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12 yards: The Fleakicker (What else?)
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12 yards: The Fleakicker (What else?)

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The distance: 12 yards

The star: Matt Davison

The date: Nov. 8, 1997

The outcome: Huskers 45, Missouri 38, OT

Go ahead. Ask Matt Davison about his catch. He’ll gladly talk about it.

The former Husker has said many times he’ll never tire of people peppering him with questions about the most miraculous reception in Nebraska football history.

Davison happily embraces his fame as firmly as he did the football that November evening in Columbia.

“I guess everybody’s probably dreamed about something like this happening to him,” Davison said after the game.

“Frost to the middle … juggled … diving ... touchdown, Nebraska! Davison on the deflection!”

The deflection, of course, came off the foot of wingback Shevin Wiggins, for whom Scott Frost’s low pass was intended. Wiggins kicked the ball in the air, and Davison, a third-string freshman receiver, swooped in to snag the ball before it hit the ground.

Barely.

“It was floating like a punt, kind of end-over-end,” Davison told a media horde after the game. “It just seemed like forever for the ball to get there, and I just tried to make something happen. I dove and I guess the Lord was watching over me.

“I was just hoping they were going to call it a catch, because it was close enough that the officials had to make a good call to see that I really caught it. There was no doubt in my mind, but I just wanted to see the call before I got all excited, because it was real close to the ground.”

The 12-yard touchdown came with no time remaining. After Missouri fans were cleared from the field — they thought the Tigers had won — Kris Brown kicked the PAT, forcing overtime. Frost put Nebraska ahead with a touchdown run, and Grant Wistrom and Mike Rucker teamed to sack Missouri quarterback Corby Jones on fourth down to end the game.

What did Tom Osborne think of Davison’s catch? Oddly enough, Davison, who was besieged with reporters on the field after the game and was part of a wild locker room celebration, never heard from Osborne until the bus ride home.

Osborne, sitting in the front of the team bus, saw Davison as he boarded, looked up at him and said, “Nice catch, Matt.”

Davison’s response: “Thanks, Coach.”

Nebraska lost its No. 1 ranking after the game, and never regained it in The Associated Press poll. But the Huskers reclaimed the top spot in the coaches’ poll after beating Tennessee in the Orange Bowl, earning a split national championship with Michigan.

Reach Brian Rosenthal at 402-473-7436 or brosenthal@journalstar.com. You can follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBR.

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