a Colorado helmet, we expect to win the game."
Colorado came painfully close to doing so in front of a NU crowd of 75,958 fans. The Buffaloes shut NU down and forced a Husker punt with 2:40 remaining in the fourth quarter.
After a 58-yard punt by Bill Lafleur, CU took over at its own 9-yard line. The Buffaloes quickly notched two first downs on back-to-back plays, the first a 12-yard run by Marlon Barnes, the second a 10-yard pass by Moschetti to wide receiver Javon Green.
But a false start penalty stalled CU's drive, and an 8-yard sack by Nebraska rush end Chad Kelsay set the Buffaloes back further. Facing third-and-15 at the Colorado 26-yard line, Moschetti threw consecutive incomplete passes. Nebraska regained possession with 1:41 left in the game.
Neuheisel blamed the outcome on three key turnovers and penalties.
COLORADO WIDE RECIEVER Javon Green tumbles into the end zone after a 17-yard touchdown pass during the first quarter.
Colorado's first miscue took place four minutes into the first quarter when Husker free safety Clint Finley intercepted a Moschetti pass intended for tight end Tom Ashworth. Finley ran the grab back 42 yards for a score. In the second half, Nebraska's Mike Rucker caused two Moschetti fumbles that NU recovered. The second fumble, recovered by freshman Jeremy Slechta, led to place-kicker Kris Brown's third field goal of the day and the Huskers' winning score.
Neuheisel hinted that he disagreed with several of the penalties called against CU. The Buffaloes were penalized seven times for 78 yards, including one offensive pass interference call that ended a crucial drive during the fourth quarter.
"I have to be careful here because I don't want to get sanctioned," Neuheisel said. "My opinion was that Darrin (Chiaverini) was making a play on the ball. The Nebraska defender wasn't. He was face guarding Darrin. Again, that's my opinion and my opinions are biased."
Despite his frustration, Neuheisel was pleased with Barnes and Colorado's defense. Barnes, who has played in only five games because of injury, rushed for 102 yards on 25 carries.
The offensive and defensive lines had a dominant performance, CU linebacker Jashon Sykes said, but the defensive line controlled the trenches as well. Colorado held Nebraska to 131 yards rushing. NU had -2 rushing yards after the first quarter.
"We practiced for two weeks for this offense," said Sykes, who led CU with 13 tackles. "I knew what they were running out of every formation. Today was a defensive game. They couldn't do anything against us. We shut them down."
Sykes added that Nebraska will face a healthy and experienced Buffs team next year.
"Everyone in the country knows that next year Colorado is going to be right back where we were in 1990. We're going to turn this thing around next year."
In the wake of his second disappointing season in as many years, Neuheisel struggled to echo Sykes' predictions in his post-game comments to the Buffaloes.
"It's hollow. I'd love to say we're excited about where we are. I think we're headed in the right direction and the future is bright. But today, in the post-mortem of a two-point loss that's as sickening as any I've ever been around, it's hard to be as upbeat as I think we deserve to be with respect to the future."
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