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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Birth of a Rivalry - A Year Ago

A year ago Nebraska entered the Colorado game with a 6-4 record. Two weeks earlier they had snapped a 3-game conference losing streak by beating Kansas State 27-25 on a last minute FG. Colorado came into the match up with a 7-3 mark with losses to Miami, Texas and Iowa State. While the teams lacked the luster of previous editions, the game remained important for both squads.

The action in the contest started before the ball was even kicked off, when the Colorado team confronted Nebraska during pregame warm-ups began taunting them. When the tension died down, Nebraska got the ball first, but was held to a three-and-out on its first series of the game. Senior punter Sam Koch then boomed a 56-yard punt that sailed out of bounds at the CU 31. After Koch's effort, CU running back Hugh Charles raced 45 yards to the NU 24 on Colorado's first offensive play. The Blackshirts stiffened, however, holding CU to a 33-yard field goal from Mason Crosby that gave the Buffaloes an early 3-0 lead. The Huskers answered on their ensuing drive, sparked by a key third-down conversion. On third and five from the NU 25, Taylor connected with Ross for a 15-yard gain to keep the drive alive. The conversion energized the Husker offense and on the next play, Taylor found redshirt freshman Nate Swift for a 33-yard gain to the Buffalo 25-yard line. Freshman Jordan Congdon then ctapped the drive when he nailed a 26-yard field goal attempt to tie the game at 3-3 with 8:06 remaining in the first period.

After stops by both defenses, Taylor found Ross on a short pass that the senior back turned into a touchdown by sprinting untouched into the end zone to give Nebraska its first lead of the game at 10-3 very early in the second quarter. After another stop by the Blackshirts Taylor then fired a strike to a wide open Todd Peterson for a gain of 38 yards down to the CU 9. Cody Glenn then rushed up the middle for nine yards to the one and took the next carry into the end zone for the touchdown. On the Huskers’ next possession Ross took a pitch from Taylor, which he pitched back to Taylor. With no one open downfield, Taylor tossed it back to Ross in the flat, who raced down the sidelines for a 25-yard gain to the CU 25. Nebraska soon found itself, however, in a second-and-28 situation, but Taylor was unfazed and found junior Frantz Hardy for a gain of 35 yards inside the Buffs' 10. After a holding penalty wiped out an apparent touchdown pass to Peterson, Congdon nailed a 30-yard field goal to increase the Huskers' lead to 20-3 with 4:44 remaining in the first half.

Colorado picked up one first down on its next drive, but soon found themselves punting once again. Nebraska picked up a third and inches with a Taylor quarterback sneak on its next drive before three consecutive incompletions forced an NU punt with 1:26 left in the half. Koch came on to punt and unleashed a 63-yard punt out of the CU end zone for a touchback. A completion and a pass-interference penalty gave CU a chance to score before the half, but a Klatt pass was intercepted by NU's Adam Ickes that set the Huskers up at the CU 49 with 53 seconds remaining in the period. With 10 seconds remaining, Taylor found junior Grant Mulkey for a 34-yard gain inside the CU 5 with two seconds left on the clock. With the clocked stopped after the first down, NU was set waiting for the official's whistle to spike the ball and set up a field goal, but the officials ruled the Huskers did not spike the ball before the clock ran out, so the Huskers' took a 20-3 lead into the break. Although Nebraska failed to score in its hurry-up offense, CU coach Gary Barnett apparently took the attempt personally, as evidenced by this video.

NU began its second drive of the second half at its own 24 and moved the ball to the CU 48 on a 26-yard pass from Taylor to Ross. Taylor teamed up with Nunn for a 10-yard gain on third-and-nine and added 15 more yards after Colorado was flagged for a late hit to move the ball to the 21. Following a Nebraska timeout, Taylor found Swift with a 21-yard touchdown strike to push the Huskers' lead to 27-3 with 6:30 remaining in the third quarter. The Nebraska defense continued its dominating performance in the 2nd half, preventing the Buffs from getting anything going offensively. In the fourth quarter true freshman Harrison Beck led the offense into field-goal range, where Congdon's 32-yard kick tied Kris Brown's single-season school record of 18 field goals. It also provided the final margin of victory as Nebraska left the field in Boulder with a 30-3 victory. You can see the Nebraska highlights from the 2005 CU game below.

The game was marred in the fourth quarter by unruly fans who hurled debris onto the field, leading to an unprecedented ejection of an entire section of CU students from the stadium.

Colorado never recovered from the loss. They would be crushed by Texas in the Big 12 Championship Game 70-3 and also fall to Clemson in the Champs Sports Bowl. Nebraska, on the other hand, would use the game as a spring board to an unexpected victory over Michigan in the Alamo Bowl.