Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Henery and Suh make Colorado blue
Date: Nov. 28, 2008
Place: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.
Score: Nebraska 40, Colorado 31
Nebraska was playing merely to better its bowl position. Colorado wanted to earn a bowl trip. Although the Big 12 North championship game berth wasn't being settled, it still didn't diminish the excitement of last year's game between the two traditional rivals.
Colorado came into the game as an 18-point underdog, but you couldn't tell from the way the Buffaloes scrapped. The Buffaloes produced a couple of big plays -- a 68-yard touchdown pass from Cody Hawkins to Riar Geer and a 36-yard touchdown run by Demetrius Sumler -- in the first five minutes to jump to a quick 14-0 lead.
The Buffaloes' defense allowed the Cornhuskers to advance inside the Colorado 50 on every possession in the game. But a botched fake field goal led to a 24-24 halftime tie when Colorado's Jimmy Smith snatched an errant blind pitch from Jake Wesch and ran 58 yards for a touchdown.
The Buffaloes' defense kept the game within reach in the second half as Nebraska drove inside the Buffaloes' 33-yard line on each of its four possessions but came away with only nine points. Colorado went ahead 31-27 when Sumler knocked in a 4-yard touchdown late in the third quarter.
Colorado's defense made that stand for most of the rest of the game. Nebraska pulled within 31-30 when Alex Henery nailed a 37-yard field goal with 8:09 left.
After Nebraska got the ball back, the Cornhuskers were poised to score again after Roy Helu Jr. rambled 25 yards to the Colorado 25 with less than two minutes remaining. But Colorado safety Patrick Mahnke sacked Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz for a 15-yard loss and Ganz threw incomplete on third down, setting up an improbable 57-yard field goal attempt by Henery.
Henery, with a 5 mph wind to his back, blasted the ball through the goal posts with 1:43 left to set the school record and provide Nebraska with a 33-31 lead.
But the Cornhuskers were only getting started. After picking up a first down on the Colorado 33, Hawkins' second-down pass was tipped by Zach Potter and intercepted by massive 305-pound defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
En route to the end zone, Suh eluded a diving Hawkins and scampered 30 yards for the clinching touchdown. It was Suh's second interception return for a touchdown on the season and his third touchdown overall.
The numbers: Nebraska ran 29 more plays than Colorado and the Cornhuskers' 63 snaps in Colorado territory were 15 more than Colorado ran in the entire game. Colorado went more than 10 minutes of game time in the second and third quarters without running an offensive play. Helu rushed for 166 yards and Ganz passed for 229 yards and two touchdowns, becoming the top single-season passer in Nebraska history.
They said it, part I: "I love games like this. The crazier the better. I just wish we had ended it a little bit earlier," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, reflecting on the wild finish with reporters after the game.
They said it, part II: "I don't remember watching it go through at all. I was pretty sure I made it. It was on target. I don't remember much after hitting it." Henery's thoughts after the game-winning kick to reporters after the game.
They said it, part III: "It doesn't surprise me. That guy's a stud," Pelini on Henery's kick.
They said it, part IV: ""He thinks he's Walter Payton." Pelini's comments to the Nebraska State Paper about Suh's game-clinching touchdown return.
The upshot: The victory, combined with Kansas' upset of Missouri the following day, gave the Cornhuskers a share of the Big 12 North title. The Tigers advanced to the championship game after a head-to-head triumph over the Cornhuskers earlier in the season.
But it really didn't matter after the Cornhuskers earned a Gator Bowl berth. They went on to upset Clemson to finish 9-4 for the season. After losing four of six games midway through the season, Nebraska finished with three straight victories to prime enthusiasm after Pelini's first season.
The loss cost Colorado a shot at making a bowl trip. The Buffaloes finished at 5-7, missing a bowl trip for the second time in three seasons under coach Dan Hawkins.
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