BOULDER, Colo. — It was a pregame guarantee, uttered by a guy who likes to dish out his share of talk, but when Demorrio Williams promised that Nebraska would beat Colorado, somebody believed it.
His name was Frank Solich.
In a place that has brought so many nightmares to Solich, in a week with so much speculation about his future, few could've called this one — a 31-22 Nebraska win Friday, in the thin air at Folsom Field, with a beaten-up offensive line and a defense that looked as if it was out of gas.
This one was for the nine-win season, which Nebraska reached for the 34th time in 35 years. The Huskers said it was for the skeptics, too, who pointed to the 62-36 meltdown at Colorado two years ago and said they couldn't win before a rowdy 53,444 at Folsom Field.
Most of all, it was for Solich.
"When I walked into the locker room, I told Frank Solich I loved him," said NU linebacker T.J. Hollowell, who came up with a fourth-quarter interception to seal a 9-3 record and a probable Holiday Bowl berth. "He's been there for us, and I'm happy to get a win for him.
"A lot of people were talking this and that about him, but he's a great coach. I don't think he needs to go anywhere."
The embattled coach said he didn't care about the swirling rumors about his demise, but it was obvious that Solich was uncharacteristically bold and daring Friday. He faked a second-quarter field goal and had his holder scrambling downfield for a first down. He rolled the dice on 4th and 1 at his own 49 in the fourth quarter.
Jammal Lord, the much-maligned quarterback that Solich stuck with all season, plunged forward for two yards, and the Huskers eventually kicked a field goal with 8:30 to play that put them up for good.
Daring? How about the next series, when Nebraska was stuck at the 1-yard line on fourth down. A field goal would've been simple. But Solich gave the ball to Judd Davies, a fullback who'd been a close No. 2 behind Lord on the pick-on-a-Husker list.
Davies bulled his way into the end zone with 5:48 to play, and Solich exhaled.
"It'll be probably perceived (as daring)," Solich said. "But it seemed like the right thing to do at the time in order to win a football game. Basically, I think my decisions have been based on what's going to give us the best chance to win.
"Sometimes it may not be pretty, sometimes it may not be in the style or manner that everybody likes. Bottom line is, you're trying to get wins for your players, your coaches, your program."
Colorado may have come into the game at 5-6, but most observers probably would've called the Buffs the favorites, especially in the third quarter.
Three of Nebraska's linemen were hurting by then, and right guard Jake Andersen eventually had to leave the game.
Somehow, the Huskers hung on.
Down 22-21, they got some luck in the fourth quarter when John Torp's punt took a couple of funky bounces and ended up on the NU 40. The punt only went 4 yards. Lord took the Huskers 58, to the Colorado 2, and David Dyches' field goal put Nebraska up for good.
Lord threw for 146 yards and ran for another 68. He wasn't perfect, hitting just 8 of his 18 passes. He didn't need to be.
"Jammal was very relaxed, very confident," NU Offensive Coordinator Barney Cotton said. "He really played his rear end off today and was a good leader on the sidelines. I couldn't be happier for a guy who has gone through what he's gone through."
It was a feel-good day for Cory Ross, a Denver native who dreamed of playing at Folsom Field as a kid. Ross ran for 103 yards in his second game as a starter. It was a gritty performance for the offensive line, which rotated in seven bodies, half of them beaten up, but still managed to hang in the altitude. They showed their muscle, they pushed forward for 369 yards.
Lord said he wasn't all that surprised.
"Naw, this is Husker football. It's Husker Power," he said. "Fourth and 1, we should get those all day long."
Maybe they were inspired by the controversy, because Lord said the Huskers had some of their best practices all week. And when Colorado went up 22-21 early in the third quarter on a 31-yard touchdown catch from Derek McCoy, nobody panicked.
Nebraska has been known for its second-half implosions on the road, but Hollowell said they weren't thinking about Missouri or Texas on Friday.
Hollowell came up with the play of the day with 7:03 to go when he intercepted a Joel Klatt pass and ran it 25 yards to the CU 6. Four plays later, Davies was in the end zone, and Nebraska got to ruin Colorado's postseason plans for the first time in a couple of years.
The Buffs are out of bowl contention. For Nebraska, the ride's just starting.
"It was a different feeling," Hollowell said. "Guys who got beat weren't putting their heads down. They were calm, they were cool, they were out there playing football. They were having fun."
|Yards per carry||2.1||3.8|
Nebraska is 49-19 all-time against Colorado.
|Oklahoma State||Aug. 30|
|Utah State||Sept. 6|
|Penn State||Sept. 13|
|Southern Miss||Sept. 25|
|Troy (formerly Troy State)||Oct. 4|
|Texas A&M||Oct. 18|
|Iowa State||Oct. 25|
|Kansas State||Nov. 15|
|Michigan State||Dec. 29|
Nebraska has played 16 games on Nov. 28. See them all »
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