OT Thriller

In the longest and one of the most thrilling games in Memorial Stadium history, quarterback Zac Taylor hit Cory Ross on a wide open screen pass in the second overtime to cap Nebraska's 27-20 double overtime victory over No. 23 Iowa State (3-1) on Saturday afternoon.

Taylor's historic completion not only moved the Huskers to 4-0 on the season, it also earned several spots in the Nebraska record book.  Taylor's completion allowed him to finish the day with a school record 431 yards passing on a school record 36 completions while tying another school record with 55 attempts.

The reception by Ross also capped a career receiving day, as his eight receptions for 131 yards and two touchdowns set school records for receptions and receiving yardage by a Husker running back, while tying the position mark for touchdown receptions in a game held by current Green Bay Packer All-Pro Ahman Green.

After both teams scored rushing touchdowns with the help of defensive pass interference calls on their opening drives of the overtime period, Taylor drove the Huskers into the end zone for the third time with Ross trotting untouched into the end zone for his third score of the day.  After Ross' touchdown, Nebraska's defense held the Cyclones on the next drive to send the Husker fans into a frenzy.

Nebraska Head Coach Bill Callahan said Taylor had his finest day as a Husker.

“I thought he played courageous. He took some hits in the pocket, scrambled when he had to make runs and got lit up. He physically got hit. He's a smart quarterback,” Callahan said. “It's amazing that you can make that many plays and do what we did with the attempts that we had in that game and not turn the ball over. That says a lot about his decision-making ability.”

In a classic showdown from start to finish in front of 77,433 fans in the NCAA record 272nd consecutive sellout at Memorial Stadium and an ABC television audience, Nebraska and Iowa State exchanged scores throughout the afternoon, beginning with Taylor's sizzling start on the opening drive of the game.

Taylor threw for a career-best 198 yards in the first half alone to ignite the Husker offense to 467 yards of total offense for the game. Taylor started the day with a hot hand by marching Nebraska 68 yards on 14 plays in its opening drive to take a quick 3-0 lead with 8:23 remaining in the first quarter on a 30-yard Jordan Congdon field goal. On the drive, Taylor completed 6-of-6 passes to five different receivers for 47 yards and rushed two times for 12 yards to account for 59 of NU's 68 yards on the drive.

The Cyclones tied the score on a 31-yard Bret Culbertson field goal with 11:43 to play in the second quarter following a strikingly similar scoring drive (13 plays, 67 yards) to the Huskers' opening march.

Despite the gaudy offensive numbers, the two teams went to halftime tied 3-3, after both Congdon and Culbertson missed short field goals in the second quarter.

As hot as Taylor was in the first half, he started the second half even hotter, bolting the Huskers down the field on an 86-yard touchdown drive that was highlighted by an electrifying run after a catch by Ross.  The senior from Denver, Colo., took a short center-screen pass and proceeded to dart and weave his way into the end zone for a 70-yard reception. The play gave NU a 10-3 lead.

Callahan said Ross' elusiveness and pass-catching ability was a major factor in the win.

“As you watch him run those routes that he ran, and when he got isolated against a linebacker, the moves that he can make against a linebacker are just as effective as what he can do with the ball in his hands in the running game,” Callahan said. “It's a real luxury and we're real lucky to have a back of his caliber that can exhibit those types of skills in the passing game.”

It was Ross' third career catch of more than 60 yards and gave him the first 100-yard receiving day of his career to go along with 11 career 100-yard rushing days. Ross finished the day with eight catches for 131 yards and two receiving touchdowns, while adding Nebraska's first touchdown of the overtime period with his one-yard plunge to tie the game after Iowa State scored the first touchdown of the overtime with Greg Coleman's 10-yard touchdown run.

Nebraska's scoring drive to start the second half was set up by Jay Moore's first career interception, which stopped Iowa State's opening drive of the second half inside the Husker 20 to keep the Blackshirts' streak of 10 consecutive quarters without surrendering a touchdown intact.

However, Iowa State ended the Blackshirts' closed door policy on their end zone, as the Cyclones answered Nebraska's touchdown drive with one of their own, as quarterback Bret Meyer marched the Cyclones 65 yards in eight plays, culminating with a two-yard touchdown pass to Walter Nickel to tie the score at 10 with 5:39 left in the third quarter.

After scoring just the second touchdown of the season by an opponent against the Huskers, Iowa State took the first lead of the season by the opposition on Culbertson's 32-yard field goal with 2:01 left in the third quarter.

But Congdon provided an answer for the Huskers by hitting a 23-yard field goal with 7:20 left in the game to tie the score at 13. Congdon's second field goal of the day came after Taylor marched the Huskers 74 yards on nine plays to the ISU 1, before NU intentionally took a delay of game penalty and kicked the tying field goal.

After the Blackshirt defense shutdown the Cyclones on the ensuing drive, Terrence Nunn sparked the Huskers with a 27-yard punt return to give Nebraska excellent field position at the NU 43 with 3:49 left in the game.

After an illegal procedure penalty pushed NU back five yards on first down, Taylor found wide receiver Nate Swift on the redshirt freshman's fifth reception of the day for a gain of eight years. Taylor then erupted for the longest run of his career, a 20-yard burst to push the Huskers inside ISU territory. A four-yard gain by Ross, a 16-yard completion to Isaiah Fluellen, and another four-yard gain by Ross pushed the Huskers to the ISU 10 with just 1:38 to play.

After an Iowa State timeout, Taylor was forced from the pocket after miscommunication with Ross in the backfield. The Cyclones' DeAndre Jackson forced and recovered a fumble and ISU took over at the 22 to end the Huskers' hopes of winning at the end of regulation.

In addition to his career receiving day, Ross led the Huskers with 32 yards on 15 carries and a score on the ground, as Nebraska managed 36 yards rushing against a Cyclone team that loaded up to stop the ground game.

Terrence Nunn added a solid receiving day with a career-high eight catches for 59 yards, while Swift hauled in five catches for 81 yards, including his first career catch on the opening drive of the second half.

Grant Mulkey added five catches of his own for 60 yards, as Taylor completed passes to 10 different NU receivers on the afternoon.

Quarterback Bret Meyer led the Cyclones by completing 23-of-41 passes for 317 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Austin Flynn led the Cyclone receivers with eight catches for 100 yards , while Coleman led ISU on the ground with 20 carries for 65 yards and a score.  Iowa State finished the day with 374 total yards.

With the victory, Nebraska improved to 4-0 all-time in overtime contests and 1-0 in double overtime games.  The win also marked Nebraska's 14th consecutive win over Iowa State in Lincoln.

-NU Sports Information