LINCOLN — The gregarious 18-year-old wasn't clean-shaven for the cameras.
How was Harrison Beck supposed to know, after 39 quarters of the 2005 season, that steely, record-setting quarterback Zac Taylor would get knocked motionless at perhaps the game's most critical point, at perhaps the season's most critical point?
How was Beck, the ballyhooed blue-chipper from Clearwater, Fla., supposed to know his redshirt would disappear in the southerly gusts after he sat the bench for two-plus months?
Nebraska's 2005 season will be remembered for a decade's worth of football dramatics — hand gestures and falling goal posts and unlikely comebacks, oh my.
But Beck trotting onto the field, throwing a disastrous interception, then celebrating a half-hour later after Jordan Congdon kicked the game-winning field goal, well, that ranks near the top.
In a wild, woeful four-hour marathon between Big 12 bottom feeders, Beck embodied Nebraska's performance in a 27-25 bowl-clinching victory over rival Kansas State.
He was as smooth as a cactus. Sloppy as a kindergartner with a cupcake. And his uh-ohs outweighed his oh-wows. But in the end, Beck was smiling and basking in the cheers of a raucous sellout crowd.
"This is what you wait for," he said. "This is why you sign your name on the dotted line to get your scholarship, for games like this."
Nebraska will start a new bowl streak next month. One could argue the Huskers limped to the six-win finish line. Nothing Nebraska did Saturday will bolster TV ratings or scare opposing coaches.
"We don't play pretty games," said linebacker Bo Ruud. "But we're pretty cool customers in crunch time. Nothing gets to us."
The Huskers seemed bound for their fourth straight loss when Beck's fifth consecutive errant pass was intercepted by K-State cornerback Bryan Baldwin, who ran it back to the NU 9. The Blackshirts forced a KSU field goal.
Beck, his team down 25-24, responded by finding Nate Swift for 21 yards into Wildcat territory. A roughing the passer penalty added 15 more yards. Three plays later, Congdon drilled a 40-yarder with 1:05 left.
"I have to make it, or I'm not going to want to be in the locker room after the game," Congdon said.
TV networks chose not to televise this one. Wise decision.
Nebraska and Kansas State combined for 22 penalties, 14 punts, 10 fumbles, six officials' reviews, three botched extra points, two safeties and countless mental mistakes. Through 10 minutes of the fourth quarter, the two had collectively punted five times, turned it over once and found one first down.
Even the wind evidently tired of the futility, blowing hot dog wrappers and Gatorade cups across the field. NU stumbled, but the Wildcats showed none of the discipline that trademarked Bill Snyder teams the past decade.
Still, KSU's chances were good, especially after Taylor went down.
The Husker signal caller was 21 of 31 for 220 yards and two touchdowns through three-plus quarters. His second TD pass to Swift, a 34-yarder into the wind, gave Nebraska a commanding 24-12 lead and the quarterback the single-season passing yardage record.
Taylor might not remember that throw after the hit he took early in the fourth. K-State linebacker Zach Diles drilled Taylor at the NU 29.
"Oh, man, I was scared," said Swift. "I was right there; I knew he was out cold."
Taylor lay motionless for most of four minutes on the ground. He didn't take another snap. Taylor may have a concussion, coach Bill Callahan said.
Callahan said going with Beck instead of redshirt freshman Joe Ganz was a "no brainer, " despite the circumstances; NU had a 24-22 lead, the ball at midfield and a strong wind at its back.
"It was the best decision in the best interest for this football team," Callahan said.
"You know, it comes down to you've got to win football games," Beck said.
That sixth win seemed a sure thing early in the third quarter after NU went up 24-12. K-State pounded out 134 rushing yards in the first quarter, but the Blackshirts had stymied the purple people since.
Allan Evridge scored after a Taylor fumble deep in NU territory. Then K-State got two safeties in seven minutes. The Wildcats blew several chances, though. Evridge's third-quarter interception on third down at the Nebraska 17 was the biggest.
"We came out of that (quarter) with so many points we should've had," Evridge said. "But we can't get them back now. It's over with."
Five of Nebraska's seven home games in 2005 went to the final minute. The Huskers won three of those, just enough to make them bowl eligible.
"I think it's a big turning point," said senior Blake Tiedtke. "We have a lot of young guys playing... Getting them to a bowl game, there's nothing but great things in the future for the Huskers."
|Yards per carry||5.0||2.7|
Nebraska is 78-15 all-time against Kansas State.
|Wake Forest||Sept. 10|
|Iowa State||Oct. 1|
|Texas Tech||Oct. 8|
|Kansas State||Nov. 12|
Nebraska has played 21 games on Nov. 12. See them all »
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