MANHATTAN, Kan. — Nebraska's hopes of playing for a national championship in sunny Miami early next year ended Saturday night in the snow and cold at KSU Stadium.
Kansas State trumped the fourth-and fifth-ranked Huskers' fourth-quarter rally with a clutch 62 - yard drive that produced the winning points in a 29-28 victory before a record crowd of 53,811. Quarterback Jonathan Beasley, embarrassed by his performance in the Wildcats' loss last season at Lincoln, found redemption with his game-winning, 12-yard touchdown pass to Quincy Morgan.
"When we needed to get it done," Nebraska Coach Frank Solich said, "we didn't."
Beasley did. His second touchdown pass of the game came with 2:52 to play. The Wildcats turned back Nebraska's final bid for victory to close out their second straight win at home over the Huskers. Even with temperatures dipping below the freezing mark, the victory left the Kansas State fans ready to party like it was 1998.
An hour after the final snap, the fans were still working on the goal post in the north end zone. It eventually fell, marking the second time in three years that the fans have been able to cart away a prize from the Nebraska game.
Meanwhile, the Huskers left town with nothing to show for their visit. Nebraska, the No. 1-ranked team in the preseason, lost its chance to play for a national title after falling to -2. Nebraska still holds slim hopes of making it to the Big 12 Conference championship game, but the Huskers would need Kansas State to lose Saturday to a Missouri team that has won just three games this season.
The 11th-and 16th-ranked Wildcats can punch their ticket for the Dec. 2 league championship game by knocking off the Tigers on Saturday. Kansas State stands 9-2 and 5-2 in the Big 12 North Division, while Nebraska is 5-2 in the league with a regular-season game remaining against Colorado on Nov. 24.
"There is disappointment and frustration," said Husker offensive guard Russ Hochstein, assessing the team's mood after the loss. "We never lost confidence throughout the game until the last ball was snapped."
For most of the snaps in the first three quarters of Saturday's game — played in wintry conditions with a game-time temperature of 34 degrees — the Huskers' offense performed as if it were stuck in a deep freeze. Nebraska, the country's second-most productive offense (487.2 yards per game) coming into the game, had all of 105 yards after the first three quarters.
But led by I-back Dan Alexander, the Huskers picked up the pace in the stretch to score two touchdowns that put them ahead 28-23 with just less than 10 minutes to play. Alexander gained 103 of his 130 yards on 10 fourth-quarter carries, two of which ended in touchdowns.
Alexander's 19-yard scoring run on the second play of the fourth quarter pulled Nebraska within 23-21 with 14:02 to play. The next time Nebraska got the ball, Alexander was unstoppable, carrying five straight times in covering the 74 yards that the Huskers needed for the score that left them with a 28-23 lead with 9:53 remaining. Alexander got the touchdown with a bruising 45-yard explosion through the Kansas State defense.
The two scoring drives produced 127 of Nebraska's season-low 239 total yards. The output was Nebraska's lowest since the Huskers gained just 185 yards in last season's win over Southern Mississippi.
Nebraska averaged almost 10 yards per snap on the 13 plays in those two drives. The Huskers averaged 2.3 yards on their 45 other snaps against a Kansas State defense that ranked fourth nationally with a 271-yard average.
"It was a guessing game," Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch said. "For one quarter, we guessed right."
Crouch had enjoyed two of his most productive days at a Husker in his previous two meetings with Kansas State. Saturday, Crouch endured a nightmarish performance that saw him rush for just 42 yards on 17 carries and misfire of 11 of 13 pass attempts. His two completions yielded just 39 yards.
Those numbers are reminiscent of the ones produced by Beasley last season in the Wildcats' 41-15 loss in Lincoln. Bothered by a sore shoulder — which wasn't revealed until after the game — Beasley completed just 3 of 19 passes for 100 yards.
In his final home game Saturday, Beasley completed just 12 of 36 passes but had 234 yards passing. He also ran eight times for 26 yards — three of the carries were sacks that accounted for 18 yards in losses.
"I was really proud of Jonathan," Kansas State Coach Bill Snyder said. "He's the guys who's lived with all the criticism throughout a year's period of time. There wasn't anybody who wanted to accept the fact that Jonathan was injured for past of last year and that definitely affected his performance.
"Nobody wanted to accept that and everyone wanted to criticize that. He's lived with that. He's had a sign over his locker with the score of last year's Nebraska game on it. I'm so happy for him. I consider this to be redemption."
Beasley directed Kansas State's offense to 377 yards, the final 62 of which came on the game-winning drive. After Alexander's 45-yard touchdown run put Nebraska ahead, Kansas State picked up one first down but was forced to punt from the Nebraska 49-yard line.
The Huskers took possession with 8:07 remaining, needing to put together a clock-killing drive. Instead, the Huskers went three-and-out for the sixth time in the game. Two of their other 15 possessions were ended by turnovers — a Crouch interception in the first half and an Alexander fumble in the third period.
Nebraska punter Dan Hadenfeldt, who averaged 38.3 yards on seven punts, got off a 45-yarder that left Kansas State at its 38-yard line after the Huskers were assessed a 5-yard penalty for fair-catch interference.
Rock Cartwright got the drive started with a 13-yard run. Nebraska cornerback DeJuan Groce was then called for defensive holding, giving the Wildcats a first down at the Huskers' 39-yard line.
Beasley ran 15 yards for another first down, then followed a 6-yard run by Josh Scobey with a 9-yard rain that gave the Wildcats' a first down at the Nebraska 9-yard line. Scobey gained 2 yards before the Wildcats were penalized 5 yards for a false start.
Facing second and goal at the 12, Beasley hooked up with Morgan, who tiptoed through what was rapidly becoming heavily falling snow for the winning touchdown. The catch was Morgan's seventh for 199 yards.
"That was a big play by Quincy," Beasley said. "The offensive line put up some big blocks for me. I was able to get out there, make the throw and Quincy just made a big play for us."
By the time the Huskers got the ball back, the artificial turf was completely covered with snow and the footing had become treacherous.
"The snow couldn't have come at a worse time," Alexander said. "It was a real hard time out there, trying to get your footing. It was hard just to walk onto the field. But that's part of football. We should be a better team and be able to overcome those things."
Crouch managed to complete his second pass of the night, finding Tracey Wistrom for a 16-yard gain that gave Nebraska a first down at its 38-yard line.
Crouch ran for 4 yards, and fullback Willie Miller got 1 on a power rush into the middle of the Kansas State defense. Crouch then threw incomplete on third down, and his fourth-down, across-the-middle pass for Matt Davison was knocked away by Kansas State defensive back Dyshod Carter.
The Wildcats took over with 51 seconds to play, ran two plays and then joined their fans in a celebration to equal the one that followed their 40-30 win over Nebraska two seasons ago.
"We didn't want to go out badly against Nebraska," Morgan said. "We knew this was a big game. The loser goes home."
Kansas State spent most of the first half chasing the Huskers after spotting Nebraska a 7-0 lead and Aaron Terpening and Keyuo Craver teammed up to block Wildcats punter Travis Brown's first kick. Terpening blew up the middle to block the kick, and the ball bounced right to Craver, who returned it 12 yards for the touchdown that gave Nebraska the lead after just 2 minutes and 5 seconds.
The Wildcats managed to pull into a 7-7 when Scobey's 1-yard run capped a 48-yard Kansas State drive. Kansas State got 41 of the yards on a Beasley-to-Morgan completion, and Scobey followed with rushes of 6 and 1 yards to pull Kansas State even with 5:21 left in the first quarter.
Nebraska countered with a 12-play, 56-yard drive that was kept alive when the Wildcats' were whistled for a roughing the punter penalty. The penalty gave Nebraska a first down at the Kansas State 36-yard line, and Crouch scored seven plays later on a 1-yard run. His 23-yard pass to Davison on the preceding play set up the score.
Crouch's touchdown, with 31 seconds left in the quarter, gave Nebraska a 14-7 lead. The Huskers squandered a chance to add to its lead after defensive tackle Loran Kaiser intercepted a tipped Beasley pass and returned it to the Kansas State 17-yard line.
A pair of runs by Correll Buckhalter produced 5 yards, but the Huskers were penalized for an illegal substitution, leaving them facing third and 10 at the 17. Crouch scrambled for 6 yards, bringing Josh Brown on to try a 28-yard field goal. Brown left the kick wide to the right, allowing the Wildcats to remain within seven points.
Kansas State cut the Nebraska lead to 14-10 with 2:42 left in the half when Jamie Rheem's 38-yard field goal capped a 14-play, 63-yard drive. The Wildcats converted three third-down plays on the drive, including a third-and-24 from their 2-yard line when Beasley and Morgan connected for a 35-yard gain.
|Yards per carry||3.3||4.4|
Nebraska is 78-15 all-time against Kansas State.
|San Jose State||Sept. 2|
|Notre Dame||Sept. 9|
|Iowa State||Oct. 7|
|Texas Tech||Oct. 14|
|Kansas State||Nov. 11|
Nebraska has played 19 games on Nov. 11. See them all »
©2019 BH Media Group