College Football Overtime (cont.)
Bo Pelini's honeymoon at Nebraska ended late last season, as Huskers fans grappled with the double embarrassment of their coach's sideline hysterics and their team's miserable offense. Pelini entered 2011 with a mostly clean slate amid excitement over Nebraska's move to the Big Ten. But then his previously stout defense proved an early disappointment, culminating in last week's blowout at Wisconsin. So when suspension-ravaged Ohio State jumped to a 21-point lead Saturday night in Lincoln, it was easy to envision the fury that would hit the talk shows and message boards across Nebraska.
But then Lavonte David saved the Huskers' season.
When Nebraska's star linebacker stripped Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller on a first-down conversion midway through the third quarter, it touched off the biggest comeback in school history, from a 27-6 deficit to a 34-27 victory. "That was a game-changing play," Pelini said of David's forced fumble. "He's been doing that since he got here."
Ohio State fans would surely claim the real game-changer came a series later, when Miller -- who had been scorching the Huskers with his feet on 10 carries for 91 yards -- left with an ankle injury, forcing Luke Fickell to turn to the maddening Joe Bauserman, who would finish a miserable 1-of-10 for 13 yards and a pick. Still, that doesn't explain the massive change of momentum that occurred shortly after David's strip.
Huskers quarterback Taylor Martinez (16-of-22 for 191 yards; 17 carries for 102), booed following an interception late in the first half, ran for an 18-yard touchdown, threw a 36-yard score and then, to tie the game, eluded pressure just in time to dump the ball to Rex Burkhead (168 total yards) on the flat. He scooted 30 yards to the end zone. Burkhead later scored the go-ahead touchdown, and the defense took care of it from there.
"We were going so crazy in the locker room [afterward]," said receiver Jamal Turner. "Coach [Pelini] said he's never been prouder of a team before in his life."
Nebraska is hardly out of the woods. Dramatic as it was, the Huskers beat a mediocre Buckeyes team. Still, it will be interesting to see whether the momentum that began with David's forced fumble continues going forward.
If you skipped out on Saturday's Miami-Virginia Tech game because ... well, because it was two already beaten ACC teams and because ABC probably wasn't showing it in your area, then you missed one of the season's most thrilling games to date, highlighted by a pair of monstrous individual performances.
A week after failing to lead his team to even a touchdown against Clemson, Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas finally showed what the hype was all about. The sophomore was a masterful 23-of-25 for 310 yards, three touchdowns and no picks, with the two incompletions coming on a drop and a desperate flip under pressure. But his biggest play came with his feet. Facing fourth-and-one with 56 seconds left, down 35-31, Thomas faked a handoff to David Wilson, then shot straight up the middle untouched for a game-winning 19-yard touchdown run.
"I stepped through the hole and there was nothing there," Thomas said afterward.
Thomas managed to overshadow another eye-popping day from Miami tailback Lamar Miller, who rushed for 166 yards on 18 carries and now ranks third in the country in rushing with 135.4 yards per game. On one fourth-quarter drive to cut Tech's lead to 31-28, Miller rushed for gains of 37 and 22 yards, then caught a 16-yard touchdown on a trick pass from receiver Phillip Dorsett. His 30-yard touchdown run put the 'Canes up 35-31.
But ultimately, Al Golden's team (2-3, 0-2 ACC) suffered its third heartbreaking loss of the season -- all decided in the final minute -- leaving Miami's first-year coach fighting back tears in the postgame press conference.
"I really felt like we were going to win," said Golden. "I thought in a lot of ways we deserved to win."
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech (5-1, 1-1) gained new life after last week's Clemson debacle. Next up: A trip to suddenly formidable Wake Forest (more on the Deacs in a bit). Which Thomas will we see the rest of the way?
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