Nebraska defense, rain stifle Colorado Huskers' 17-12 victory keeps title hopes alive

November 30, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

LINCOLN, Neb. -- It was far from easy, but Nebraska yesterday maintained its flickering hopes of winning a third straight national championship.

"It's not all in our hands, but if we win our last two games -- obviously against good opponents -- I think we've got a chance," said coach Tom Osborne, after the Cornhuskers held off Colorado, 17-12, before 75,695 fans at Memorial Stadium.

The victory vaulted fourth-ranked Nebraska to a 10-1 record, an 8-0 conference mark and into the Big 12 Conference championship game next Saturday in St. Louis against Texas, which crushed Texas A&M, 51-15, earlier yesterday.

No. 5 Colorado dropped to 9-2, 7-1 in the newly formed league.

Yesterday's setting looked ominous for the Buffaloes. They left 57 degrees and sunshine in Boulder for 35 degrees and a persistent, numbing rain here.

"But they hung in there," Nebraska defensive tackle Jason Peter said. "They really tested us."

Something had to give in this game, which matched the country's hottest home team (Nebraska, 35 straight victories) against the hottest road team (Colorado, 10 in a row).

Colorado came in leading the Big 12 in passing, averaging 311.2 yards. It settled for 226, as quarterback Koy Detmer completed only 11 tosses in 39 attempts. He was sacked three times and pressured on virtually every pass.

"We got a good push on him," Osborne said. "If we didn't sack him, at least he didn't have an unobstructed view very long."

And as Osborne said, the conditions limited the chances for offensive fireworks, though the Huskers' D'Angelo Evans rushed for 123 yards on 25 carries. "After every play, you could just wring the water out of your gloves," Nebraska fullback Brian Schuster said.

Mistakes abounded as Nebraska lost four fumbles and was penalized 11 times for 70 yards and Colorado gave up two interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown, and was penalized nine times for 50 yards.

Nebraska's defense preserved the victory, coming up big in the second half. It was particularly effective in the third quarter, when Colorado grabbed two turnovers but could do nothing with them.

"They're just blue collar-type people," George Darlington, the defensive backs coach, said of the Huskers' defense. "They just go to work and don't worry about who gets the credit."

Colorado, which has lost five straight times to the Huskers, got to the Nebraska 29-yard line on its final series, but on fourth down Detmer's pass fell incomplete. Just 2: 53 remained, and the Cornhuskers ran out the clock.

Pub Date: 11/30/96

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