LINCOLN — Here are two results of interest from Saturday for Nebraska football fans:
» The 11th-ranked Huskers defeated Iowa State 38-13 in front of 76,078 fans at Memorial Stadium to move one win away from a share of the Big Eight championship and their first Orange Bowl trip since 1988.
» The X-rays of NU quarterback Keithen McCant’s bruised right wrist were negative.
It was plain after the game that Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne was as interested in the second result as the first.
“I just hope and pray that Keithen doesn’t have anything more than a bruise on his arm,” Osborne said. “I’ll look like the village idiot if he has a bad injury.”
McCant, making a run at All-Big Eight honors, returned to the game in the fourth quarter with Nebraska leading 31-13.
The senior thought his day was done after completing 6 of 10 passes for 161 yards and one touchdown and running nine times for 72 yards and another touchdown in the first three quarters.
But backup quarterback Mickey Joseph fumbled away a snap at the Nebraska 29 with 14:09 left in the game.
That was NU’s first turnover in more than 16 quarters, ending a school-record stretch that started in the third quarter of its Oct. 19 game with Kansas State and spanning 300 scrimmage plays and 30 returns.
Four plays after the fumble, Iowa State freshman quarterback Kevin Caldwell of Millard South scored his second touchdown of the game, on an 11-yard run. Suddenly, the 36-point underdog Cyclones had closed to 31-13 with 12:41 to play.
So McCant returned after the kickoff.
On the first play, he ran 12 yards on an option. But he suffered a bruise on his throwing wrist when it got caught between two defenders’ pads.
Why did Osborne reinsert McCant with an 18-point lead and less than 13 minutes to go?
“I was just concerned enough with the turnover and everything that we might have a problem,” he said. “Because they had a little momentum coming back.”
After a pause, Osborne added, “Scratch that about the village idiot. That’s not a good term. Just put stupid.”
McCant brushed off questions about the injury.
“I’m fine,” he said. “It’s just a bruise.”
But when asked after interviews to flex his right hand, McCant said he couldn’t, adding that it was numb.
The man who viewed the X-rays — NU Head Trainer George Sullivan — spoke calmly about the injury between bites of his postgame sandwich.
“We feel it’s nothing more than a deep bruise to the wrist and hand,” he said. "This is something that you could X-ray again in 10 days and maybe find something.
“But he wasn’t acting as if anything were seriously wrong. We’re feeling good about it.”
Beyond the injury scare, the line on Nebraska’s victory was substance over style, outside linebacker Trev Alberts said.
“It wasn’t very pretty at all,” said the sophomore from Cedar Falls, Iowa, who made four tackles for losses. “At times, we played great both offensively and defensively. Then at times, we got a little satisfied that we were ahead.
“But the bottom line is we got a ‘W’, and we’ve got two weeks to prepare for Oklahoma.”
Nebraska is 8-1-1 overall and tied with Colorado for the Big Eight lead at 5-0-1 with only a Nov. 29 home game against Oklahoma left.
A win over the Sooners likely would send the Huskers to the Orange Bowl in Miami against the University of Miami. Even if NU and Colorado tie for the Big Eight title, the Orange Bowl selection committee is expected to pick NU because of its higher ranking and better overall record.
If Nebraska loses to Oklahoma, the Huskers apparently still will play a bowl game in the state of Florida.
Osborne said the backup bowls for the second- and third-place Big Eight teams appear to be the Blockbuster Bowl at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami Dec. 28 at 8 p.m. or the Gator Bowl Dec. 29 at 7 p.m. in Jacksonville.
Miami’s 17-16 victory Saturday over Florida State apparently will send the Hurricanes to the Orange Bowl and the Seminoles to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
Nebraska kept its Big Eight title hopes alive with the help of 100-yard rushing days from I-backs Calvin Jones and Derek Brown.
Jones, the backup, had 121 yards in nine carries, including a 61-yard touchdown burst in the fourth quarter for NU’s final points.
The redshirt freshman, who in the previous game set school records with 294 yards rushing and six touchdowns against Kansas, boosted his season totals to 782 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Brown, the starter, had 107 yards in 15 carries, including a 32-yard touchdown sprint in the third quarter on a fourth-down play.
The sophomore now has 1,215 yards, seventh-best on NU’s all-time single-season rushing chart. He also has 14 touchdowns.
Overall, the Huskers ran for 353 of their 525 total yards. Iowa State, 3-6-1 and 1-4-1, gained 267 yards.
Nebraska ignored the fog, drizzle and 38-degree temperature to score on its first four possessions.
The Huskers gained 76 yards on back-to-back plays on its first series.
Brown’s 12-yard run and a 15-yard penalty for a late hit provided the first 27. The next 49 came on McCant’s bomb to tight end Johnny Mitchell to the ISU 3.
Three plays later, McCant sneaked in from the 1 for a 7-0 lead.
On the Huskers’ second drive, Byron Bennett kicked a 35-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead.
The yardage again came in chunks on NU’s next drive. McCant ran the option right for 42 yards and Brown the option right for 26 to the Cyclone 2. After losses totaling 6 yards, McCant audibled on third and goal at the 8 and sent Jones around right end for a touchdown. Nebraska led 17-0 with 14:10 left in the half.
Last week, NU trailed Kansas 17-0 early in the second quarter.
“We didn’t want what happened last week to happen again,” guard Erik Wiegert said. “We really wanted to get off to a good start.”
Iowa State entered NU territory for the first time on its next series, driving to the 25. But a 5-yard delay penalty and Alberts’ 5-yard sack pushed the Cyclones out of scoring range.
Nebraska scored two plays after Iowa State punted.
Jones ran 25 yards off right tackle to the Nebraska 45. Then McCant heaved a bomb toward NU split end Jon Bostick and ISU cornerback Shawn Walker.
Bostick wrestled the ball away from Walker at the 5 and backed in to complete the 55-yard touchdown play for a 24-0 lead with 8:22 to go in the half.
The Cyclones finally scored just before halftime, with Omaha-area players doing the damage.
Sophomore flanker James McMillion of Bellevue East fielded Mike Stigge’s 38-yard punt and ran it back 55 yards to the NU 1 before wingback Abdul Muhammad pushed him out of bounds.
Two plays later, Millard South’s Caldwell rolled out to score from the 1. Former Omaha Westside all-stater Ty Stewart missed the extra-point try, keeping Nebraska’s lead 24-6 with 26 seconds left in the half.
“That doggone return was kind of inexcusable,” Osborne said. “I was really discouraged by our coverage.
“We let them off the hook and let them get a little momentum at the end of the half.”
The talk at halftime, Osborne said, was to shut ISU down and to score quickly in the third quarter.
Nebraska did that, forcing a punt after three plays and then scoring in four plays when Brown zipped 32 yards for a touchdown on a fourth-and-two play. NU led 31-6 with 10:33 left in the third.
“But unfortunately, the game wasn’t over at that point,” Osborne said. “We relaxed a little and seemed to lose a little focus.
“But overall, it was a satisfactory win.”
|Yards per carry||3.4||7.8|
Nebraska is 86-17 all-time against Iowa State.
|Utah State||Sept. 7|
|Colorado State||Sept. 14|
|Arizona State||Sept. 28|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 12|
|Kansas State||Oct. 19|
|Iowa State||Nov. 16|
|Miami (FL)||Jan. 1|
Nebraska has played 20 games on Nov. 16. See them all »
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