Nebraska-Colorado: The Blackshirts Come Through on Black Friday

SportMonkAnalyst INovember 28, 2008

After an ugly performance by the Huskers, it was Alex Henery's 57-yard field goal that swung the game for Nebraska.

Another successful Thanksgiving feast packed me full of turkey, ham, stuffing, pie, and many other tasty delights. The next day, some people who are insane woke up early to go to stores to buy a bunch of stuff they didn't necessarily need at incredibly discounted prices. I sure didn't.

I woke up at a decent hour, turned on my HD TV to West Virginia and Pittsburgh, and prepared for my favorite Big 12 North Division rivalry game.

When I got into Memorial Stadium, I was ready to enjoy the only other thing I could think of that's better than turkey: college football.

The visiting Buffaloes were 5-6 and playing for a postseason bowl invite, but Nebraska wanted revenge for last year's showdown when Colorado eliminated the Huskers' chance at a bowl appearance.

The game started out exactly the opposite as I pictured. Colorado, fueled by a few long passes, had a couple of quick drives and held the Huskers' offense to jump up 14-0 after five minutes.

And I was angry.

Then Nebraska went on a 24-3 run over the next 23 minutes. The Huskers were running the ball fairly well (mostly running back Roy Helu Jr. was running well), opening up the defense for short, quick passes.

And I was happy.

Then, on a fourth and long, Nebraska lined up for a field goal. The holder, Jake Wesch, flipped the ball up for kicker Alex Henery on a fake as the Huskers attempted to grab a first down, but Colorado defender Jimmy Smith was all over it. Smith returned the "fumble" (more like an intercepted backwards pass) 58 yards for a touchdown, tying the game going into halftime and swinging momentum in the Buffaloes' favor.

And I was angry.

Then after a devastatingly boring performance by the Husker marching band (opera? really?), I watched a devastatingly bad performance by Nebraska. Every time the Blackshirts would get Colorado in a third-and-long situation, they'd all-out blitz the next play, which left the secondary wide open so Colorado could convert. Poor play-calling by Nebraska's offensive coordinator Shawn Watson only produced a lone field goal in the third quarter, leaving the Huskers down 31-27.

And I was angry.

In the fourth quarter, a few things clicked for Nebraska. The defense held pretty strong and kept Colorado from scoring, and Nebraska pulled to within one with about six minutes left in the game. Colorado bled some clock on their its possession, leaving Nebraska little time on the clock to work with.

A strong drive came to a driving halt after Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz was sacked by Patrick Mahnke for a 15-yard loss, leaving the Huskers in a third and 25 hole. The next play, a pass to tight end Mike McNeill, fell incomplete. Fourth and 25 on Colorado's 40 yard line.

And I was angry.

With 1 minute and 43 seconds left on the clock, Henery lined up for a 57-yard field goal attempt. O'Leary snapped the ball, Wesch held, Henery kicked, and Memorial Stadium held its breath. It sailed toward the uprights, threatening to be short...but it snuck in and the Husker Faithful went crazy. It was the longest field goal in Nebraska history, breaking the previous 55-yard record set nearly 20 years ago.

And I was ecstatic.

Colorado only needed a field goal to win and had about a minute and a half to get it. After converting on third down and missing on first down, Colorado quarterback Cody Hawkins' pass was tipped by defensive end Zach Potter, intercepted and returned by defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Suh ran over Hawkins on his way to the end zone, a place Suh is no stranger to this season (two interceptions for touchdowns and one catch for a touchdown).

And I was going crazy.

The final verdict: Nebraska 40, Colorado 31. Nebraska improved to 8-4, and Colorado was kept from the bowls this year.

I wasn't very happy with the performance of the Huskers. Not to take anything away from the Buffaloes--they played a great game and showed a lot of heart--but Nebraska didn't do much to help itself in this one.

Nebraska ran the ball when it should have been passing, Ganz passed to the short route when he should have looked deeper, and the Huskers tried trick plays that blew up in their faces when they should have just kicked the darn field goal.

A win is a win, but this was an ugly one.

Nate Swift had a touchdown catch, but he only saw the ball twice all game—a big problem, in my opinion. The game plan for the Huskers' probable appearance in the Gator Bowl should be to get Swift the ball some more.

Colorado played well and the Buffs gave their all, but it wasn't enough to beat Nebraska.

I'm proud of you, Huskers.