November 29th - @ Nebraska No. 13 Colorado 28, Nebraska 13
Freshman tailback Brian Calhoun, inserted into the Colorado backfield due to injuries to Chris Brown and Bobby Purify, ran for 137 yards to lead the Buffs to a 28-13 win over Nebraska in Lincoln.
Senior fullback Brandon Drumm scored twice as Colorado won for the eighth time in nine games to claim the outright Big 12 North title. “When it counted, we wanted to win the Big 12 (North) title outright,” said Gary Barnett. “We didn’t want to share it. We wanted to win it in Lincoln, which is very difficult to do.”
Cornerback Phil Jackson intercepted a Jammal Lord pass at the Colorado 13-yard line on Nebraska’s second drive of the game. The Buffs followed up the turnover with a seven-play, 87-yard drive, culminated in a 40-yard touchdown pass from Robert Hodge to Derek McCoy five minutes into the contest. The Colorado 7-0 lead held up until the second quarter, when Lord hit Matt Herian for 80 yards and a tie score. Later in the second, kicker Dale Endorf gave the Cornhuskers their first lead of the game, 10-7, with a 33-yard field goal.
On the Buffs’ first play from scrimmage after halftime, Derek McCoy fumbled, recovered by Nebraska at the Colorado 17. Already down 10-7, and with the Cornhuskers opening in the Colorado red zone, matters looked bleak for the Buffs.
The Colorado defense held, though, forcing Nebraska to settle for a 49-yard Endorf field goal and a 13-7 lead.
The Buffs got the ball back and drove 80 yards in 15 plays to re-claim the lead. Bobby Purify made his last carry of the day count, scoring from two yards out to give Colorado a 14-13 advantage. Purify, who entered the game with a sprained medial collateral ligament, sprained his ankle in the first half. Other than his scoring run, Purify did not return in the second half, setting the stage for Calhoun.
In the first march for a score, Calhoun netted 33 yards. Next, after the Colorado defense held Nebraska to three straight plays losing yardage, the Buffs took over at their own 48-yard line. On the Buffs’ ensuing series, Calhoun ran for 35 yards to the Nebraska 17. Four plays later, fullback Brandon Drumm scored from a yard out to give the Buffs a 21-13 edge heading into the fourth quarter.
The eight point lead was still in doubt late into the final quarter, before Nebraska’s freshman running back, David Horne, fumbled at the Cornhusker 30-yard line. Facing a fourth-and-one at the Cornhusker 21-yard line, Gary Barnett was persuaded to go for a first down. Brandon Drumm rushed for five yards on the play to take the spirit out of the Nebraska faithful. On the next play, Drumm rumbled in from 16 yards out to give the Buffs their first win in Lincoln since 1990, and first back-to-back wins over the Cornhuskers since 1989-90.
While the 77,804 in attendance at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln were surprised at the success of freshman Calhoun, the 18-year old from Oak Creek, Wisconsin, was not. “I’m not surprised,” said Calhoun, who had only 57 yards on 27 attempts for the season coming into the game. “I knew Chris wouldn’t be able to go, and I knew Bobby had an ailing knee, so I prepared myself all week to be the man to carry the ball.”
Up next for the Buffs was the Big 12 Championship game in Houston, against the one conference opponent in 2002 which had handled the Buffs, Oklahoma. The Sooners, ranked third in the nation, still harbored hopes of a national title as they watched the Buffs play the Cornhuskers. The next day, however, those dreams were dashed, as for the second consecutive year Oklahoma State upset Oklahoma, this time by a score of 38-28 which was not as close as the score indicated.
Colorado would be facing a wounded and angry Oklahoma squad in Reliant Stadium for the right to represent the Big 12 in the BCS bowls. Looking back to early November, that is all the Buffs had hoped for. “I guess we got our mulligan,” joked Colorado defensive coordinator Vince Okruch.
Be careful what you ask for ……
While Colorado was celebrating earning a second consecutive trip to the Big 12 title game, there was no such joy in the Nebraska locker room.
Nebraska senior running back Dahrran Diedrick, who rushed for 96 yards on 13 carries, could not be consoled. “It’s the toughest loss I’ve ever taken at any level of sports,” said Diedrick. “The worst thing about this game is losing. Nobody could imagine our record is what it is and that we’d lose our final two games.”
About that 7-6 record (which would fall to 7-7 after a 27-23 loss to Mississippi in the Independence Bowl). It was indeed a record season for Nebraska, but for all the wrong reasons. Some of the Nebraska records which fell in 2002:
- ended a 33-year streak of nine-win seasons. While no official records are kept, the next longest streak is believed to be 14 by Florida State;
- ended a run of 348 consecutive appearances in the Associated Press poll. The next longest streak belonged to Florida State, which ended a run of 212 consecutive weeks during the 2001 season;
- worst loss in 34 years, 49-13 to Kansas State (worst since a 47-0 loss to Oklahoma in 1968);
- home-win streak stopped at 26 (27-24 loss to Texas);
- losing two games at home in a season for the first time since 1980;
- losing six games in a season for the first time in 41 years (3-6-1 in 1961);
- losing a conference opener (36-14 to Iowa State) for the first time since losing to Missouri in the 1974 opener;
- a 3-5 conference record, the first losing conference campaign since going 3-4 in Big Eight play in 1968;
- an 0-4 record vs. ranked teams, failing to post a win over a ranked opponent in a season for the first time since 1990.
The loss was hard for the Husker Nation to take. “This was the first time I looked up and seemed like everyone went home before the ballgame was over,” said Diedrick in the silent Cornhusker locker room, adding wistfully, “I guess people had to try and beat the traffic.”
Speaking as a Colorado fan who has endured many disappointing home losses, not to mention losing campaigns, over the years, I can only say:
Welcome to the real world, Husker Nation.
Some YouTube highlights, courtesy of CU at the Gamer Paul:
- Nebraska’s streak in the polls ended at 348 consecutive appearances. Colorado’s best streak in the polls, 143 consecutive weeks between 1989-97, made it into the record books as the 10th-longest streak of all time.
- Nebraska would go on to finish the 2002 season on a three game losing streak after a 27-23 loss to Mississippi in the Independence Bowl. The 7-7 final record for the Cornhuskers represented the first non-winning season since 1961 in Lincoln, and the first seven loss season since 1957.