Nebraska junior Niles Paul exploded up the middle of the field for a 59-yard punt return for a touchdown, the first punt return TD of his career. The score gave the Huskers a 7-0 lead with 3:34 left in the first quarter.
Nebraska went with a five-man front as Colorado faced third-and-7 at its 16 late in the second quarter. Buffs quarterback Tyler Hansen seemed a little confused, and threw his pass right to Husker safety Matt O’Hanlon, who returned the interception 20 yards for a touchdown to push NU’s lead to 21-7.
Nebraska essentially imposed its will during a fourth-quarter touchdown drive that made it 28-14 with 6:43 remaining. The Huskers ran the ball 11 times during the 13-play, 80-yard march, with freshman Rex Burkhead carrying nine times for 55 yards, including a 7-yard TD.
Brian Christopherson’s take
Lesson of the day: Don’t bet on college football. Considering most Vegas lines had Nebraska a 10-point favorite, I know some furniture got tipped over somewhere after Colorado’s TD on the last play.
They said it: “I think it’s one of those seasons where if you take away 10 plays, you are probably a bowl team,” said Colorado coach Dan Hawkins. Somehow, I don’t think that’s a real comforting quote to Buffs fans right about now.
The band played on: Bo Pelini’s postgame media session was momentarily interrupted as the Colorado band walked past on a nearby ramp — drums beating loudly. “I’ll wait,” Pelini said. He did. But shortly after he started talking, Nebraska’s band came by and the tubas started playing.
Game in a tweet: C ya Ralphie. Hello Bevo. And hello big stage. It’s been 2 long.
Reader questions from the Life In The Red blog
1. What’s the difference between Ben Cotton’s touchdown catch, where the ball came out after he hit the ground (a play that was held up by review) and a similar-type play involving Menelik Holt at Virginia Tech that was ruled an incompletion (and wasn’t reviewed)?
At Virginia Tech, Holt appeared to momentarily have made a rolling catch in the back of the end zone, but the ball popped out and the back official ruled it incomplete and play continued without any lengthy review. Rule 7-3-6 states: “Any receiver going to the ground on his own in the process of making a catch must maintain control of the ball when he hits the ground.”
Friday, Cotton made an over-the-shoulder grab and, according to the nearby official, held the ball until after he tumbled to the turf. Rule 7-3-6 doesn’t apply to such receptions.
2. We saw a lot of Rex Burkhead after Roy Helu’s fourth-quarter fumble, but we also saw him early in the game after a couple of drives where there were missed blocks on blitzes. Are these coincidences, or did the coaches bench Helu?
It’s probably coincidental. Neither offensive coordinator Shawn Watson nor running backs coach Tim Beck made a deal out of the fumble.
Watson said it was a matter of Burkhead having fresher legs, especially later in the game. Helu had carried the bulk of the load through three physical contests leading up to Friday’s game, and he might have been feeling the effects.
Beck just chalked it up to Burkhead’s productivity. Even before he carried nine times for 55 yards on NU’s final touchdown drive, the freshman picked up 37 yards on six attempts.
3. It seems as though our defense — don’t get me wrong, they’re good — but the intensity I saw at the beginning of the year has not been as strong since the Oklahoma game. Ask Bo if he feels that, too.
The head coach was more concerned about a lack of execution than he was with the intensity, but those things can often be intertwined.
“It’s just a culmination of how we played all day,” Pelini said of Colorado’s final-play, 56-yard touchdown pass. “We played sloppy football.”
Granted, it’d be difficult for the Blackshirts to bring it every week like they did against Oklahoma, but there was no ‘swagger’ present after the regular-season finale. And there wouldn’t have been even if the Buffs hadn’t connected on that last pass.