COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) Nebraska is a champion again. Sure it's only the Big 12 North title, but it's a start for coach Bill Callahan's Cornhuskers. Zac Taylor threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Maurice Purify with 21 seconds left to give the Cornhuskers a 28-27 win over #24 Texas A&M on Saturday and their first trip to the conference championship game in seven years.
``That was exciting, wasn't it?'' Callahan said with a wry smile. ``I'm really proud of our players, the way the hung in there. Their resiliency all the way to the bitter end was phenomenal.''
The Aggies (8-3, 4-3) trailed 21-10 at halftime, but Jorvorskie Lane's 1-yard touchdown run with 7:28 left capped an A&M comeback. The Aggies got a 2-point conversion to make it 27-21 and Mark Dodge intercepted a pass by Taylor with 2:50 remaining, seemingly sealing the biggest victory of coach Dennis Franchione's four-year tenure.
But Layne Neumann's 42-yard field goal attempt was blocked and Nebraska (8-3, 5-2) regained possession at its 24 with 1:57 to go.
Callahan and Taylor stayed calm, remembering how often the Huskers work on late-game situations in practice.
``We've got a lot of confidence in that brand of football,'' Callahan said.
Taylor shook off the late interception and completed passes of 22, 16 and 13 yards to Todd Peterson to drive Nebraska to the A&M 17 in the final minute.
``We go over that scenario every Thursday in practice,'' said Taylor. ``It was really no different than that. Just a lot louder.''
A roughing the passer penalty on A&M defensive tackle Marques Thornton gave the Huskers a 1st & Goal at the 9 and Taylor lofted a pass to Purify in the corner of the end zone to tie the game. Jordan Congdon's extra point kick gave the Huskers the lead.
``Everything was pretty much how we wanted it to be,'' Taylor said of the decisive drive.
Adam Carriker sacked A&M quarterback Stephen McGee on the last play to give the Cornhuskers the division.
Callahan said the victory may have been the most significant of his three-year tenure at Nebraska.
``It was a great win for our program, for our state,'' Callahan said. ``You can't get any bigger than this.''
The Aggies, meanwhile, suffered their third heartbreaking loss at home and second in a row. On September 30th, Texas Tech scored a touchdown in the final minute to beat A&M 31-27. Last week, Oklahoma converted a 4th down late to win 17-16.
``Losses like this are tough,'' said McGee, who completed 18 of 31 passes for 244 yards. ``You learn a lot about a football team, though. All year, we've fought to the very end.''
Cody Glenn had 2 touchdown runs for Nebraska, which beat A&M for the 10th time in 12 meetings.
Lane tied a single-season A&M record with his 19th touchdown and McGee and Mike Goodson also had TD runs for the Aggies, who've taken all three of their conference losses at home. Lane matched one of the oldest records in the A&M record book, set by Joel Hunt in 1927.
The 6-foot, 278-pound running back also set up the score with a 44-yard pass to Chad Schroeder.
The Cornhuskers shredded the Aggies' defense early and appeared on their way to an easy win.
Taylor threw a touchdown pass to Peterson in the 2nd quarter. It was Taylor's 21st TD pass this year, a single-season Nebraska record. He also became Nebraska's all-time passing leader on the play and now has 5,193 career passing yards.
Taylor converted a 3rg & 9 with a 15-yard pass to Peterson before Glenn scored his second touchdown to snap a 7-7 tie on the first play of the 2nd quarter.
Neumann kicked a 37-yard field goal just before halftime made it 21-10. The Aggies mustered only 37 yards in the 1st half after their lone touchdown drive.
The A&M defense held Nebraska to one 1st down in the 3rd quarter and Goodson kick-started the Aggies' rally with a 53-yard run to the Huskers' 11. Neumann booted a 20-yard field goal with 16 seconds left in the quarter.
Nebraska went 3 & out again early in the 4th quarter and McGee caught the Huskers blitzing and outran the defense for a 57-yard touchdown with 12:51 left. He was sacked on the 2-point conversion and A&M trailed 21-19, setting up another cliffhanging finish.
Six of the Aggies 7 conference games have been decided by 6 points or less.
``It's never over for us until it's over,'' Franchione said. ``I don't know how to describe all the emotions that you go through for seven straight weeks.''