Nebraska 28, Colorado 20

Stuart WhitehairAnalyst INovember 28, 2009

Nov. 27, 2009          Nebraska 28, Colorado 20

For the Colorado Buffaloes, the 2009 season ended the way it began with a disheartening home loss to a rival. A season which had the potential for 10 wins and the expectation of at least seven or eight wins and a bowl game, ended with a 28-20 loss to Nebraska to put a terrible 3-9 season out of its misery

Against Nebraska , the offense rolled up a season-high 403 yards. But when the game was on the line in the second half, the Colorado offense failed on three consecutive trips to the red zone to produce any points.

Against Nebrask a, the defense limited the Cornhuskers to 217 yards of total offense. But when the game was on the line in the fourth quarter, the Colorado defense gave up a 13-play, 80-yard drive that consumed almost seven minutes of game time, and resulted in a touchdown which clinched the game for Nebraska.

Against Nebraska , the Buffs had a 100-yard rusher (Rodney Stewart, 110 yards), two 100-yard receivers (Scotty McKnight, 114 yards; Markques Simas, 108 yards), but could not produce a sustained offensive attack.

Against Nebraska , the Buffs again allowed non-offensive touchdowns, giving up a punt return for a score and an interception for a score—the difference in the game.

In sum, the 28-20 loss to Nebraska, played out before a sun-bathed Folsom Field crowd of 52,817 (at least two-thirds of which were Colorado fans), was the Buffs’ 2009 season in microcosm.

A day after receiving a reprieve from the Colorado administration granting him a fifth chance to produce a winning season, Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins’ Buffs won the opening coin toss. Rather than defer to the second half, Hawkins chose to receive, pitting the Buffs’ inconsistent offense against a top 15 defense.

The game may have been lost before it ever began.

Colorado started its first possession at its own 17-yard line, and punted three plays later. Nebraska took over at its own 47, and drove to the Buffs’ 34 before two sacks forced a punt.

Colorado started its second possession at its two-yard line, and punted three plays later. Nebraska started possession number two at its 46, but went backwards before punting.

Two drives for each team. Colorado had 13 total yards; Nebraska six. Still, the Buffs, starting inside its 20 while giving the ball to Nebraska near midfield, were playing with fire. 

Three plays later, the Buffs got burned.

The Buffs’ third possession started at their seven yard line. Three plays netted nine yards, and senior punter Matt DiLallo was sent out for the third time. This time, though, Nebraska would not start their drive near midfield.

Instead, Niles Paul ran right up the middle of the Buffs’ kick coverage for 59 yards and a 7-0 Nebraska lead with 3:34 to play in the first quarter. After the Buffs’ fourth first quarter possession again ended in a three-and-out, the makings of a rout were in the offing. Colorado fans were eyeing the exits a few plays later, as Nebraska capped a six-play, 56-yard drive with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Zac Lee to Ben Cotton on the first play of the second quarter.

When the Buffs trotted out for their first possession of the second quarter, they were coming off a “perfect” first quarter. Four possessions; four three-and-outs; four punts.

The fifth possession showed a modicum of improvement, as Colorado picked up its first first down of the game on a quarterback sneak by quarterback Tyler Hansen on third-and-one at the CU 29-line. Any thoughts of righting the Buffs’ ship were muted a few moments later, as Tyler Hansen was intercepted by Nebraska defensive back Dejon Gomes at the Nebraska 48 yard line.

Nebraska drove as far as the Colorado 32-yard line, but a 50-yard field goal attempt by Alex Henery missed wide right.  Colorado had dodged a bullet, but, with 8:54 to play in the first half, Nebraska had as many touchdowns on the scoreboard as Colorado had first downs (2).

Still, the missed field goal seemed to bring new life to the Buffs. Stuffed all afternoon, the Colorado offense found its rhythm. After a three-yard completion from Hansen to Scotty McKnight on third-and-two at the 41-yard line kept the drive alive, the Buffs put together three straight double digit gains: a 13-yard run by Brian Lockridge; a 22-yard pass from Hansen to McKnight; and a 19-yard Rodney Stewart run. A first-and-goal at the Nebraska two yard line was quickly converted, as Hansen hit fullback Jake Behrens for a touchdown, cutting the Nebraska lead to 14-7 with 5:39 to play in the half.

Colorado fans were in full voice a few minutes later, after the Colorado defense forced a three-and-out. Then…the only cheers were from the 10,000 Nebraska fans.

On third down, Tyler Hansen threw the ball directly to Nebraska’s Matt O’Hanlon. The Cornhusker free safety took the ball 20 yards for a Nebraska score. Hansen’s second pick of the quarter gave the Cornhuskers a second non-offensive touchdown of the game.

Colorado had the edge in yards gained, 148 to 89. Unfortunately, total offense was not the measure of success.

Halftime score: Nebraska 21, Colorado 7.


Determined not be routed in their final game, the Buffs came out and played well in the third quarter. The defense forced a quick punt, and the Colorado offense put together its most impressive drive of the game. Rodney Stewart carried much of the load, carrying the ball five times in the 12-play, 59-yard drive. Assisted by a defensive holding call against Nebraska on a third down incompletion, the Buffs scored when Tyler Hansen hit Scotty McKnight for a six yard touchdown.

Nebraska 21, Colorado 14, with 6:50 to play in the third quarter. It was a new ballgame.

The next three possessions by the Colorado offense all pushed the ball inside the Nebraska red zone ... and put up no points.

The Colorado defense, with the Buffs down only a score, gave the CU offense the ball back five plays later. A 58-yard pass from Hansen to Markques Simas, the longest offensive play of the season by Colorado, put the ball at the Nebraska 25 yard line. Two plays later, on third-and-two at the Nebraska 17-yard line, Tyler Hansen was called for intentional grounding. The 17-yard loss pushed the Buffs back to the Nebraska 34, where Aric Goodman missed a 52-yard field goal attempt.

Undeterred, the Colorado defense quickly gave the offense the ball back. On the first play of the fourth quarter, freshman defensive lineman Will Pericak forced a fumble by Nebraska running back Roy Helu, Jr. The ball was recovered by sophomore defensive lineman Eugene Goree at the Nebraska 49-yard line.

After a 28-yard run by Rodney Stewart to open the drive, an upset, for the first time since the opening kickoff, seemed plausible. Three more plays, though, netted only two yards, and Aric Goodman was again called upon to pull the Buffs closer. Goodman's 37-yard effort, though, missed wide left. The score held at 21-14, Nebraska.

Nebraska's next drive brought back memories for fans wearing both black-and-gold and crimson-and-cream. For Buff fans, it was the memories of games of recent past, when the Colorado defense finally succumbed after making a valiant effort. For Cornhusker fans, whose offense has not been the reason for Nebraska's success this season, it brought back memories of the days of Tom Osborne. Nebraska put together a 13-play, 80-yard drive, taking up 6:52 of the fourth quarter game clock. Cornhusker running back Rex Burkhead carried the load, with nine carries for 60 of those yards, including a seven yard touchdown run with 6:43 to play.

Game all but over. Nebraska 28, Colorado 14.

The Buffs did engineer a third consecutive drive inside the Nebraska 20-yard line on their next possession, with a 23-yard Hansen-to-Simas connection setting the Buffs up at the Nebraska 15-yard line. Then, with just over four minutes to play, the Buffs of 2009 returned. The sequence: complete pass for no gain; incomplete pass; delay of game penalty; false start penalty; and incompletion. Then, on four-and-20, a Tyler Hansen's pass was intercepted by Nebraska.

Colorado did get the ball back at their 20-yard line for one last drive with 1:30 to play. An 80-yard drive was completed with a 56-yard touchdown pass from Hansen to Scotty McKnight as time expired. The longest touchdown play of Colorado's 2009 season came on the last play of the season, as, under NCAA rules, the extra point attempt is not allowed when the score comes with no time to play and the attempt will not affect the outcome. (The inability to attempt the extra point hit two Buff players harder than others. Senior long-snapper Austin Bisnow was to make the snap, with red-shirt freshman placekicker Ryan Aweida to be given the chance at the extra point. With the chance at point taken away, neither player made the final participation chart).

Final score: Nebraska 28, Colorado 20.

 Pop quiz: guess which quote goes with which coach ...

1) "We didn't play well today. I'm disappointed in our effort and how we played ... I don't like the way our football team played in any phase of the game";

2) "I think those guys are coming together a little bit. The O-line is growing up ... We just have to clean a few things up ...".

You guessed it. The first quote is from winning coach Bo Pelini; the second quote is from losing coach Dan Hawkins. The Colorado head coach also stated, "I think it's one of those seasons where, if you take away ten plays, you are probably a bowl team."

Assuming the NCAA will not be giving Colorado any "do-overs" anytime soon, the Buffs are still 3-9. The Colorado defense did hold Nebraska offense to 217 total yards, the lowest total since the 1961 Buffs held the Cornhuskers to 31 total yards (a 7-0 Colorado victory). Rodney Stewart did post his eighth career 100-yard game, and the Buffs' offense did have two 100-yard receivers in Scotty McKnight and Markques Simas. The 403 yards gained against the Nebraska defense is the highest of the season; the Buffs were only the second Big 12 opponent to reach the 20-point mark.

"It was closer than it looked," said fullback Jake Behrens. "We had a lot of missed opportunities out there". Linebacker B.J. Beatty also had the party line down. "Like Coach (Ron) Collins always tells us, 'We have a small margin of error,' " said Beatty. "You go back and look at this game, and it could have been three or four plays ... it's the little things that killed us."

Colorado finished the season with a 3-9 record, 2-6 in Big 12 play. Colorado finished 5th in the Big 12 North, just ahead of Kansas, which started the 2009 season 5-0, but lost its final seven games to finish with a 1-7 conference record.

The Buffs will not play again until September 4, 2010, taking on a Colorado State team which also finished 3-9, losing its final nine games of the season.



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