COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) -- Nebraska is a champion again.
Sure it's only the Big 12 North title, but it's a start for
coach Bill Callahan's Cornhuskers.
Zac Taylor threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Maurice Purify with
21 seconds left to give the Cornhuskers a 28-27 win over No. 24
Texas A&M on Saturday and their first trip to the conference
championship game in seven years.
"That was exciting, wasn't it?" Callahan said with a wry
smile. "I'm really proud of our players, the way the hung in
there. Their resiliency all the way to the bitter end was
The Aggies (8-3, 4-3) trailed 21-10 at halftime, but Jorvorskie
Lane's 1-yard touchdown run with 7:28 left capped an A&M comeback.
The Aggies got a 2-point conversion to make it 27-21 and Mark Dodge
intercepted a pass by Taylor with 2:50 remaining, seemingly sealing
the biggest victory of coach Dennis Franchione's four-year tenure.
But Layne Neumann's 42-yard field goal attempt was blocked and
Nebraska (8-3, 5-2) regained possession at its 24 with 1:57 to go.
Callahan and Taylor stayed calm, remembering how often the
Huskers work on late-game situations in practice.
"We've got a lot of confidence in that brand of football,"
Taylor shook off the late interception and completed passes of
22, 16 and 13 yards to Todd Peterson to drive Nebraska to the A&M
17 in the final minute.
"We go over that scenario every Thursday in practice," said
Taylor. "It was really no different than that. Just a lot
A roughing the passer penalty on A&M defensive tackle Marques
Thornton gave the Huskers a first-and-goal at the 9 and Taylor
lofted a pass to Purify in the corner of the end zone to tie the
game. Jordan Congdon's extra point kick gave the Huskers the lead.
"Everything was pretty much how we wanted it to be," Taylor
said of the decisive drive.
Adam Carriker sacked A&M quarterback Stephen McGee on the last
play to give the Cornhuskers the division.
Callahan said the victory may have been the most significant of
his three-year tenure at Nebraska.
"It was a great win for our program, for our state," Callahan
said. "You can't get any bigger than this."
The Aggies, meanwhile, suffered their third heartbreaking loss
at home and second in a row. On Sept. 30, Texas Tech scored a
touchdown in the final minute to beat A&M 31-27. Last week,
Oklahoma converted a fourth down late to win 17-16.
"Losses like this are tough," said McGee, who completed 18 of
31 passes for 244 yards. "You learn a lot about a football team,
though. All year, we've fought to the very end."
Cody Glenn had two touchdown runs for Nebraska, which beat A&M
for the 10th time in 12 meetings.
Lane tied a single-season A&M record with his 19th touchdown and
McGee and Mike Goodson also had TD runs for the Aggies, who've
taken all three of their conference losses at home. Lane matched
one of the oldest records in the A&M record book, set by Joel Hunt
The 6-foot, 278-pound running back also set up the score with a
44-yard pass to Chad Schroeder.
The Cornhuskers shredded the Aggies' defense early and appeared
on their way to an easy win.
Taylor threw a touchdown pass to Peterson in the second quarter.
It was Taylor's 21st TD pass this year, a single-season Nebraska
record. He also became Nebraska's all-time passing leader on the
play and now has 5,193 career passing yards.
Taylor converted a third-and-9 with a 15-yard pass to Peterson
before Glenn scored his second touchdown to snap a 7-7 tie on the
first play of the second quarter.
Neumann kicked a 37-yard field goal just before halftime made it
21-10. The Aggies mustered only 37 yards in the first half after
their lone touchdown drive.
The A&M defense held Nebraska to one first down in the third
quarter and Goodson kick-started the Aggies' rally with a 53-yard
run to the Huskers' 11. Neumann booted a 20-yard field goal with 16
seconds left in the quarter.
Nebraska went three-and-out again early in the fourth quarter
and McGee caught the Huskers blitzing and outran the defense for a
57-yard touchdown with 12:51 left. He was sacked on the 2-point
conversion and A&M trailed 21-19, setting up another cliffhanging
Six of the Aggies seven conference games have been decided by
six points or less.
"It's never over for us until it's over," Franchione said. "I
don't know how to describe all the emotions that you go through for
seven straight weeks."
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