Senior staff writer
NEBRASKA SPLIT END Kenny Cheatham strains to catch the ball against Colorado's Ben Kelly at the end of the second quarter forcing Nebraska to settle for a field goal to end the half putting Nebraska over Colorado 10-7.
CU frustrated, angry with loss
No one was going to let this one slip away.
Not Frank Solich, who already had lost more games in his first head coaching season at Nebraska than Tom Osborne lost in his final four.
Not the young Cornhusker players, who didn't know what it was like to lose a regular-season conference game until early this year.
And especially not the 21 NU seniors, who were playing their final game at Memorial Stadium, and had never lost to Colorado.
They did, however, manage to keep things interesting.
Trailing by two with just under three minutes remaining, Colorado's final drive was cut short as Nebraska preserved a 16-14 victory over the Buffaloes before 75,958 fans.
"We weren't going to lose," senior rush end Chad Kelsay said. "You cannot go out a loser."
Kelsay sacked CU quarterback Mike Moschetti on a second-down play with 1:53 remaining, setting up two incomplete passes on third and fourth down, which gave the ball back to Nebraska, sealing the win.
"Being the last game in the big house, you always want to go out with a 'W,'" said senior rush end Mike Rucker, who recorded 11/2 sacks and seven tackles. "Just knowing that you're one play away from losing the game, it felt great to get off the field and let the offense go out there and run the clock down."
ERWIN SWINEY, an NU left cornerback, and Chad Kelsay, left rush end for NU, squish a Colorado player during Friday's game. Husker defense kept the team ahead to win the game 16-14. It was the seventh consecutive win for the Huskers over the Buffaloes and the fourth win in the last five years by 5 or fewer points.
While most of the seniors that weren't on the field for NU's final defensive stand watched anxiously, senior center Josh Heskew could not.
"I don't think I watched a single play," Heskew said. "I was sitting on the bench just hanging my head down. If I heard a big roar, then I knew we did something good. If I didn't, I knew it wasn't good."
One minute after taking a seat, Heskew was back on the field as NU wrapped up its ninth victory of the season. The Huskers improved to 9-3 and 5-3 in the Big 12 Conference, while the Buffaloes fell to 7-4 and 4-4.
The nine-win monkey finally jumped off Solich's back as this year's Nebraska squad followed suit with every other Husker team since 1968.
"It seems like every time they stepped on the field, someone was talking about this string or that string that was in jeopardy," Solich said. "That never makes it easy on anybody.
"Right now, 9-3, to me, sounds pretty good. You have to go back quite a ways - back to my era, almost - to find a team that didn't get nine wins. That was weighing heavy on them and they were reminded of that every time they turned on the TV or every time they read the paper."
NEBRASKA FREE SAFETY Clint Finley returns an interception from Colorado quarterback Mike Moschetti during the first quarter giving Nebraska its only touchdown of the game.
Nebraska jumped out to an early lead four minutes into the contest when free safety Clint Finley intercepted a pass and returned it 42 yards for a touchdown.
The score marked the Huskers' only touchdown of the game as NU's offense finished with three field goals on four trips inside Colorado's 20-yard line.
"It was frustrating for us to settle for field goals," I-back Correll Buckhalter said. "But we were thankful for what we got. It wasn't anything Colorado did. We kept ourselves from scoring six points every time we were inside the 20."
Buckhalter finished with 92 yards on the ground highlighted by a 52-yard scamper in the third quarter, which set up senior kicker Kris Brown's second field goal of the game.
The Husker rushing attack was slowed from the beginning as Nebraska was held to -2 yards on the ground in the first quarter. NU put up 19 yards rushing in the second quarter and entered the locker room at halftime with a 10-7 lead.
Finding motivation for the second half wasn't difficult, senior fullback Joel Makovicka said.
"A lot of the guys stepped up," Makovicka said. "The senior class, we weren't going to go out losing on our field for the last game. I think the younger guys stepped up and realized they didn't want to send us out that way. Everybody kind of took it upon themselves to get ready to play in that second half and not let the fans, the state and the Nebraska tradition down."
Brown's third-quarter field goal was matched by a Moschetti touchdown pass with just over two minutes left in the quarter. The score gave the Buffaloes a 1-point lead.
But two possessions later, redshirt freshman Eric Crouch led the Huskers on a 10-play, 49-yard drive that ate nearly five minutes off the clock, ending with a 25-yard Brown field goal. The boot gave NU its final lead.
NEBRASKA WINGBACK Shevin Wiggins takes the field during a special ceremony honoring the Husker seniors before their last game at Memorial Stadium.
"It's been some year," Solich said. "(This game) was similar to many of them. It came down to the end. It was a tough one all the way through."
Now the Huskers are left to prepare for a bowl game - likely the Holiday Bowl in San Diego on Dec. 30.
"One of our goals was definitely to win the national championship, win the Big 12 Championship and have an undefeated season," said Crouch, who completed 10 of 22 passes for 123 yards. "But as you know, those things aren't going to happen this year.
"One thing that we talked about as a team is, 'Let's try to go out on top this year.' We thought that just going out and being the best team at the end of the year is a way to show the Nebraska pride."
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