When Oklahoma State lined up inside the 1-yard line, Mike Rucker knew Nebraska was less than a foot away from losing its bid for a national championship.
"Sometimes your whole season comes down to one play, and sometimes it comes down to one foot" said Rucker, who stopped Oklahoma State's Nathan Simmons as time ran out, giving the No. 2 Cornhuskers a 24-17 victory.
"I wrapped the running back up around his legs and that was the ballgame," Rucker said.
Nebraska (5-0, 1-0 Big 12) extended the nation's longest major-college winning streak to 19 games and stretched its unbeaten streak against the Cowboys (2-2, 1-1) to 35 games.
"I think you saw two teams that played tremendously hard the entire game," said Huskers coach Frank Solich. "I thought both defensive units should be given a great deal of credit for what they got done."
Oklahoma State, seeking its first victory against Nebraska since 1961, faced a fourth-and-4 at the Huskers' 12-yard line with 14 seconds left. Tony Lindsay kept the drive alive, hitting Sean Love with an 11-yard pass.
| Oklahoma State quarterback Tony Lindsay avoids being sacked by Nebraska linebacker Clint Metcalf in the first quarter. (AP) |
"They were moving on us all night, and it comedown to one foot," Rucker said. "We knew we didn't want to go into overtime, so we knew it all hinged on one play."
The Cowboys had trouble lining up on the critical play. Lineman Reynell Lavigne was late coming off the bench and didn't hear the formation, so he lined up out of position.
"It was mass confusion out there," said Simmons, who rushed for 114 yards. "We tried to get something off. It could have gone either way."
Oklahoma State moved the game from Stillwater to Kansas City for a a $1.3 million payday. It was the first time in the 37-game series that the teams played at a neutral site.
"We didn't come up here for a moral victory," said Oklahoma State coach Bob Simmons. "We had a good game plan and we thought we could execute the game plan. We came up here to win."
Nebraska broke a 17-17 tie when Joe Walker scored on a 73-yard punt return with 7:29 left in the game.
Walker fielded the punt, burst upfield through a small opening, bounced off two defenders, cut back and outraced Oklahoma State's Trent Alexander down the left sideline.
Nebraska, the nation's second-ranked rushing team with 303 yards per game, managed just 73 yards on the ground against Oklahoma State.
Walker's return made up for his defensive mistake about six minutes earlier, when he was burned on a 67-yard TD pass from Lindsay to Ethan Howell that tied the game 17-17.
"I made a bad choice going for the ball, and I got beat," Walker said. "When I went back for the punt, I really wasn't thinking about that play. I just got a couple of blocks, saw a crease and ran as fast as I could."
The Cowboys shut down Nebraska's vaunted option attack in the first half, limiting the Huskers to 4 yards rushing and going into halftime with a 3-3 tie.
Meanwhile, Simmons rushed for 39 yards during a 48-yard drive that ended with a 37-yard field goal by Oklahoma State's Tim Sydnes. That gave the Cowboys a 3-0 early in the second quarter -- the first time Nebraska had trailed since the Huskers came from behind to beat Missouri last Nov. 8.
Nebraska avoided a first-half shutout when Kris Brown kicked a 48-yard field goal with 1:06 left in the half.
The Huskers, who beat Washington 55-7 last week, came out strong in the second half and scored on their first two possessions.
Quarterback Bobby Newcombe scored on a 6-yard scramble, stretching to put the ball across the goal line after a hard hit by Oklahoma State's J.B. Flowers.
After Nebraska forced the Cowboys to punt, reserve quarterback Eric Crouch directed a 56-yard scoring drive. After a 30-yard pass from Crouch to Sheldon Jackson, DeAngelo Evans scored on a 1-yard run.
But that play took some luck. Crouch misfired on the pitch, and the ball went through Evans' hands. Fortunately for the Huskers, it bounced back up immediately into his arms.
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