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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Birth of a Rivalry - The Disaster

So you knew it was coming and here it is. In the time that has passed, the sting from this game has subsided very little. I suppose part of what keeps the rivalry alive for Husker fans are the bitter thoughts of 2001.

Nebraska entered 2001 ranked 4th nationally. The Huskers opened with four non-conference wins, including a 27-10 home win over 17th ranked Notre Dame. Nebraska then kicked off its Big 12 slate with wins over Missouri, Iowa State, Baylor and Texas Tech. This set up a match up between #3 Nebraska and #2 Oklahoma in Lincoln. With help from the now notorious Black 41 Flash Reverse Pass to Eric Crouch, Nebraska emerged victorious 20-10. The Huskers would then move up to #2 in the polls and would roll to wins over Kansas and Kansas State.

Colorado’s 2001 season began in a less than stellar fashion. The Buffaloes lost their first game of the year at home to unranked Fresno State. After the loss, CU bounced back and won five straight games, including victories over ranked opponents Colorado State and Texas A&M. A week after the A&M win, the Buffaloes were trounced by Texas in Austin 41-7. After this loss, Colorado again rebounded for victories over Oklahoma State, Missouri and Iowa State.

This produced a November 23rd battle between #2 Nebraska and #14 Colorado in Boulder. Colorado started the game quickly when tailback Bobby Purify raced through a gaping hole up the middle for a 39-yard TD run 2:43 into the contest. Nebraska's Dahrran Diedrick fumbled on next Husker possession, and Buff QB Bobby Pesavento soon followed that with a 21-yard touchdown pass to tight end Daniel Graham. Pesavento later threw a 49-yard pass to Graham, setting up a one-yard TD run on a quarterback sneak to give CU a 21-0 lead than 10 minutes into the game. Nebraska’s Josh Davis returned the ensuing kickoff 74-yards, which set up the Huskers’ first score, a 27-yard field goal by Josh BrowN.

Sophomore Chris Brown then got rolling for the Buffs and had TD runs of 12 yards late in the first quarter and 36 yards in the second. This gave Colorado a 35-3 lead early in the second quarter. Nebraska rallied for touchdowns on its next three possessions. Fullback Steve Kriewald had a 24-yard scoring run, and Dahrran Diedrick went in from 32 yards out. After another Chris Brown touchdown, the Huskers needed just two plays to counter, on Diedrick's short run with 2:53 to go in the half. Colorado would go into halftime with a 35-3 advantage.

A 25-yard run by Crouch later in the third quarter put the Cornhuskers deep in Colorado territory. But Diedrick fumbled at the goal line with 8:33 left to keep the score at 42-23. Later in the third quarter, six-yard TD run by Crouch would cut the deficit to 42-30 with 4:17 left in the third quarter. Unfortunately the Huskers never got any closer as Colorado went on a 93-yard drive capped by Chris Brown’s fourth TD, which gave the Buffaloes a 49-30 lead. CU Safety Michael Lewis then intercepted Eric Crouch moments later, and Brown ran 13 yards for his fifth score. Crouch was then intercepted again by linebacker Joey Johnson which led to Brown’s sixth TD giving Colorado another 32-point advantage, 62-30, with 9:41 left. Nebraska would add a late score to make the final score Colorado 62 – Nebraska 36.

The Nebraska defense allowed the most points in school history on that day, topping the 61 surrendered in a loss to Minnesota on October 6, 1945. Heisman Trophy hopeful Eric Crouch carried 18 times for 162 yards and two touchdowns and completed 13-of-28 passes for 198 yards. But he also threw a pair of interceptions, accounting for half of the Cornhuskers' four turnovers. Dahrran Diedrick accounted for the other two turnovers, but did carry 16 times for 94 yards and 2 TDs.

The victory over Nebraska propelled Colorado the Big 12 Championship game and a match up with #4 ranked Texas. The Buffaloes surprised the Longhorns 39-37, which would lead to a trip to the Fiesta Bowl versus Oregon. The Ducks would start fast and defeat CU 38-16 ending Colorado’s five game winning streak.

After the devastating defeat, Nebraska was given a second chance at the national title by the BCS computers. The Huskers would meet Miami in the Rose Bowl for a shot at redemption. Unfortunately, Nebraska fans would soon learn just how wide the talent-gap was becoming between the Huskers and college football’s elite. Miami exploded for 27 second quarter points and all but snuffed out NU’s rushing attack on their way to a 37-14 victory. Nebraska finished the year 11-2 and ranked 8th.