Big 12: Jeff Kelly
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
KSU finally slays the Cornhuskers
Date: Nov. 14, 1998
Place: KSU Stadium, Manhattan, Kan.
Score: Kansas State 40, Nebraska 30
Kansas State had labored in the shadows of Nebraska for many years. The Wildcats' 10-0 start in the 1998 season had pushed them to No. 1 in the national rankings, but they were still looking for a breakthrough victory against their old nemesis to catapult them into their first Big 12 title game.
They got that and more in an impressive victory over the Cornhuskers that clinched the Wildcats' North Division title -- the Wildcats' first football title of any kind since 1934.
And they did it with a flourish as a KSU defense that had struggled earlier in the game provided two key plays to seal the victory late in the fourth quarter.
Linebacker Travis Ochs made a critical fourth-down stop of Eric Crouch, grabbing his face mask to make the tackle. No penalty was called, although television replays showed that Ochs could have been flagged on the play.
A blitzing Ochs came around untouched on Crouch's left side. As the Nebraska quarterback ducked to avoid him, Ochs grabbed Crouch's face mask and never let go as he nearly spun his helmet around before throwing him to the turf at the Nebraska 20.
Kansas State took over but couldn't move the ball. Nebraska had one more possession, but Jeff Kelly picked up Crouch's fumble and returned it 23 yards for a touchdown with three seconds left to ice the victory.
But it wasn't easy. The Wildcats overcame an early 17-7 deficit after Nebraska had jumped ahead on a pair of first-quarter touchdown passes from Crouch and an 18-yard Kris Brown field goal. It was the first time in the season that KSU trailed.
KSU charged back and pulled within 17-14 at halftime after Michael Bishop added his second TD run of the game.
Bishop helped boost KSU into the lead early in the third quarter - the first time the Wildcats had led Nebraska since 1991 -- on a 17-yard TD pass from Bishop to Darnell McDonald and a 25-yard field goal by Martin Gramatica. But Nebraska tied the score when Ralph Brown recovered a Frank Murphy fumble and rambled 74 yards for a touchdown.
The lead changed again early in the fourth quarter when Gramatica boosted KSU ahead on a 21-yard field goal. Nebraska responded on a 9-yard scoring pass from Crouch to tight end Sheldon Jackson gave put them back in the lead with about 8 minutes left.
KSU then turned to Bishop, who finished with 446 yards of total offense in the game, for its late rally. His 11-yard TD strike to McDonald put KSU ahead for good at 34-30 with 5:25 left.
Delirious KSU fans rushed the field twice before the game ended. It took them about 30 minutes to tear down the goalposts to celebrate what likely is the biggest home victory in KSU history.
Factoids to note: The victory was the first by victory by the Wildcats over Nebraska since 1968 and their first home victory over the Cornhuskers since 1959 ... Bishop passed for 306 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed for 140 yards on 25 carries and scored twice ... KSU's McDonald produced a career-high 12 receptions for 183 yards ... Crouch completed only 10 of 21 passes for 139 yards, but passed for three TDs and added 108 yards rushing on 22 carries ... It was Nebraska's third loss of the regular season, the first time the Cornhuskers had lost that many regular-season games in 22 years ... The game was played before a then- record crowd of 44,298 at KSU Stadium.
They said it, part I: "I don't want to be branded as a cheater. But the referee was right there. Those are the breaks of the game," Ochs' post-game comments to the Associated Press about his late tackle of Crouch.
They said it, part II: "The torch being passed? I'm not falling for that. I don't believe it. I take nothing from their win. They're a good team. But I believe the best team in the country has three losses this season and it wears 'N' on its helmet," Jackson's post-game comments to the Associated Press about Nebraska's loss.
They said it, part III: "We knew if we lost, people would call us flukes. We had to beat them to get the respect we deserve," Kansas State defensive end Joe Bob Clements, who told the Daily Nebraskan that the victory was monumental for the KSU program.
The upshot: The victory guaranteed KSU a spot in its first Big 12 championship game three weeks later in St. Louis. But the 11-0 Wildcats squandered a 15-point fourth-quarter lead in a 36-33 double-overtime loss to Texas A&M.
That defeat sent the Wildcats careening to the Alamo Bowl, where they lost to Purdue and finished 11-2. After ranking No. 1 earlier in the season, KSU finished the season ranked 10th in the final Associated Press poll.
Nebraska rebounded to beat Colorado the following week, but lost to Arizona in the Holiday Bowl. Frank Solich finished his first season 9-4 and ranked No. 19 in the final AP poll - Nebraska's lowest end-of-season ranking in eight seasons.
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