The Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-3, 6-2) scored 14 points via special teams and an interception to upend the Colorado Buffaloes (3-9, 2-6) 28 - 20 in the Buffs' last game of the 2009 season. On a beautiful day in Boulder, the Buffs played well at times and in other situations, they continued to be their own worst enemy, something that has become a staple for the Buffs in Dan Hawkins' four years at Colorado.
The Colorado defense only allowed 14 points and held the Cornhuskers' offense to just 217 yards, only 73 of which came through the air. Cha'pelle Brown played wonderfully in his final game as a Buff including a sack of Husker QB Zac Lee. The senior cornerback was also awarded this season's Buffalo Heart Award, presented annually to a Buffs player by fans. Colorado's defense has played relatively well since the West Virginia game but were never helped by its offensive and special teams counterparts for most of the season.
OG Ryan Miller and the offensive line did very well on DT Ndamukong Suh, even though the announcers kept making it out to be that Suh had 50 tackles and 20 sacks while being blocked by 19 players. Suh was the benefactor of a sack on a poor intentional grounding flag thrown in the third quarter that was clearly a tipped pass to Rodney Stewart. The penalty pushed the ball back to the 34 yard line and resulted in a missed field goal. That one phantom sack by Suh was the only sack given up today, a major improvement. QB Tyler Hansen still had to do some scrambling but the Buffs never were in 3rd and 20's because of a Husker sack.
Buff WR Markques Simas caught six balls for 107 yards. Although he was not featured enough tonight, he finished the month of November with 462 yards and 31 receptions. A very impressive last month for the sophomore receiver and will be a positive going into next season. Simas did not have a ball thrown his way until the 8 minute mark of the second quarter and had only one catch in the first half. Colorado forgot about him until half number two. Scotty McKnight, thanks to a 56 yard touchdown reception as time expired, also finished with over 100 yards, the second time the duo has accomplished that this year. McKnight had 7 catches for 114 yards and two scores. RB Rodney Stewart also went over the century mark with 110 yards on 21 carries as well.
Overall, the Buffs out gained Nebraska 403 to 217. They had 20 first downs to the Huskers' 14.
But, Colorado made enough mistakes to end up with their ninth loss of the season in a very winnable game.
more after the jump...
Tyler Hansen completed less than 50% of his passes and threw three interceptions as the Buffs lost the turnover battle by two. Colorado continues to struggle in the turnover margin category, often making more mistakes than the other team. One of the interceptions resulted in a Nebraska defensive touchdown.
The Buffs also gave up another non-defensive touchdown on a low line drive punt in the first quarter that WR Nebraska Niles Paul returned 59 yards for a 7 - 0 lead.
Special teams play continues to doom the Buffs. In the first quarter, the Buffs starting field position averaged the 8.5 yard line while Nebraska started at the 46. K Aric Goodman's performance continues to be abysmal as he missed two field goals in the second half that would have brought the Buffs within one point, 21 - 20, with 13:35 left in the game. The last two years, Goodman is 15 of 32 on field goal attempts, hitting only 46%. In 2009, he is 10 of 18. Essentially, the Buffs turned the ball over five times when counting the empty possessions from the missed field goals.
Colorado fielded punts inside the five yard line, dropped kickoffs and subsequently, were tackled inside the 20 yard line, kicked low line drive punts, missed field goals and of course, gave up the touchdown on a punt return.
The very next possession with 13:35 left after the second missed field goal, Nebraska had their only impressive offensive drive of the game, a 13 play, 80 yard drive for the 14 point lead. The Huskers only had to convert one third down on the drive while RB Rex Burkhead carried the ball 9 of the 13 plays. Burkhead ended up scoring, putting Nebraska up 28 - 14.
The Buffs were able to get the ball back and drive down to the Nebraska 15 yard line with about five minutes left but, once again, the team shot themselves in the foot. This drive is a microcosm of the inadequacies this team displays on a weekly basis:
Play 1 - quick zero yard pass to Simas in bounds while the Buffs are down 14 points. You have to go up field there considering your timeout situation and only five minutes on the clock. At least a play out of bounds. Before that play, the Buffs took their second timeout of the second half, leaving them with only one. The play call of a small flip pass to Simas after the timeout is mind boggling.
Play 2 - incomplete pass. Now 3rd and 10 from the 15 yard line
Play 3 - delay of game, five yard penalty. Now 3rd and 15 from the 20 yard line.
Play 4 - false start, five yard penalty. Now 3rd and 20 from the 25 yard line.
Play 5 - pass incomplete. Now 4th and 20 from the 25 yard line
Play 6 - timeout, their second of the drive without gaining a yard since having the ball 1st & 10 and last timeout of the half.
Play 7 - interception
The Buffs had 7 penalties in total. They continue to be one of the most penalized teams in the nation.
Just like the defensive drive before it, this offensive drive and the two missed field goals in the second half, the Buffs continually fail to convert and make big plays when the game is within reach. The people in charge at the University of Colorado might think and interpret this as being a very competitive outing, as their press release stated yesterday, but I believe it to be a dangerous trend that we have seen all year against a very manageable out of conference and Big 12 North schedule.
I wish we could have pulled this out for the seniors. We are certainly going to miss players like Cha'pelle Brown, Marcus Burton, Benjamin Burney, Riar Geer, Jake Behrens, Shaun Mohler, Patrick Devenny, Kevin Moyd, Jeff Smart, etc. Thanks for sticking through this mess, it probably would have been easy to quit. Best of luck in the future. I wish it would have turned out better for you in your last season.