BOULDER, Colo. Punished by an unprecedented scoring on-slaught, Nebraska tumbled out of the national title chase yesterday.
A 32-point deficit and Chris Brown’s record-setting six touchdowns proved too much even for the powerful Cornhuskers to overcome as Colorado’s explosive offense raced to a 35-3 lead early in the second quarter and the No. 14 Buffaloes withstood a midgame rally to upset the No. 2 Cornhuskers 62-36.
Brown ran for three of his school-record six TDs in the fourth quarter as Colorado (9-2, 7-1 Big 12) won the Big 12 North to advance to the league’s championship game Dec. 1. It was the most points ever scored against Nebraska, eclipsing the 61 by Minnesota in 1945.
“You never think it will go like this, obviously,” Colorado coach Gary Barnett said. “But every once in a while, it all works. Sixty-two points. That’s almost too overwhelming for me. It’s going to take a while to sink in.”
The loss crippled Nebraska’s hopes for a sixth national championship. Nebraska (11-1, 7-1) had been No. 1 in the Bowl Championship Series ratings for the last four weeks.
“We really had a big dream,” Nebraska’s Heisman Trophy-contending quarterback Eric Crouch said. “Those are over with now. This is going to be a tough one to swallow.”
Brown’s fourth TD run with 12:50 remaining capped a 93-yard drive, giving Colorado a 49-30 lead after the Huskers had cut the deficit to 12.
“That drive was crucial,” quarterback Bobby Pesavento said. “If we hadn’t gotten that, the momentum would have stayed on their side.”
Safety Michael Lewis intercepted Crouch’s pass moments later, and Brown ran 13 yards for his fifth score.
No. 6 came after an interception by linebacker Joey Johnson, giving Colorado another 32-point advantage at 62-30 with 9:41 left.
Brown ran for 198 yards on 24 carries, Bobby Purify added 154 yards and Pesavento completed nine of 16 for 202 yards.
“With the way the offensive line and [tight end] Dan Graham were blocking, it was easy,” Brown said. “The holes were huge. We weren’t getting touched until we were 10 yards down the field.”
Pesavento, Colorado’s backup quarterback who was making his fourth start of the season in place of the injured Craig Ochs, said the Buffaloes simply outslugged the ‘Huskers.
“We knew what they were going to do on defense,” he said. “They’ve lined up that way for years. They’re good, but we’ve got some good guys on our side, too. Right now, this is the most amazing feeling of my life.”
Colorado generated 582 total yards, compared to 552 for Nebraska, which was hurt by four turnovers.
“We had played so well during the course of the year that I did not see this game getting out of hand,” Nebraska coach Frank Solich said. “I thought it would be a great football game. We had more than our share of turnovers.”
Giving a hint that the ‘Huskers might have been looking ahead to a likely meeting with Oklahoma for the Big 12 title, Solich said, “This certainly was not our day. This was Okla … excuse me, Colorado’s day.”
Crouch and Dahrran Diedrick each ran for two scores for Nebraska, which had beaten Colorado in the nine previous meetings. In 59 previous games in the series, Colorado had never scored more than 36 points.
Colorado fans stormed the field at the end of the game, dismantling one of the goal posts.
With Colorado’s offensive line opening gaping holes in the Nebraska defense, the Buffaloes rushed for 223 yards in the first half and 415 yards total in taking a 42-23 lead at halftime. In the wide-open half, none of the scoring drives lasted longer than 2:44, and three drives took less than a minute.
Brown’s three TDs in the half included a 36-yard run off the right side. Purify bolted 39 yards up the middle for Colorado’s first touchdown less than three minutes into the game.
Two plays later, Diedrick fumbled at the ‘Huskers 21, and Pesavento hit Graham on the next play for a 14-0 lead. Pesavento’s 1-yard sneak made it 21-0.
Nebraska got its first score, a 27-yard field goal by Josh Brown, but the Buffaloes promptly made it 28-3 before the quarter ended on Brown’s 12-yard run.
Pesavento’s 23-yard pass to Graham and a 34-yarder to Derek McCoy set up Brown’s 1-yard run for a 35-3 lead with 12:21 left in the half.
Nebraska then rallied for touchdowns on its next three possessions. After another of Brown’s touchdowns, the ‘Huskers needed just two plays to counter on Diedrick’s short run with 2:53 to go in the half.
Nebraska had three prime scoring chances in the third quarter but got just one touchdown. Diedrick fumbled the ball away at the Colorado 1, but Crouch scored on the next series, making it 42-30.
“There were some points in the second half when we felt we had some momentum on our side,” Crouch said. “The fumble at the goal line really cost us.”