Colorado shocker knocks Nebraska from contention

Saturday, November 24th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ Now what, Nebraska?

The No. 2 Cornhuskers' 62-36 drubbing against No. 14 Colorado sent them tumbling from the top of the national championship heap, but not necessarily out of the Bowl Championship Series.

As if getting over Friday's loss weren't tough enough, Nebraska now will have to wait until Monday _ when the new BCS standings are released _ to find out what there is to look forward to.

The Huskers got a big break Saturday when Oklahoma State upset No. 3 Oklahoma 16-13, further muddling the BCS picture.

``I'm not sure how it all works out,'' coach Frank Solich said Saturday.

The Huskers (11-1, 7-1 Big 12) were No. 1 in the BCS for four weeks entering Friday's game. They probably will fall to somewhere in the bottom half of the BCS Top 10.

The loss put Colorado into next week's Big 12 title game against Texas, which backed in as the South Division winner because of the Sooners' loss.

Nebraska still is a very unlikely candidate for the Rose Bowl, which will decide the national title between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the BCS.

The Huskers, who won't play again until their bowl game, can only watch and hope some of the other teams ahead of them stumble. It would probably take at least a few more upsets to get Nebraska back into the running for the national championship, which they had been after all season.

``I was saying to myself coming into this locker room after the game, 'This is going to be a tough one to swallow,''' said Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch, who ran for 162 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 198 yards with two interceptions.

``It's going to take a while for it to wear off. It really is. That's just being honest.''

Nebraska hasn't played for a national championship since sharing the 1997 title with Michigan.

A more attainable goal for the Huskers at this point is hoping for an invitation to the Fiesta, Sugar or Orange Bowl. Otherwise, Nebraska could wind up in the Cotton or Holiday Bowl.

``It's the way it is,'' Solich said. ``We all operate under that assumption that you've just got to continue to win football games if you're going to be ranked where you want to be ranked in the BCS standings.''

The BCS allows a maximum of two schools per conference in the top four bowls. Six of those bowl's eight bids go to the champions of the Big East, Big 12, Atlantic Coast, Big 10, Pac 10 and Southeastern conferences.

Texas or Colorado gets the conference's automatic berth. With just one loss, Nebraska is still alive for an at-large bid, especially after the Sooners' loss.

``We had the one time we did not get it done, but I think at this point in time that's the same case for everybody but maybe two teams in the country,'' Solich said. ``You look at it from that angle and I think, yes, we are deserving of a BCS bowl.''

Colorado made it clear early that Nebraska would have a difficult time hanging on to its status as the BCS front-runner. The Buffaloes stunned the Huskers with four first-quarter touchdowns and led 35-3 at one juncture, before Nebraska's offense started moving the ball.

Nebraska got within 12 points with a strong third quarter, but stumbled again in the fourth, when Colorado's Chris Brown, who ran for 198 yards on 24 carries, scored three of his school-record six touchdowns.

``You get behind so big, so early and have to play catch-up _ there's very little room for mistakes,'' Solich said. ``Eventually, we made a few of those things going down the stretch that cost us dearly.''

Nebraska had four turnovers to none for Colorado, which had lost nine straight to the Huskers. The Buffaloes (9-2, 7-1) will play in the Big 12 championship for the first time. Texas is 10-1, and 7-1 in the conference.

``It's just a great, great win for a bunch of guys who made a great commitment and believed in themselves and did not get caught up in distractions,'' Colorado coach Gary Barnett said. ``We're going to enjoy this for a couple days.''