Manhattan, Kan. — The Kansas State Wildcats ended three decades of frustration against Nebraska on Saturday and kept their national championship hopes alive in the process with a 40-30 win over the Huskers.
Jeff Kelly's 24-yard return of an Eric Crouch fumble with three seconds left padded the Wildcats' victory margin after Michael Bishop's 11-yard touchdown pass to Darnell McDonald had given the
Wildcats a 34-30 lead with 5:25 to play.
McDonald's catch capped an 80-yard drive that came three minutes after Nebraska had taken a 30-27 lead on Sheldon Jackson's touchdown catch. Martin Gramatica added the extra point.
The win was the Wildcats' 10th straight of the season and was Kansas State's first over Nebraska since a 12-0 victory in 1968. More importantly, it kept alive the Wildcats' national title bid.
Kansas State, which shares the No. 1 ranking in the USA Today — ESPN coaches poll and is No. 2 in the Associated Press ratings, improved to 10-0. The Wildcats also clinched a spot in the Dec. 5 Big 12 Conference championship game by improving to 7-0 in the league.
Nebraska dropped to 8-3 and 4-3 heading into a Nov. 27 regular-season finale against Colorado. The No. 11 Huskers had taken a 30-27 lead with 8:28 remaining when Eric Crouch passed to Jackson to complete a 77- yard scoring drive.
Kris Brown, who had converted 125 straight point-after kicks, then missed wide to the right, leaving the Huskers clinging to a three-point lead. Bishop, who fumbled three times and threw two interceptions, then directed the winning touchdown drive that left the sellout crowd at KSU Stadium in a frenzy.
Bishop completed four passes on the drive and scrambled for 17 yards.
Kansas State's defense then finished off the win, holding Nebraska on downs to take the ball back at the Nebraska 20 with 2:30 to play.
Nebraska took advantage of Bishop's three fumbles to take a 17-14 lead in a first half that featured plenty of offense. The Wildcats gained 303 yards in the first two quarters and averaged 8.7 yards on
their 35 plays. Nebraska ran 33 offensive plays in the first half and had 255 yards, an average of 7.7 per snap.
The Huskers became the first team this season to lead Kansas State, taking the opening kickoff and driving 80 yards in seven plays. Crouch had runs of 11 and 16 yards on the drive, and completed three passes.
The final two were to wide open tight end Jackson. The first, after Dan Alexander had bulled his way for a 12-yard gain, covered 22 yards to the Kansas State 8-yard line. On the next play, Jackson made an over-the-head catch of Crouch's touchdown pass. The scoring pass, which came with 11:29 to play in the first quarter, was Nebraska's first since the the Sept. 12 victory over California.
With a 7-0 lead to protect, Nebraska's defense dropped Kansas State for losses on two of its first three plays to force a punt. The Huskers almost came up with a fumble recovery when center Randall Cummins and Bishop had a mix-up on the snap, but Bishop recovered on the third-down play.
The Huskers got the ball back at the Kansas State 49-yard line when Wildcat punter James Garcia shanked his kick. On first down, Kelly separated the football from Alexander, and the Wildcats' Jarrod Cooper recovered at the KSU 45-yard line.
It took Bishop and the Wildcats 11 plays to cover the 55 yards that pulled them into a 7-7 tie. Kansas State converted two third-down situations on the drive, with Bishop getting one with an 8-yard gain on a keeper. The second came on a 15-yard pass from Bishop to Darnell McDonald that gave the Wildcats a first down on the Huskers' 10.
The Wildcats needed four plays to get in from there, with a holding penalty on a second-down run putting them back to the 20. Bishop got 18 of the yards back with a pair of 9-yard pass to McDonald, then went the final 2 on a fourth-down keeper.
Nebraska took advantage of Bishop's first two fumbles to score the points that gave the Huskers their 17-14 halftime lead. Bishop's first fumble came after he had moved the Wildcats' from their own 6-yard line to the Nebraska 31, with the quarterback getting 50 on a wild dash through the middle of the Husker defense.
But Bishop was called for a facemask penalty on the next play, then coughed up the ball when Carlos Polk blew through and leveled the Kansas State quarterback. Defense tackle Loran Kaiser recovered the fumble at the Kansas State 43-yard line, and Nebraska regained the lead three plays later.
The first two, runs by Crouch, resulted in no gain and a 2-yard loss. Facing third down and 12, Crouch hooked up with split end Kenny Cheatham on a 45-yard touchdown pass. Cheatham beat safety Lamar Chapman on a post pattern and came up with a one-handed, diving catch for his first touchdown of the season and second of his career.
Brown's conversion kick made it 14-7 with 11 minutes left in the half, and the Huskers expanded it to 17-7 six minutes later by converting Bishop's second fumble into a 18-yard Brown field goal. Bishop had the Wildcats driving until he fumbled when hit by Chad Kelsay. Clint Finley recovered at the Nebraska 37-yard line, and the Huskers had a 10-point lead nine plays later.
Crouch picked up a pair of first downs, passing 12 yards to Matt Davison and then scrambling for 16 yards to the Kansas State 32-yard line. He followed that play with a 28-yard pass to Shevin Wiggins that gave Nebraska a first-and-goal at the Wildcats’ 4.
Kansas State’s defense stiffened, holding Crouch to no gain on third-and-goal from the 1. Brown trotted in and delivered his field goal that made it 17-7 with 4:55 to play in the half.
The Wildcats retaliated with lightning speed as Bishop hooked up with Aaron Lockett for a 61-yard gain on the first play after Nebraska’s kickoff. On second down from the Nebraska 19, Bishop scrambled for 16 yards but gave the ball back to the Huskers on the next play when he fumbled for a third time in the half.
Kansas State got one more possession after forcing the Huskers to punt. The Wildcats took over at their own 24-yard line with 1:46 left in the half, and it took Bishop eight plays to get them into the end zone.
He completed passes of 11 yards to McDonald and 16 yards to Lockett for first downs. Nebraska rover back Joe Walker’s interference gave Kansas State another first down, and Bishop followed with a 37-yard pass to McDonald.
Bishop got the touchdown two plays later on a 1-yard sneak. Gramatica’s point-after kick pulled the Wildcats within 17-14, but still left the Wildcats trailing at halftime for the first time this season.
Kansas State took its first lead midway through the third quarter on Bishop’s 17-yard pass to McDonald. The play capped a 61-yard drive that started with an 18-yard run by Eric Hickson. Bishop kept the march moving with a 6-yard pass to fullback Brian Goolsby on a third-down-and-4 play from the Nebraska 37-yard line.
Bishop followed with a 7-yard scramble, then hooked up with Lockett for a 7-yard gain for a first down. He found McDonald along the sideline, and the Kansas State receiver slipped a tackle by Erwin Swiney and raced into the end zone with 8:20 left in the third quarter.
Nebraska compounded its situation by failing to generate any offense in the third quarter. The Huskers went three-and-out on their first three possessions of the quarter, producing just six yards of offense on the nine plays.
The Husker defense kept the Wildcats from taking command after David Allen’s third punt return of the second half covered 48 yards to the Nebraska 12-yard line. A 2-yard gain by Hickson, on which he was injured, and a 5-yard pass from Bishop to McDonald left the Wildcats facing third and two.
The Huskers then buried Hickson’s backup, Frank Murphy, for a 3-yard loss, forcing the Wildcats to turn to Gramatica for three points. His 25-yard field goal hiked the Kansas State lead to 24-17 with 5:03 remaining in the quarter.
Nebraska’s ensuing possession produced the Huskers’ first first down of the second half but little else. Crouch’s 2-yard sneak from the Nebraska 29 got the first down with 3:36 left, but an incompletion, an 8-yard sack and another incompletion left the Huskers punting from their 23.
That started a wild sequence that saw turnovers on three of the next four plays. The first came when Keyuo Craver intercepted Bishop’s long pass at the Nebraska 18-yard line. After Correll Buckhalter ran for no gain, Kelly picked a tipped Crouch pass out of the air for an interception at the Nebraska 31-yard line.
Nebraska then tied the game on the next play when rush end Kyle Vanden Bosch’s jarring tackle on Murphy forced a fumble that Ralph Brown returned 74 yards for a touchdown. Brown’s conversion, with 1:20 left in the third quarter, left the game tied at 24-24 and the Kansas State faithful stunned.
The Wildcats countered with a drive that produced a 21-yard field goal by Gramatica with 10:57 to play. The big play was a 25-yard pass from Bishop to McDonald that gave the Wildcats a first down at the Nebraska 23-yard line.
Bishop kept for 7 yards, and Goolsby bulled for 5 yards and a first down at the Nebraska 9 yard. The Husker defense came up with three straight stops, limiting Bishop to gains of 1 and 4 yards on a pair of rushes and then hurrying him into bouncing a pass intended for McDonald on the end zone turf.
Gramatica then delivered his field goal to give the Wildcats the lead.
|Yards per carry||4.8||4.9|
Nebraska is 78-15 all-time against Kansas State.
|Louisiana Tech||Aug. 29|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 3|
|Texas A&M||Oct. 10|
|Iowa State||Nov. 7|
|Kansas State||Nov. 14|
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