LINCOLN — In a 14-14 game, with Nebraska and Colorado vying for the all-important next strike Friday, the Huskers went to something other than an old standby.
They sent Zac Taylor out for a pass.
"We've seen him run, and I think all of you have seen him run,'' NU receiver Nate Swift said. "I never thought that was going to happen.''
In Nebraska's 37-14 win before 85,800 at Memorial Stadium, Taylor tried to catch a pass, and players other than the starting quarterback threw them. The two times the Huskers lined up for field goals, they faked one and punted on the other. Defensive players got to catch the football and run with it.
"We got all that cool stuff,'' linebacker Corey McKeon said. "It's fun.''
Cool, fun, cute or tricky, there was no arguing that it all figured heavily into the Huskers' third consecutive victory to finish the regular season. And with the Big 12 North already clinched, it gave them the satisfaction of raising the trophy after a victory.
"You have to give them credit for being creative,'' Colorado coach Dan Hawkins said.
Nebraska (9-3, 6-2 Big 12) now waits to see whether it plays Oklahoma or Texas in the Big 12 final next Saturday in Kansas City, Mo. OU can claim that spot by winning at Oklahoma State today. Otherwise, the Longhorns stumble in with back-to-back losses.
The NU-CU game film will give the South champion plenty to consider, although NU coach Bill Callahan said that wasn't the motive behind seven gadget plays.
"They're in our repertoire, and it just so happened that the situations were just right for those particular calls,'' Callahan said.
The fake field goal and pass from Joe Ganz to defensive end Barry Turner snapped a 7-7 tie. Something obviously was up when the Huskers had their backup quarterback lined up as the kicker, but Colorado scrambled against a bizarre NU set instead of calling a timeout.
Regular kicker Jordan Congdon took a direct snap on a field goal starting the fourth quarter and punted the football to the Colorado 1-yard line. Adam Carriker and Corey McKeon then tackled Mell Holliday for a safety that gave Nebraska a 23-14 lead.
One series later, Nebraska shifted from punt to regular formation on a fourth-and-1 play, and Taylor then walked away from center and feigned confusion. The snap instead went to safety Tierre Green, lined up at I-back, and his 7-yard run to the Buffs' 33 helped set up Taylor's 18-yard TD pass to Brandon Jackson for a 30-14 lead.
"Zac was acting it out for two weeks straight,'' Jackson said of Taylor's part in the fake. "He probably did a better job in practice than he did in the game. He's very good at it.''
Taylor didn't receive such high marks for his receiving skills. After his third-quarter pitch to Marlon Lucky going right, the I-back threw back to Taylor, who couldn't make the catch but drew a pass-interference penalty from CU defensive end Abraham Wright.
"That penalty was the best thing that could have happened,'' Taylor said, smiling.
Lucky had two other chances to throw halfback passes, firing incomplete on one and deciding to run with the other. The Huskers also tried receiver Maurice Purify on a reverse, which produced just 1 yard and included a holding call on NU.
Jackson said the bye week gave the Huskers a chance to perfect some trickery.
"We all went out there with confidence in getting yardage with them, or busting them for TDs,'' Jackson said.
When Nebraska played it close to the vest, it called on Jackson to rush 34 times for 142 yards. The junior also caught a team-high six passes for 42 yards.
Jackson's 2-yard run with 4:49 left in the third quarter — two plays after the Lucky-to-Taylor pass — gave NU a 21-14 lead. The Congdon punt and Husker safety then put Colorado (2-10, 2-6) into too much of a hole.
With the ball back, Nebraska tacked on a 10-play, 59-yard drive that included the run by Green. Taylor's touchdown pass to Jackson was his 43rd, tying Tommie Frazier's career record.
"It was just a good win for our team,'' Callahan said. "A good way to go down to Kansas City with some momentum and try to capitalize on that when we get down to Arrowhead.''
Colorado seemed to have the momentum when Holliday's 45-yard scoring run tied the game 14-14 in the third quarter. The Buffs also had answered NU at 7-7 with Bernard Jackson's 14-yard TD pass to Riar Geer in the first quarter.
The Ganz-to-Turner play might have hurt CU the most. The Buffs had forced a fourth-and-7 from their 29, and a Husker field goal would have had to travel 46 yards into a breeze.
"I don't know that Joey looked like a real good field-goal kicker out there or not,'' Callahan said. "But he did his best to try and portray that.''
Ganz's first option was to Todd Peterson and the second to Purify. The only time he had thrown it to Turner in practice, Turner had dropped it.
"We haven't thrown it to him anymore until today,'' Purify said. "He caught it when it counted.''
|Yards per carry||5.4||4.1|
Nebraska is 49-19 all-time against Colorado.
|Louisiana Tech||Sept. 2|
|Nicholls State||Sept. 9|
|Troy (formerly Troy State)||Sept. 23|
|Iowa State||Oct. 7|
|Kansas State||Oct. 14|
|Oklahoma State||Oct. 28|
|Texas A&M||Nov. 11|
Nebraska has played 24 games on Nov. 24. See them all »
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