Cornhuskers look for turnaround vs. Buffs

Friday, November 29, 2002

LINCOLN, Neb. -- If Nebraska can't save its season, at least it can save face in today's game against Colorado.

The Cornhuskers are winding up their worst season in 41 years. A win against the 13th-ranked Buffaloes would be their first against a Top 25 opponent this year and give them something positive on which to build.

"If we win," Nebraska I-back David Horne said, "it sends a message that we don't give up. Most times we've lost, we've lost big. I look at this as a turnaround game. Hopefully, it will get some of our fans back, get the media off our back and get some confidence back for the team."

The Huskers (7-5 overall, 3-4 Big 12) are likely headed for a minor bowl game after piling up their most losses since the 1961 NU team struggled to a 3-6-1 mark under Bill Jennings.

The Buffaloes (8-3, 6-1) come into the game having already clinched the Big 12 North Division title. Regardless of today's outcome, they'll play Oklahoma in the conference championship game Dec. 7 in Houston. The winner of that game earns a Bowl Championship Series bid.

Colorado coach Gary Barnett said his team won't get caught looking ahead to the Sooners.

"We're going to put every bit of emotion into (this) game that we can put into it," he said. "Trust me. This game is going to get all of our attention."

The Huskers had beaten the Buffs nine straight years before getting hammered 62-36 last year in Boulder, Colo.

To be sure, that game has stuck in the Huskers' minds, not to mention their craws, for 12 months.

"In the past," rush end Chris Kelsay said, "we were always the dominant team and everybody feared us. Now the tables are turned. We don't fear our opponents, but we know our opponents don't fear us."

The Huskers, who saw their 26-game home win streak end Nov. 2 in a 27-24 loss to Texas, have won five straight over the Buffs in Lincoln.

"Obviously, we do not have a great track record," Barnett said. "It's going to be a difficult task, and we know that. It's a tough environment, but it's a fun environment."

The game will pit two of college football's top rushing attacks. The Huskers lead the Big 12 and are third in the nation in rushing with 273.4 yards a game. The Buffs are third and sixth, respectively, at 250.6 yards.

Heisman Trophy candidate Chris Brown, who tore through the Huskers for 198 yards and six touchdowns in last year's rout, is questionable because of a bruised sternum.

But the Buffs still have Bobby Purify, who ran for 154 yards and a touchdown against Nebraska and is averaging 5.9 yards a carry and 61.5 yards a game this season.

"This is a game that will be really physical," Barnett said. "It may just last an hour-and-a-half. It's going to sort of be old-fashioned football."

Though no big prize is at stake for the Huskers, hanging in the balance is a streak that's near and dear to the program's heart.

That's the consecutive number of nine-win seasons, which stands at 33. In order for the streak to reach 34, the Huskers must beat Colorado and their bowl opponent.

It's the last of Nebraska's major streaks that hasn't ended this season.

"As a coach," Solich said, "you don't have to stand up on a table and beat that into the players. They know all about the streaks that the previous teams have helped produce. They keep getting reminded."

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