Huskers lose game, not their spirit

There was an instant of elation, an interception that sealed the game, Nebraska winning its fifth game in a row. That turned to devastation as a fumble followed soon after. Nebraska did almost everything they set out to do as they faced 15th ranked Texas Tech. But almost wasn't good enough. In yet another nail biter, the Huskers came out on the losing end, but at least for the team, they know that they didn't get beat.

Going into the game Nebraska players, coaches, even fans knew that a few keys to the game were simple:

Keep Texas Tech's offense off the field, Win the battle of turnovers and create havoc in the backfield in an attempt to disrupt Texas Tech QB Cody Hodges.

Nebraska managed just one of those and only partially so, the Huskers able to get into the backfield at times, sacking Hodges four times on the game.

As for keeping Tech's offense off the field, the Red Raiders actually won the time of possession battle and when it comes to turnovers, it was Nebraska with five and Tech with just two for the game.

And Nebraska still almost won this game.

If not for what will probably become the infamous turnover, Le Kevin Smith intercepting a ball with just over a minute left to play in the game, the game itself was over and Nebraska could run out the clock and come away with the biggest win of the year.

Just as quickly, though, Smith fumbled the ball, Tech recovered and the Red Raiders capitalized scoring the game winning TD.

That's a serious set of emotions to go through when as a defense, you fought from 21 points down to hold Tech to field goals in the second half and for an offense that couldn't get on track early, that amassed almost as many yards on offense as the most prolific offense in the country.

To see it go in a blink like that when victory was all but assured, there's not much anyone can say that will make that pain go away. "It hurts right now," linebacker Bo Ruud said of the narrow loss. "We have been wanting these guys since last year and (today) we just let it slip."

"We were better than them. We beat them for three quarters, but we played a bad first quarter and of course, gave it up there at the end. The game should have been over. It should have been our game, but you can't say anything."

"They beat us, so they got the "W".

Of course, it wasn't just one play that made the difference in the game as Nebraska had a few on the negative side, especially early on in the game. In fact, from the beginning that saw Cody Hodges march his team down the field on the first drive of the game, one might not have thought this would end up being a game at all.

Eight plays, 85 yards, just over three minutes and Tech was already up 7-0

Then, almost immediately after, Zac Taylor throws an intercepting, giving Tech yet another shot to drive and score.

Before you know it, it was 21-0 and déjà vu was setting in, at least for those not on the field. This could be a repeat of last year.

The difference between this team, though, and last year's was all the unity this team talked about leading up to this 2005 season. It was something they had none of a season prior. Where last year's team would have likely folded at that point as it had a few other times last season, this team certainly did not.

"Last year we might have given up early," junior defensive end Jay Moore said of his defense. "This team is not going to give up early."

"We fought. We fought all day and we didn't give up. I am proud of this team."

His pride is his coaches' pride as well, an obviously disappointed head coach still eagerly finding the positive from a victory that turned into a defeat. The errors were obvious, but for Nebraska to actually lead the game after being down like they were so early, credit has to be given where it was earned. "Our defense really stood up to a real challenge today," Callahan said. "That's all you can ask as a coach, that your kids play as hard as they can and give you a chance to win and that's what they did."

"They put it all out there (and) I couldn't be prouder of our team."

The defense will certainly get some luster after a game like this, considering some of the circumstances they were under throughout the course of the contest. The offense, however, deserves some credit for weathering a storm of self-destruction to come back.

"Obviously it's tough and I made some bad decisions, but I think we picked our heads up and kept on playing, but obviously it hurts you when you do those things," Taylor said.

"We were down 21-0 and we showed we were fighters, we came back, got the lead and things just didn't go our way in the end."

As to the end, Le Kevin Smith's interception turned fumble will be remembered as the key play that snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. It, of course, wasn't as Nebraska did enough up to that point to quell a few of the many comeback attempts.

For the players, it's a loss and a painful one, but if you were here last year, they know just how far this team has come. "It's a tough one and it's hard to really put a finger on what I feel like," Moore said. "But, we had every darn right to win that game."

"We've got a good football team. We did all we could, we fought all day and we did a heck of a job."

"We just need to go down to Waco now and handle our business."

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