Nebraska wraps up Big 12 North by beating Texas A&MNov 12, 2006 - 2:57 AM COLLEGE STATION, Texas (Ticker) -- The "12th Man" couldn't prevent Nebraska from becoming the 12th men.
Zac Taylor hit Maurice Purify with a nine-yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds to go, lifting Nebraska to a 28-27 Big 12 Conference victory over No. 24 Texas A&M.
The win clinched the Big 12 North Division title for Nebraska (8-3, 5-2 North), likely setting up a rematch with Texas in the conference championship game.
The Cornhuskers withstood a barrage of big plays by the Aggies and their vociferous crowd of 83,336 - patented as the "12th Man" for the student body section that never sits during a game - to earn a berth in the conference title game for the first time since 1999.
"Well, that was exciting. I'm really proud of our players today, the way they hung in there," Nebraska coach Bill Callahan said. "You have to compliment A&M and their fine effort. They came back in the second half and played a whale of a game."
Texas A&M completely bottled up Nebraska's offense in the second half and used a pair of big plays to score two fourth-quarter touchdowns in erasing a 21-10 halftime deficit.
Nebraska appeared finished when Mark Dodge intercepted Taylor's pass with 2:50 left in the game. But the Cornhusker defense responded, as Barry Turner blocked Layne Neumann's 42-yard field-goal attempt with 2:04 remaining that would have given the Aggies at 30-21 lead.
"That block at the end meant everything to ignite our offense," Callahan said.
Taking over on their own 24 with 2:00 to play, the Cornhuskers moved 76 yards in 11 plays on the winning drive. Taylor completed two passes to Todd Peterson and one to Dan Erickson, setting up a pivotal 3rd-and-10 at the 18.
Taylor threw another incompletion, but a huge roughing-the-passer penalty against the Aggies' Marques Thornton with 26 seconds remaining gave the Cornhuskers a 1st-and-goal at the 9.
Nebraska needed one play to capitalize. Taylor floated a pass into the left corner of the end zone and the 6-4 Purify leapt high to pull it in. Jordan Congdon then booted the winning extra point.
"We work on the two-minute drill every Thursday in practice against our defense, and we have a great defense," Taylor said. "A lot of times we execute it to perfection. We are always confident we can go in there and drive and score to win."
Taylor finished 21-of-35 for 267 yards, two TDs and an interception.
The last-second theatrics erased a marvelous fourth quarter by the Aggies (8-3, 4-3 South), who used a pair of big-play strikes to erase a 21-10 halftime deficit.
Quarterback Stephen McGee broke loose for a 57-yard scoring run and fullback Jorvorskie Lane set up his own one-yard TD run by connecting with Chad Schroeder on a 44-yard option pass to give Texas A&M a 27-21 lead with 7:28 left.
"I don't think I've ever seen a season with as many last-minute games as this one. It's amazing," Aggies coach Dennis Franchione said. "(I'm) proud of our players. Fought all the way to the end. Just comes down to you need to make one more play.
"Needed a field goal, needed a first down, needed a stop and we didn't get it. And you have to commend Nebraska for their poise down the stretch. They made one more play."
The first half was all Nebraska. Cody Glenn had TD runs of two and six yards and Taylor hit Peterson from four yards out for a 21-10 lead at the break.
The Aggies had scored on Mike Goodson's 22-yard run and Neumann's 37-yard field goal. McGee was 18-of-31 for 244 yards.
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