LUBBOCK, Texas — Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz was pulled backwards, his throw turned errant and Texas Tech cornerback Jamar Wall intercepted the pass that would ultimately save the Red Raiders from a major upset.
It'll be replayed over and over as a highlight from seventh-ranked Texas Tech's 37-31 overtime win Saturday before 53,449 at Jones AT&T Stadium, which preserved the Red Raiders' unbeaten record and place in the Top 10.
It was the last play in a Big 12 game loaded with crazy plays — right there with a Texas Tech blocked extra point in overtime, a Nebraska fake field goal and a Red Raider fourth-down snap from its own 36-yard line. Those plays tended to blur memories of what happened before halftime.
The Huskers remembered all 30 minutes, though.
"It's just a sick feeling to end it like that after we played so hard and played so well,'' Ganz said. "We had our shot. We had our chances early. It shouldn't have been that close.''
NU scored on every possession in the second half — capped by 14 points in the final 6:06 — but Ganz and teammates know that coming out of halftime with a 17-7 deficit was the major reason for the Huskers' 11th straight loss to a Top 10 team.
Nebraska neared midfield on its first possession before a holding penalty and a sack resulted in a punt. Its third drive reached the Texas Tech 30-yard line before a failed fourth-and-one. Its last series before halftime made it to the Red Raiders' 24 before back-to-back holding calls led to a missed field goal.
The mistakes overshadowed an impressive statistical performance for the Huskers. They held the football for 40-plus minutes and outgained the nation's second-ranked offense 471-421.
"That's probably the best way to draw up a ballgame is to have possession of it,'' said NU tackle Lydon Murtha. "But having possession of the ball doesn't do anything if you don't score. We just had missed opportunities, and it's frustrating that it had to be a close game like that when we had so many points left on the field.''
NU charged back with 24 points after halftime in a positive response to the hard knocks of the previous two weeks.
Texas Tech (6-0, 2-0 Big 12) led 24-10 before Ganz scored on a 1-yard run and threw a 2-yard scoring pass to tight end Dreu Young. The first came after NU lined up for a 26-yard field goal on fourthand-seven from the Red Raiders' 9, then had holder Jake Wesch roll out and throw an 8-yard pass to tight end Mike McNeill.
Nebraska (3-3, 0-2) then forced Texas Tech into a fourth-and-five from its own 36 with the game tied 24-24. Punt time, right? Of course, you never know with coach Mike Leach.
The Red Raider offense lined up, snapped the ball as a Husker lineman bordered on jumping offsides and went ahead with the play. Graham Harrell took advantage of broken coverage and threw a 47-yard pass to Michael Crabtree.
Texas Tech scored on Harrell's quarterback sneak five plays later, then skipped the extra point off the left upright and through, leaving Nebraska down 31-24 with 2:21 remaining.
It took just eight plays. Ganz was 6 of 6 for 80 yards. Three of those throws went to Todd Peterson, including the 17-yard touchdown with 29 seconds left.
"We always practice two-minute situations," NU receiver Nate Swift said. "I just felt like we were ready for that situation right there, to score, tie it up and send it into overtime.''
Texas Tech went first in OT and started with a 24-yard pass from Harrell to tailback Baron Batch. At third-andgoal from the 1, receiver Eric Morris came around, took a handoff and sprinted to the right pylon for the TD.
Zach Potter blocked Donnie Carona's PAT kick — huge at the time — but it didn't end up mattering.
Ganz overthrew Swift on NU's first play, then was flushed from the pocket on the second. Defensive end McKinner Dixon grabbed him just as Ganz tried to unload to avoid the lost yardage.
"When I let it go, I thought it maybe had a shot to get out of bounds,'' Ganz said. "It just went and hit that kid right in the face. I feel bad because it's a terrible way to lose a game like that.''
NU coach Bo Pelini made it clear that Ganz was not to be blamed for the Huskers' first loss in six overtime games. The senior had directed the comeback, completing 36 of 44 passes — a careerbest 81.8 percent — for 349 yards.
"There were a lot of plays out there for us to win the game,'' Pelini said. "We would not have been in that situation without Joe Ganz.''
Pelini also said there would be no talk of a moral victory for a team that came to Lubbock as a three-touchdown underdog and had lost its previous four road games. He told his players that pushing Texas Tech should make them realize their potential as a team.
"A loss is a loss,'' Peterson said. "Obviously it's not fun whether you lose in overtime or you get beat by five touchdowns like last week. I mean, there's a lot of guys in there who are heartbroken right now.''
Nebraska's near upset came four years after the 70-10 thrashing in Lubbock that stands as the worst loss in school history.
This time, the Huskers played with Texas Tech from the start. Harrell threw a season-low 25 passes, and the Red Raiders were limited to six offensive series before getting the football in the final seconds of regulation.
"We let them have the ball too long," Leach said, "and they did a good job controlling the clock.''
Pelini spoke positively about a team that now needs to win three of its last six games to become bowl eligible.
"Like I said all along, there's character in that room,'' Pelini said. "We're not about moral victories. Nebraska never will be as long as I'm head coach. If we start being about moral victories, you need to get a new coach.''
|Yards per carry||6.0||3.3|
Nebraska is 7-4 all-time against Texas Tech.
|Western Michigan||Aug. 30|
|San Jose State||Sept. 6|
|New Mexico State||Sept. 13|
|Virginia Tech||Sept. 27|
|Texas Tech||Oct. 11|
|Iowa State||Oct. 18|
|Kansas State||Nov. 15|
Nebraska has played 17 games on Oct. 11. See them all »
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