So much for the expected defensive battle in the 63rd annual FedEx Orange Bowl.
Offense ruled Tuesday night as sixth-ranked Nebraska used scoring drives of 71, 45, 74, 61 and 76 yards to outlast No. 9 and 10 Virginia Tech 41-21 before the smallest Orange Bowl crowd in 50 years — 51,212 at Pro Player Stadium.
Senior I-back Damon Benning, bothered by injuries throughout his career, scored on third-quarter touchdown runs of 33 and 6 yards to help the Huskers counter big nights from Virginia Tech quarterback Jim Druckenmiller and tailback Ken Oxendine.
Druckenmiller fired touchdown passes of 19, 6 and 33 yards. Oxendine ran for 145 yards and caught passes for 40 yards through three quarters.
But Benning ran for 95 yards, all compiled in the first three quarters, and quarterback Scott Frost ran for two touchdowns and led a turnover-free offense.
The win gave NU (11-2) its fourth straight season with at least 11 victories and likely clinches a fourth straight Top 5 end-of-season ranking.
In the third quarter, Nebraska increased its 17-14 halftime lead with a touchdown on its first possession.
Frost ran for 10 yards and passed for 10 to split end Jeff Lake before Benning took charge.
On fourth-and-one from the Tech 36, Benning slammed up the middle for 3 yards. Then on the next play, Benning took a delayed handoff and sprinted up the middle for a 33-yard touchdown and a 24-14 Husker lead with 9:54 to go in the third quarter.
But Virginia Tech didn't let Nebraska out of sight. The Hokies drove 80 yards in 12 plays to score.
Druckenmiller completed third-down passes of 10 and 19 yards to keep the march alive. Then on third-and-10 from the NU 33, Druckenmiller hit split end Cornelius White with a touchdown bomb over Husker cornerback Ralph Brown to cut the gap to 24-21 with 4:58 to go in the quarter.
But Nebraska kept the yardage meter moving on its next drive.
Benning's 23-yard kickoff return got NU started at its 39. After two first downs, Benning tried a halfback option pass to the end zone that drew an interference penalty from Tech. Two plays later, Benning scored from the 6 to put Nebraska ahead 31-21 with 20 seconds left in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Nebraska chewed up 76 yards in 13 plays to set up Kris Brown's 37-yard field goal for a 34-21 lead with 7:52 left.
Frost's 22-yard touchdown run and Brown's extra point with 3:26 left gave the Huskers a 41-21 lead with 3:26 left.
In the first quarter, Nebraska punted on its opening two possessions after gaining one first down in each.
Virginia Tech, which had a 41-yard pass play on its first possession before having to punt, scored the second time it had the ball.
The Hokies drove 72 yards in eight plays. They broke into NU territory at the 48 on Druckenmiller's 8-yard scramble. On the next play, Druckenmiller surprised the Huskers with an option left and a late pitch to tailback Ken Oxendine for a 20-yard gain.
Two plays later from the 19, Druckenmiller faked a screen pass to the right before lobbing one left to fullback Marcus Parker. NU linebacker Ryan Terwilliger pulled a hamstring trying to make the tackle, which helped Parker sneak down the sideline and into the end zone. Shayne Graham's extra-point kick put Tech up 7-0 with 3:14 left in the first quarter.
Nebraska responded with a 71-yard drive, but had to settle for a field goal.
I-back Jay Sims broke runs of 8, 7 and 8 yards in his first series. A 15-yard face-mask penalty and Frost's 23-yard pass to wingback Lance Brown were NU's biggest plays on the possession. But the Huskers couldn't overcome fullback Brian Schuster's 5-yard loss on second-and-six at the 11. So Kris Brown kicked a 25-yard field goal to cut Virginia Tech's lead to 7-3 with 13:25 left in the second quarter.
Nebraska defensive tackle Jason Peter's 9-yard sack stopped Virginia Tech's next possession. Mike Fullman's 26-yard punt return set the Huskers up at the Tech 45.
In three plays, NU took the lead. I-back Ahman Green's first carry of the game went for 17 yards. Frost hit split end Kenny Cheatham with a 23-yard pass. Then Frost ran the option left and scored from the 5 for a 10-7 lead with 9:14 to go in the second quarter.
Virginia Tech bounced back to drive to the Nebraska 39-yard line. Then the Blackshirts pushed back.
Weakside linebacker Octavious McFarlin nailed Druckenmiller for an 11-yard sack. Tech Coach Frank Beamer vigorously protested that his quarterback had thrown the ball away before the whistle. Then a 17-yard holding penalty created a third-and-37 at the Tech 33.
Druckenmiller tried an option pitchout, but rush end Mike Rucker knocked the ball loose and Peter scooped it up and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown. That gave Nebraska a 17-7 lead with 3:36 to go in the half.
But Virginia Tech didn't crack. Druckenmiller's 20-yard pass to tight end Bryan Jennings and Oxendine's 39-yard gallop moved Tech to the Husker 21.
Five plays later, Druckenmiller lobbed a pass into the end zone for flanker Shawn Scales. NU's McFarlin appeared in position to intercept it, but Scales plucked it from McFarlin's hands to complete a 6-yard touchdown play with 19 seconds to go. That cut Nebraska's halftime lead to 17-14.
|Yards per carry||4.9||5.7|
Nebraska is 1-2 all-time against Virginia Tech.
|Michigan State||Sept. 7|
|Arizona State||Sept. 21|
|Colorado State||Sept. 28|
|Kansas State||Oct. 5|
|Texas Tech||Oct. 19|
|Iowa State||Nov. 16|
|Virginia Tech||Dec. 31|
Nebraska has played 2 games on Dec. 31. See them all »
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