Sunday, November 12, 2006

Huskers’ rally secures North


— Nebraska is a champion again.

Sure it's only the Big 12 North title, but it's a start for coach Bill Callahan's Cornhuskers.

Zac Taylor threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to Maurice Purify with 21 seconds left to give the Cornhuskers a 28-27 win over No. 24 Texas A&M; on Saturday and their first trip to the conference championship game in seven years.

"That was exciting, wasn't it?" Callahan said with a wry smile. "I'm really proud of our players, the way the hung in there. Their resiliency all the way to the bitter end was phenomenal."

The Aggies (8-3, 4-3) trailed 21-10 at halftime, but Jorvorskie Lane's one-yard touchdown run with 7:28 left capped an A&M; comeback. The Aggies got a two-point conversion to make it 27-21, and Mark Dodge intercepted a pass by Taylor with 2:50 remaining, seemingly sealing the biggest victory of coach Dennis Franchione's four-year tenure.

But Layne Neumann's 42-yard field-goal attempt was blocked, and Nebraska (8-3, 5-2) regained possession at its 24 with 1:57 to go.

Callahan and Taylor stayed calm, remembering how often the Huskers work on late-game situations in practice.

"We've got a lot of confidence in that brand of football," Callahan said.

Taylor shook off the late interception and completed passes of 22, 16 and 13 yards to Todd Peterson to drive Nebraska to the A&M; 17 in the final minute.

"We go over that scenario every Thursday in practice," said Taylor. "It was really no different than that. Just a lot louder."

A roughing-the-passer penalty on A&M; defensive tackle Marques Thornton gave the Huskers a first-and-goal at the nine, and Taylor lofted a pass to Purify in the corner of the end zone to tie the game. Jordan Congdon's extra-point kick gave the Huskers the lead.

"Everything was pretty much how we wanted it to be," Taylor said of the decisive drive.

Adam Carriker sacked A&M; quarterback Stephen McGee on the last play to give the Cornhuskers the division.

Callahan said the victory may have been the most significant of his three-year tenure at Nebraska.

"It was a great win for our program, for our state," Callahan said.

The Aggies, meanwhile, suffered their third heartbreaking loss at home and second in a row. On Sept. 30, Texas Tech scored a touchdown in the final minute to beat A&M; 31-27. Last week, Oklahoma converted a fourth down late to win 17-16.


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