BOULDER, Colo. - In a game where nothing went right for the home team, Nebraska defeated Colorado, putting the Buffs' bid for their fourth Big 12 North division title inititally at risk.
Zac Taylor threw for 392 yards and two scores, Cory Ross accounted for 142 yards and a touchdown to lead the Huskers to a 30-3 win Friday.
Colorado (7-4, 5-3 Big 12) lost its second straight game and left the door open for Iowa State, which could have earned a spot in the Big 12 Championshi game with a win at Kansas on Saturday. However, KU prevailed in overtime, 24-21, leaving Colorado alone atop the division standings and an opportunity to play No. 2 Texas again in the league title game in Houston next Saturday.
But on Friday, it was the Huskers (7-4, 4-4) who looked like title contenders, putting together, by far, the best 60 minutes of coach Bill Callahan's troubled two-year tenure. They posted their biggest win in the series since a 52-7 verdict in 1992 and gave themselves quite a boost as they head into the bowl season and beyond.
On the first play of its first possession, Colorado got a 45-yard run by Hugh Charles and that was pretty much it. The big run set up a Mason Crosby field goal that gave the Buffs a 3-0 lead. The Huskers answered with a field goal of their own and CU never came close to taking the lead again.
Ross, a Denver kid who wasn't recruited by Gary Barnett and the Buffs, had 129 yards receiving. His 19-yard TD off a screen pass early in the second gave the Huskers a 10-3 lead. The rest of the game was a combination of Nebraska dominance - the Huskers defense allowed only 212 yards - and CU's inability to execute.
They kept Nebraska's second touchdown drive alive when, after Taylor called timeout, Huskers center Kurt Mann snapped the ball anyway, which compelled CU linebacker Alex Ligon to slam Taylor to the ground and draw a very questionable 15-yard penalty on third-and-10. No one on Colorado heard the whistle, which would have come when the play clock was about to reach zero.
Nebraska's next drive started at midfield thanks to a 15-yard penalty on CU's Terry Washington for tackling punt returner Cortney Grixby while the ball was still in the air. The CU punt team got bamboozled by Nebraska's formations twice, drawing penalties each time.
It harkened back to the days when the Huskers took CU for granted and when a Buffs win in a matchup only they considered a rivalry could make their season.
It could have this year, too.
Barnett was trying to improve to 4-3 against Nebraska and become the first CU coach in a generation to be able to say he won more than he lost against Big Red.
Led by sacks by Titus Adams, Le Kevin Smith and Barry Cryer, the Huskers confused normally unflappable quarterback Joel Klatt. He went 20-for-40 for 159 yards and an interception.
An embarrassing season that included their first loss to Kansas in 36 years now looks much better for the Huskers. Their bowl destination certainly improved and a program that is already thought to be putting in place a great recruiting class surely wasn't hurt with this performance in front of a national audience on the day after Thanksgiving.