The only time Nebraska let up on Colorado Saturday was in the postgame interview room.
After blasting the Buffaloes 52-7-snapping CU’s 25-game Big Eight unbeaten streak and NU’s eight-game skid against Top 10 opponents — Coach Tom Osborne could have dragged his soapbox up from the locker room.
The Huskers, tied at No. 8 in the Associated Press poll with Colorado, have been criticized for being behind the times with their option-I formation. Meanwhile, CU’s one-back passing set has been touted as the offense of the ‘90s.
But Osborne turned down the chance to gloat, even though his team outgained the Buffaloes in total yards 428-144, outrushed them 373-8 and handed them their worst loss in eight years.
“It’s always a temptation when things go your way to say, ‘I told you so,‘ “ Osborne said. “But I’ve been at this long enough to know you better not do that because there is another day coming. And some passing team may beat the tar out of us.
“But for this climate, you’ve still got to be able to jam it at people some. Colorado has committed itself to the pass, and it may turn out real well. But today it didn’t.”
Not by a long shot on a misty, 50-degree afternoon before 76,287 fans at Memorial Stadium.
NU outside linebacker Travis Hill intercepted a pass on the game’s first play. I-back Calvin Jones scored one of his three first-half touchdowns five plays later.
A Hill fumble recovery late in the second quarter on a pass rush — one of six NU takeaways — stalled Colorado’s only momentum and led to another touchdown drive, kept alive by a 16-yard fumbleroosky run.
Overall, the Husker defense, ripped for 424 yards passing a week ago by Missouri, didn’t allow Colorado into NU territory until the eighth series.
Offensively, Nebraska handled 92 snaps without a turnover, stretching its mistake-free string to 14 quarters.
The Huskers got TD runs of 1, 3 and 47 yards from Jones to take a 24-7 halftime lead and used second-half touchdown passes of 1 and 5 yards from freshman quarterback Tommie Frazier to pull away.
All that threw the fans into such a frenzy that they tore down the goal posts for only the sixth time in modern history. The other five were after wins over Oklahoma in 1959, 1978, 1982, 1989 and 1991.
“This is the sweetest win I’ve been associated with here,” junior outside linebacker Trev Alberts said. “And I know it was big for the seniors.
“There were a lot of hugs today.”
The win moved NU to 6-1 overall and 3-0 in the Big Eight. Kansas, the opponent this week in Lincoln, is 7-1 and 4-0.
Colorado dropped to 6-1-1 and 2-1-1. The Buffs’ last loss in the Big Eight was 7-0 at Nebraska in 1988.
The Huskers’ victory was their first over a Top 10 foe since a 7-3 victory over Oklahoma in 1988.
“It takes a lot of the burden off our shoulders,” NU cornerback Kenny Wilhite said, ”after hearing every week that we can’t win the big one.”
Unlike the run vs. pass debate, Osborne had plenty to say about talk of winning the big one.
“I don’t know of any game you can afford to lose here and not get nailed to the cross on Monday,” he said. “It doesn’t make any difference to me if it’s the Top 10 or the Bottom 10. We’ve got to play well.
“All that stuff about we can’t win the big one I don’t pay attention to. When we’re the better team, we’re going to win. When we’re not, we’re probably going to lose.”
Osborne said Nebraska was the better team Saturday, but he never dreamed it would be by 45 points.
“I didn’t see any way we would beat Colorado that badly,” he said. “Colorado is a better football team than it showed today, but the turnovers just make you look like you aren’t getting anything done.”
CU entered the game 104th out of 107 teams in turnover margin. NU was fifth.
“Everybody had their share of mistakes,” said Colorado freshman quarterback Koy Detmer, who started in place of the injured Kordell Stewart and threw three interceptions and lost a fumble.
“It wasn’t just one person making errors. Their defense was jacked up and ready to play.”
Things went well for Nebraska from the opening kickoff.
T.J. Cunningham fumbled that kick, putting Colorado in a hole at its 10.
In trying to escape that hole, Detmer lofted a screen pass that bounced off I-back Lamont Warren’s hands and into those of Hill at the CU 15.
On third-and-nine at the 14, the Buffaloes were offside. Then Frazier optioned left for 6 yards and a first down.
On the next play, Jones scored up the middle for a 7-0 lead just 1:14 into the game.
The rest of the first quarter turned into a punting contest as CU’s Mitch Berger kicked four times and NU’s Mike Stigge three.
After Berger’s fourth punt, Nebraska moved into scoring range.
Frazier broke option runs of 19 yards left and 12 yards right to the CU 22. The drive stalled at the 15, so on fourth-and-three Byron Bennett lined up for a 32-yard field goal.
But Stigge, the holder, took the snap and flipped a shovel pass up the middle to Cory Schlesinger. The backup fullback couldn’t hang on, ending the threat.
After Colorado went three downs and out for the third straight series, Berger punted for the fifth time in 16 minutes. NU’s Tyrone Hughes returned it 11 yards to the CU 47.
One play later, Nebraska led 14-0.
On a counter sweep left, Jones followed blocks from tackle Rob Zatechka at the line of scrimmage and tight end Gerald Armstrong downfield to bolt 47 yards for a touchdown with 13:26 left in the half.
Two plays later, the Nebraska defense produced again as strong safety Steve Carmer intercepted Detmer at the CU 36.
Wilhite said some new wrinkles put in on defense helped create interceptions.
“Down at Missouri last week, we played strictly man-to-man,” he said. “Today, we tried to disguise everything.
“The defensive backs showed zone at the line of scrimmage, but then we went almost all man-to-man. And you could see the confusion. Looking into the quarterback’s eyes, he didn’t know who to throw to or what audible to call.”
After Carmer’s pickoff, the Huskers stalled at the 2. They intentionally took a delay penalty to set up Bennett’s 24-yard field goal try, which he drilled for a 17-0 lead with 6:31 to go in the half.
Colorado went to a no-huddle attack to break its offensive slump.
Two completions and a 15-yard penalty on Alberts for roughing the passer finally moved the Buffaloes into Husker territory for the first time after 25 minutes of play.
Detmer then completed passes of 10, 14 and 17 yards to get to the 3. I-back James Hill plowed in from there to close the gap to 17-7 with 3:34 left in the half.
Colorado held on three straight downs and got the ball back at its 44 with 1:49 to play, bringing a nervous rumble from the crowd.
But NU’s Hill broke in on Detmer on the first play, stripped the ball, recovered it and ran it back 8 yards to the CU 27.
Nebraska pulled out another trick play to preserve the ensuing drive.
On third-and-four at the 21, guard Will Shields ran the fumbleroosky — an intentional fumble between the center and quarterback — for 16 yards to the CU 5.
From there, Frazier ran twice for 2 yards. After Colorado was called for offsides, Nebraska had four seconds left and 1 yard to get into the end zone.
The Huskers went for it, and Jones powered up the middle to score for a 24-7 lead at halftime.
“My heart was in my throat on that play,” Osborne said. “Common sense would tell you that you ought to kick the field goal, but we wanted the touchdown.”
In the third quarter, NU linebacker Mike Anderson — who had arthroscopic knee surgery 11 days ago — intercepted a pass at the CU 26.
Six plays later, Frazier hit Armstrong with a 5-yard TD pass for a 31-7 lead.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, fullback Lance Lewis capped a 63-yard drive with a 34-yard touchdown run. That put Nebraska ahead 38-7.
On NU’s next possession, Frazier hit split end Corey Dixon for 48 yards to the 1. Then Frazier found tight end William Washington with a TD pass for a 45-7 lead.
With 6:05 to play, Schlesinger scored on a 5-yard run to make the final 52-7.
“We wanted to be the most physical team,” Alberts said. “And in the end, it showed. We just took it right at them.
“Hopefully this will change some perceptions nationally. I don’t think it changed our opinions. We expect to do that every week. Maybe not to this extent, but we expect it.”
Alberts said Osborne warned the Huskers about thinking too much of themselves.
“Coach told us not to celebrate until Wednesday and then get beat next week,” he said. “But that’s not going to be a problem with this team.
“We want it so bad. We’re on a roll now.”
|Yards per carry||0.4||4.8|
Nebraska is 49-19 all-time against Colorado.
|Middle Tennessee State||Sept. 12|
|Arizona State||Sept. 26|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 10|
|Iowa State||Nov. 14|
|Kansas State||Dec. 5|
|Florida State||Jan. 1|
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